Humanure and Composting Toilets

Isn’t it so convenient that we flush our poop away, down the toilet, never to return? Literally speaking, but metaphorically, too. Each and every day, we flush away our poop, like it’s a problem that we don’t want to deal with. That action in itself causes more problems than the source material itself. Little do we realize, there’s value in everything, even that which might stink, and which we’d rather send away down a porcelain bowl.

Pooping is a natural process, and doing it in a bowl of drinking water (which must only later be treated with chemicals so that we can reuse this same water) requires lots of energy, produces yet more waste, and is quite polluting, too. At Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, we use the humanure system to effectively and locally deal with our waste, converting it into a valuable compost and soil amendment.

What is Humanure?

The term “humanure” refers to human waste that is recycled by methods of composting, and can be used later in its life cycle for gardening or agricultural purposes. Indeed, humanure is a valuable commodity—instead of flushing our waste away and polluting waste supplies, we can recycle and reuse waste to help build soil fertility.

The term “humanure” has been popularized by Joseph Jenkins in The Humanure Handbook, a down and dirty guidebook to recycling human waste for use as a soil amendment.

So, how does one create their own humanure system for purposes of recycling human poo?

Humanure: Safely Compost Your Waste

Well, instead of using a toilet, you might choose to use the bucket system, which is essentially a five gallon bucket in place of porcelain. After doing one’s business, sawdust or straw is sprinkled on the bucket’s contents to prevent odor, add carbon, and absorb liquids. (Yes, it does keep down odor.) Humanure can then be dumped into compost bins, where it decomposes and cures after one to two years, with plenty of straw added after every deposit. After the humanure breaks down, nothing is left but pure, composted organic matter, something quite like dirt. As long as the humanare is given enough time to decompose, there should be no fear about the spread of pathogens, and this material can be used as a soil amendment in gardening or agriculture. It’s that simple! It’s nature at its finest.

Believe it or not, after using the humanure system for a while, it may feel very strange to use a restroom or bathroom where you must flush away your waste.

For the full details on humanure and making your own humanure system, check out The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins, which is actually available for free online (in multiple languages, no less!)

Human waste is something to be embraced (well, ok, not literally), and recycled, not flushed away to continue polluting sensitive water tables.