My family is considering getting an Envirolet composting toilet to put in out studio outbuilding. I am wondering about how well they work, and if there is much "aroma' from the self contained system, which is the one we would need to use. Or... do you have experience with other brands and their positive and negative points? We can't afford it just yet, but I like to research big purchases well in advance. Thanks.
I am also very interested in this subject for several reasons. Cost is prohibitive from everything I've seen and I see no reason that this should be so. They aren't rocket science.
I read somewhere recently that the Swedes are working on a model that separates liquid from solids at time of use.
The serious water shortages, inefficient and over burdened water treatment facilities, ocean dead zones, organic farming and folks increasingly moving off the grid are all pressing reasons to handle our waste differently.
I have two investment properties that are useless since Hurricane Katrina. They had both been inhabited for 40 to 50 years but now the county has changed the rules. One has been declared too small to support both a water well and a septic system. The other has been declared too close to a wetland for a septic system. They won't allow power to be connected again. My local health department has never heard of a composting toilet.
Pod I grew up with one just like yours except maybe you didn't have the black widows lurking under the seat like I did. We got indoor plumbing when I was 7 and it was heavenly.
The Soliva site linked above outlines the nightmarish experience one has trying to deal with the nuts at the DEQ. I would advise anyone to make whatever DIY arrangement you can and don't ask and don't tell. Maybe someday the government will grow a brain but certainly not yet.
Twiggy, you're right about the BS! I fully agree with the "don't ask, don't tell". We live 7 miles out of a very small town, so can get away with a little more.
I think lower on the page there was a picture of a homemade composting toliet that was attractive enough. There's a lot of info on the site about composting toilets and I love the way the filtering system works.
Maury, I just wanted to throw the homemade one in for consideration, if you live in an area where you could get by installing one. I love the envirolet toilet, and if I lived in the city it would be great to add to a shed or studio.
You know if you could take it (the property) off the grid, I don't think any one could squeal too loudly...and maybe with info and enough people in the same boat the law could be found that allows it. I know someone in our area (where it is totally legal and still not allowed) was considering dealing with the red tape by asserting that there was no bathroom (or at least no black water) on her property. That effectively put her in a different category where they had no 'active' say in what she did. --No one particularly checks camper/ RV toilets because they don't go in to any 'questionable' system--
Thanks all, I'm going to look into some of the homemade options as well as compare pricing on the manufactured type. We are not in town, but we are in King County along with Seattle, so sometimes we have to deal with fairly rigid regulations. Our place is quite visible from the road, so I cannot completely disregard the rules even if I know what I'm doing is not harmful to the environment or any kind of health hazard. Any further thoughts or experiences are welcomed. I'm just exploring our optiona at this point.
Please understand, I was not advocating disregarding the rules, more redefining them. If a toilet is defined as something which produces blackwater then a composting toilet is not legally a toilet...Good Luck!
Actually, Maury, with a little research on composting toilets, there are a number of homemade units that look nice. Neighbors wouldn't even know you had one, becasue it's claimed they don't even smell. The compost can be used to fertilize ornamental plants.
The one described in the solviva book is very interesting. Basically a bucket, and when you go twosies you top it with a scoop of either sawdust or leaf mulch. Emptying the bucket depends on how many are using it. When you empty it, it's composted, not to a safe-for-food crops state, but fine for non-food plants. It's intriguing.
Before investing too much time and effort, you might just try a 5 gal bucket with a lid in the corner of an out building, with a bucket for your additives (sawdust, etc) sitting next to it. Try it for a couple of months to see if what you think.
This link says dry cooking ash (?), lime or saw dust. I think I also read somewhere that shredded leaves or soil could be used, too. You could probably find saw dust at any cabinet or furniture making store. If sawdust isn't available, I wonder about the pine shavings that are sold for hamsters, etc. I don't think it's terribly expensive. LOL, didn't use to be, I remember a huge bale for about $8. EM would probably help, but it wasn't mentioned on any link that I read.
The site I found suggested that wetter sawdust from a lumber mill would work better than dry sawdust from a carpentry shop, so I imagine dampened pet bedding could work. There was something about types of wood, which ones are better for eventual use as fertilizer and which might contain substances that might be not so good for garden use.
A friend put in a sawdust toilet. They live in a small trailer. I mention this so you understand how small the bathroom is. I expected to confronted with an odor when I went in and was pleasantly surprised. No odors at all. This was set up as a temporary facility until they could save enough money to drill a well and plumb the place. He just used a 5 gallon bucket under a bench type seat like you would find in the old outhouse. He dumped the buckets out back to compost. It only took a couple of months before earthworms were living in the compost pile. By the following year it was dark rich looking dirt with a wonderful earthy aroma. You know the one I mean, the smell that says things will grow great here. We have a lot of sawmills around here, getting the sawdust is not a problem. They have water now and regular plumbing and a septic tank, but I am not sure that was a step forward. Of course with 5 children, the regular plumbing is much easier than keeping care of sawdust bucket.
You sit on that cold seat and the whole body tenses up. Try to relieve yourself in that condition brrrr! We put a foam seat on ours and it helped tremendously. Body heat warmed it up enough you could do what you came for.
I use the bucket system for humanure (or "humey" as we affectionately call it) and have for many years. Done correctly, it doesn't smell bad at all, which I think is true for all composting toilets (commercial ones i've used in the past, in public parks and such, were super-stinky). We use sawdust as a cover and the type of wood does make a difference. As i recall we got cedar one time and thought it would be great (it smelled so good just by itself) but, oh right, it's pretty rot resistant, and, um, the point is for it to rot. Ooops. So even tho it seemed like a good idea, we don't use that anymore if we can possibly help it. Also, wet sawdust is WAY better than dry, so we keep our sawdust outside and uncovered.
The Humanure Handbook by Jenkins is the best book i know of re: the bucket system.
I've not read it, but you might want to check out: the Composting Toilet System Book: A Practical Guide to Choosing, Planning and Maintaining Composting Toilet Systems by David Del Porto and Carol Steinfeld (saw on amazon.com).
There's another i read years ago that i quite enjoyed, called Lifting the Lid: An Ecological Approach to Toilet Systems (New Futures) by Peter Harper and Louise Halestrap (available at amazon.com.uk).But since it's from the UK and discusses lots of european pre-mades that arent readily available on this side of the pond, not sure how helpful it would be.
I hope you find something that works well for you, and feel free to ask me if i can answer any questions about the system i use. Good luck!
bunsterco, any idea how it would work to use a galvanized 30 gallon trash can instead of a 5 gallon bucket? I was wondering if it would be worth having the extra capacity to cut down on the number of emptying trips, or would something of that size be too big for properly covering the contents?
I'm sure it would be mighty heavy when full but perhaps half-full would be workable.
i cannot imagine trying to dump a 30 gallon container-- the 5 gallon are pretty dang heavy already. i'm also not sure about using metal with urine-- seems like that might not be a good combo.
i have heard of the idea of building a system where you use the giant trash cans with wheels on them (the kind the city i used to live in provided to make getting trash to the curb easier) instead of 5 gallon buckets. seems like that would definitely involve stairs or 2 levels of some sort, and i never looked into it much, since the buckets work fine for us.
you might want to look into a moldering toilet design. i dont know a lot about it, but a google search returned a lot of results, some of which looked useful at a glance.
Hah! Yep, I thought about that, too! ;.) Figgered I'd have to build a step-up platform. By doing so and being elevated like that would give one the kingly, or queenly, feeling that they indeed are sitting on a throne!
Okay, finally got the sawdust and before I -- ahem -- begin, what do I do with the toilet paper? Cuz I AIN'T gonna go that primitive! I assume I drop it in the bucket with the other things I'm putting in the bucket? I mean, it dissolves quickly. And I do use very plain white TP.
Use plain ol' traditional Scott TP. They don't have any of the funky stuff and it's the ONLY kind recommended for septic systems. Made to biodegrade to nuttin. Which puts it almost on a par with sawdust... http://www.scottbrand.com/us/
Don't be mean because I don't like having my backside squirted..:-p... And that's not necessarily a 'national preference' -I'd call it more personal choice. They may be [sanitary], but I don't have to enjoy them...Met my first one in Japan...it was a dark and stormy night...the toilet had waay too many buttons to read...
I will say that expecting it as a normal part of your ritual would probably lessen the shock...but it is a learned behavior, not in anyway anthropologically based...
Thanks Darius, I didn't think you were...but...well there was a hot button in there and I couldn't quite not respond...And I didn't put the smileys and exclamations in where they shoulda been so my response sounded worse than was meant...My Apologies.
Honestly -when I thought how bad it was to be surprised by a little bitty bidet and then pasted the garden hose comment to that thought...well, my horror knew no bounds!!!
I haven't had a close encounter with a bidet, but since we're on the subject...if it does what I expect it probably does with a force of water that I imagine it would have to have to do what it's suppose to do, seems like there would be a lot more to dry. Don't be laughing now...inquiring minds want to know! LOL!
Ok, for you cushy tushys out there, a composting toilet with a solar & wind powered, on-demand water heater connected to a targeted hose end sprayer with a gentle shower stream. After the rinse cycle you use the mounted hair dryer with an easy to reach on/off switch on an extension cable.
That reality show will have to start with a disclaimer reminding folks to check their local codes because it is probably not allowed to do any of the above mentioned ideas. But then these days nothing that makes sense is legal any more.
Any chance we can change the song on Saturdays to Lawrence Welk, with all the bubbles and the pop of the champagne cork? And with the wave of an invisible conductor's baton we can always start with "a-one anna two anna..." ♫ ♫ (You know, just to help us get started) :>)
All I know is I don't wanna hear the itsy bitsy spider song!
I do not believe you itsy bitsy spider folks have ever been in the outhouse. I have never seen an itsy bitsy spider in the outhouse. They have always been big old hulking things that can stick out a leg and trip you on the way in.
Actually Shoe, I was thinking of something like Sade's "Smooth Operator" to precede the Tiny Bubbles (or Splish Splash I was taking a Bath) song.
No spiders allowed. Hmmm, might need to equip the outhouse with one of those battery operated vaccum cleaners. If fair warning and reason doesn't work with those critters, the vaccum is safely at hand.
Being tickled by an octopus while perched on a coral head in Bora Bora was disconcerting enough...
I think as long as you don't perch on a coral head in your outbox...
(Ex)Amish friend. Still doesn't have indoor facilities. They use a framed bucket with PineSol (well when it's well below freezing and the backside breeze gets to be too much)-and the PineSol is all you smell. Don't think its that eco-friendly, but it works...
Okay, I do have a report. HYPOTHETICALLY (in case the health dept. is lurking...) someone I know VERY well has begun using a bucket for a certain elimination activity. This person got sawdust and mixed it 3:1 with coffee grounds and covers the elimination results with it and nothing unpleasant in the olfactory sense is occurring. No final results will be used in the veggie bed, but the front rose garden just might be very happy this year.
HAHAHA if this were actually happening I will post results from my "friend."
not to worry msrobin...we're OK. Somethings you just have to poke fun at to keep from crying. The continued water shortages will probably make composting toilets a reality sooner than you might expect.
My "strange outhouse" story... About 10 years ago I went to visit a cousin about 2 hours away who was finishing up their vacation house. Naturally I needed to go to the bathroom when I got there. Billy said they only had the outhouse in the back yard as the plumbing wasn't hooked up yet.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the door... finding a modern porcelain WC, on a plywood floor. Coming in through the back of the outhouse was a garden hose, supplying water to the tank for flushing! Turns out the WC was installed directly over the septic tank clean-out port.
Naturally I didn't have my camera, and when I came back the next weekend, he was tearing it down to install the WC in the basement. Would have been a funny photo...
Oh, yes, Brigidlily, IF your friend decides to do this, please keep us posted!
Now don't get me wrong...I am enjoying this thread as much y'all. I'm just totally amazed at some of the stuff you all have come up with! DH keeps asking what I'm laughing at!
Everything I've read, says not to use the "compost" around fruits or vegetables, just around ornamental plants and trees. When you go to "fertilizer" your plants and trees, I think your suppose to bury it a few inches under the soil.
Darius, love the picture! Your other post regarding the WC right over the clean out port is an excellent idea for us to consider with our new room addition.
Pros & cons: When my DH & I bought this remote property in 1988, he said very emphatically that he would not come up here with me if he had to use an outhouse! He had cousins who had one in Indiana when he was a kid, and hated outhouses. I didn't like them much either, because of the smell and the spider populations. So I ordered a composting toilet from Del Porto. It was a small, self-contained unit that was not that different from a household toilet, except that there was no water hookup. It came with an electric heater but since we didn't have electricity up here, I went ahead and took the heater out. The temps only get down to about 5 occasionally in the winter and "deposits" were usually pretty warm. We put it in the barn "just in case" it smelled bad, but it never did. t had a drawer on the bottom that you would empty when it got full. After use, we would sprinkle in a little water to wet the tpaper down (yes, regular tpp only I'd buy RV tpp when if I happened to go to an RV store), then take a scoop full of peat moss (the powdery kind, from a plant nursery) and dump it on top. There was a crank to wind the mass to mix everything together. The crank handle usually broke, the weak spot in the process., so I sometimes turned the mass with an L-shaped brass rod I picked up somewhere. My son & DIL and their 2 little girls lived up here for a year, and we found that 3 women (4 when I came up to visit) produced entirely too much liquid so it would overflow. We did have a "French drain" hooked up, a tube that emptied into a covered hole in the ground but it was inadequate. When it overflowed, the whole yucky mess had to be shoveled out by hand and it was pretty ghastly. Finally we ruled that males were prohibited to use it for urination, they had to go find a bush. Except for that problem, I loved the toilet! Most of the time it worked great and the compost was indeed sweet smelling and easy to remove from the toilet. By the time I moved up here to live, we had put in a septic system which has been problem free for the past 8 years or so since we put it in, despite our terribly rocky soil. When some new neighbors moved up here and could't afford to put in a septic system, I carefully cleaned out the composting toilet and "lent" it to them, asking that if/when they put in a septic system, they'd clean it out and return it. Uh, yeah, right. Never saw it again. Meanwhile, I may just put a 5 gallon paint bucket with a toilet lid on it out in my barn and get another big bag of peat moss -- sometimes after two cups of coffee and a glass of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, that hike back to the house seems like a long way! LOL. So all in all, I'd say composting toilets are the way to go, you just have to recognize their limitations. The folks across the (small) canyon from me have a composting toilet in their bathroom, with a mulcrum (the container for the compost mass) under their trailer. It is marvelous, truly marvelous!
Ya'll scroll down and look at the new toilet that's being mandated in some European countries. It's unfortunate that more details aren't provided because I'm not understanding how the 2 waste products stay separated all the way to the waste treatment facilities. I'd love to have one of these but I'd want to keep the goodies for my own use.