One of my most favorite additions to the farm has been our outhouse by the barn that was built with a composting toilet.
And though I realize that there is little or no way that most of us can change the way we deal with our human waste... I am going to tell you about our lovely outhouse on the off chance that perhaps you might be considering farm life, or country life, or even off-grid living.
Because our barn is a quarter mile from our house, it is inconvenient to have to run back to the house when "nature calls". Those of you who have a farm, or a stable, will understand just how inconvenient this can be. And many of you will agree that you can find creative ways of relieving oneself in the privacy of your own barn. I am sure I am not the only one who has used a muck bucket for this purpose. Dr. Becky and I had, at one point, considered inventing a device, a toilet seat, that would sit atop one's muck bucket. Instead, I decided that what we really needed was an outhouse with a composting toilet.
Now, for you city folk - the thought of not using modern flush toilets and the idea of composting or "compoosting" one's own waste might seem a horrible idea. But let's examine how our modern system of sewerage works.
Our toilets fill up with clean (drinkable, if you will) water. We then add our excrement and send that water + excrement to a treatment facility where the excrement is removed from the water and the water cleaned enough to be added back into the environment. And though, with our infrastructure as it currently is, there are really no other alternatives to this process - it is an unnecessary use of energy and a tremendous waste of water. At the present time, however, it is what we are stuck with.
However, for those of us who are not tied to public sewer systems, composting toilets are a great alternative. Just as our manure/compost piles break down into useable fertilizer for our fields... so does human waste when composted correctly.
Amazingly, composting toilets do not smell. Every deposit made into the bucket that sits beneath the seat is covered up with wood chips and shavings. The chamber with the bucket is vented to the roof, so there is never any smell coming from the outhouse.
It is eventually transferred to the compost pile where it mixes with brown matter(leaves), green matter (grass and hay and vegetable trimmings), and water.
Every so often the pile gets turned by tractor so that a constant temperature is maintained.
Over time, the pathogens die off and the pile starts to look like a pile of rich soil.
At this point it can be spread on our fields, helping to enrich the top soil.
I would love to advocate that this system be widely used to help replenish and improve the top soil that is eroded by our industrial farming practices, but I realize that this is not an easy task to accomplish with our current infrastructure. This is a great alternative for developing countries as an adjunct to sustainable farming practices.
However... if you live in the country, such as we do.... a composting toilet might just be a good alternative for your consideration!