A desire to be able to live off the grid without any infrastructure, brings up a number of logistics that need to be worked out, one of the biggest being water use. Traditional toilets use an average of 1.5 gallons per flush which has me thinking. I will not be on a well or city water hookups and will have somewhere around 40 gallons of water in a holding tank, enough for daily use of cooking and dishes and a shower. I am now practicing the art of a quick shower and have the health club, yoga studio, school or Bill’s primary residence when the necessity for a long hot shower should arise. If I am flushing a toilet 3 or 4 times a day … that makes filling the holding tank a real and constant chore.
Bathrooms can often be an interesting adventure. The facilities in India were a problem for me, I have bad knees and it was typically an urgent visit! I never did figure out how the women wrapped in saris were able to gracefully navigate this option.
I had close friends who lived off grid and had an outhouse. It was nice to sit there looking out the screen door into the woods. However, I never made the walk in January, in the dark, in a snowstorm. I love to camp, but pit toilets are not my favorite pit stops.
I’ve never quite understood the desire for a bathroom that rivals the size of a small bedroom. I’m just not one who has the need to luxuriate for long periods of time in the bathroom. I have a very small master bath now and it suits me just fine, I get in and get out and get on with the day. My tiny house bathroom will have a shower, a sink and after much research … a composting toilet.
There is a surprising amount of information and talk out there regarding composting toilets. The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins is one of the more popular books educating interested off-grid, eco-minded folks on how to install, use and recycle the waste from a composting toilet.
If the thought of human manure makes you squeamish, trust me, I’m right there with you. There is a learning curve associated with any sustainable living and this is one of them. I have read many, many other blogs of tiny house people who are using composting toilets and they all swear that they are easy to use, friendlier to empty than a black water tank, and most importantly … don’t smell.
Some tiny house occupants choose the five gallon bucket/sawdust method while others prefer a Nature’s Head or the Separette composting toilet. The manufactured toilets separate the urine from the solids which controls the awful sewage smell that no one wants to scent their house with, especially a tiny house. The urine is diluted with water and can be used to water the yard (we’ve probably all peed outdoors at some point in our life!) the solids are mixed with peat moss, agitated and have a fan that constantly runs drying things out and venting to the outdoors.
I can’t say I’m totally sold on this method of waste disposal, but I’ve never tried it either so really I’m just fearful of what is unfamiliar. With three kids, I’ve changed hundreds of unpleasant diapers and survived those years without lingering trauma as well as digging cat holes in the backcountry, so I am confident it will all work out. Not to mention, there are PLENTY of modern facilities available everywhere for a traditional bathroom visit.
So that is the scoop on poop.
Keep on trekking … and SMILE!