Sawdust toilet experiment! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 04-07-2008, 05:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Our well pump died on Saturday morning, and we had No Water until late Sunday afternoon. (And the water we have is still too rusty to be drinkable, but we're moving in the right direction anyway).

With six people, one bathroom, and no guarantee of water anytime soon, Saturday inspired me to build a Humanure Handbook-style sawdust toilet. (When DH used several gallons of our precious stored drinking water to flush the toilet once, I decided it was absolutely necessary to not let that kind of water waste happen again, under the circumstances!)

We had 5-gallon buckets (free from the co-op deli). We had a spare toilet seat from a partially-unfinished remodeling project; I carved down the plastic pads on the underside to make it fit the top of the bucket exactly. I happened to be driving out past the farm store that afternoon, so (in the absence of another quick sawdust source) I stopped and picked up a bale of pine shavings ($5 - a deal under the circumstances). Found a yogurt-sized recycled container for a scoop, and we had what we needed.

I filled up one bucket with pine shavings, put the scoop in it, and put a loose cover on it. I put the second bucket into a milk crate for stability, fitted the toilet seat on it, threw in an inch or so of pine shavings, and put both buckets side-by-side in the bathroom. When you use it, put in half a scoop of shavings for pee, and one or two whole scoops for poop (enough so that the next person can't tell what you did. LOL.) It worked really well.

Our family of six filled the bucket once a day (Sat-Sun and Sun-Mon). I dug a hole up in the woods, where the kids never play, and away from our well, and buried the bucket contents. If anything disturbs it, I'll lay a bit of chicken wire over the top with a big rock, but so far that hasn't happened.

Because we're planning to leave this house next year, we don't have a permanent compost site, or I would have dumped it there.

After dumping, I rinsed out the bucket and put it all back together for the next day.

I am so proud of myself. DH thought it was hilarious that I was so thrilled to have had the opportunity and reason to try it out. I assume we'll use this kind of toilet when we move onto our land, but in our suburban-style home it really seems out of place - until we have NO WATER. And then it was a godsend.

So, I will keep it stored away for power outages (no power = no well pump) and maybe we will even take it camping with us, for morning peeing and emergencies.

I don't know why I didn't make one sooner. We have power outages, but generally they don't last long. But, when they do, we always have the dilemma of what to do about the toilet. Problem solved! Had to share.

Amanda, mom to Everest (12), Alden (10-1/2), Ellery (7-1/2), & Avery (6)
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#2 of 5 Old 04-07-2008, 06:47 PM
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We have 2, 1 upstairs and 1 downstairs. They are the only toilets we ever intend to use. We do have permanent compost piles though. I actually love mine because it doesn't require water, makes nice soil after a few years, and it just feels better to be dealing with my own waste instead of sending it off down some pipe to the treatment plant.

Glad you got to experience it
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#3 of 5 Old 04-23-2008, 06:41 PM
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Way to go! The stablising crate is a stroke of genius.Now I don't feel bad for wishing we'd have an excuse to use a humanure system. I'm anticipating resistance or at least a lack of enthusiasm from DH. But if it were an emergency...

I've been a member of the "cult" of Humanure for about two years and am itching to just do it!
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#4 of 5 Old 04-28-2008, 12:10 PM
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Okay, I just heard about humanure a short time ago and I'm very curious about it. If you don't mind, I've got a few questions about how it works from a practical standpoint.

We're moving across the country this summer and might be getting a home with good-sized land, well water and septic system outside city limits. Not full-on 'off the grid' or farm living, but a bit rural at least. Anyway, humanure seems a good idea when faced with wells drying up and cleaning septic tanks...

So... These questions are a bit, um, gross, given the subject matter lol... I'm just thinking about possible practical issues.

What do you do when someone is, um, digestively sick? As in explosive messy poo. I have IBS and every so often (fortunately not TOO often) I... well, let's just say I make a real mess for several hours. Does the bucket get gross despite the sawdust?

What about menstrual blood? I use cloth pads, but whatever your method of 'catching' it there's always some that goes in the toilet. Is that 'safe' for composting too or do you have to deal with it in other ways?

What about puke? Compostable? I guess it's just the same stuff but less 'processed' heh...

What do you do for toilet paper? Do you use cloth or can you compost regular toilet paper? I've been curious to try cloth TP (already using cloth mamapads, hankies, napkins, plus CD and cloth trainers and wipes for DD, etc), but while I don't think I'd have a problem with washing pee-cloths... our poo-cloths could get pretty gross. If you use cloth TP, what are your experiences?

Thanks for any info, we're quite intrigued by this!

ETA -- I think that even if we did humanure, we'd keep our regular toilets too... at the very least, for visiting guests not comfortable with the idea. Do you have regular toilets too?

Heather, mom to Caileigh 12/06 and aspie ADHD prodigy David 05/98 :intact lact
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#5 of 5 Old 04-28-2008, 11:40 PM
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I used a sawdust bucket for about 6 months and loved it. My family that came and visited weren't to thrilled but once they tried it I didn't get to many complaints. We finally got the flush toilet working soon after I got pregnant. Although I love the composting I was happy to be pregnant with a real toilet. I think morning sickness with a composting toilet would have been tougher.

We are fixing up a house now and although I don't plan on using a sawdust toilet I do want to keep one around for the barn and the mudroom. My bathroom now always has muddy foot prints on the rugs from running in and out on wet days. Being pregnant doesn't help, I have to pee every half hour :P

I wouldn't personally use a sawdust toilet for puke. When I get the flu I always have a little bucket to use. If there is nobody else to clean it between uses I would use sawdust in it to help absorb the smell.

I use a very dusty sawdust. We get it from my moms husband. He has a woodworking shop. The dust helps when residue is left on the side of the bucket after use. I just pour on the sawdust and a lot of the dust clings to the ickys making them less visible and reducing the possible smell.

If I had diarrhea I would use my own bucket for those couple of days. That way nobody else but me would have to deal with the results. I don't mind emptying my own bucket but other people might.
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