Don't Flush That Poo Away: Composting Human Waste with the Humanure System
Isn’t it just so convenient that we flush our poop away, down the toilet, never to return? I mean, literally speaking, but metaphorically, too. We flush away our poop, like it’s a problem that we don’t want to deal with. But 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 nasty chemicals so that we can reuse this same water) is a horrific waste, and polluting, too. That’s where the humanure system comes in.
The term “humanure” refers to human waste which is recycled by methods of composting, and which can later be used for gardening or agricultural purposes. Before you think: “I don’t want dookie on my daisies!”, remember that everything (everything natural, that is) breaks down in due time. So let’s talk about humanure, and how human waste can be more effectively recycled and reused, instead of letting it continue to pollute ever-precious drinking water supplies. Perhaps by the end of this post, you too will think that flushing your crap away is just as crazy as any other form of pollution.
Make your own humanure system
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. How does one create their own humanure system for purposes of recycling human poo?
Well, instead of using a toilet, you might choose to use the bucket system, which is essentially a five gallon bucket. (See above photo for an example.) After doing one’s business, sawdust or straw is sprinkled on the bucket’s contents to prevent odor, add carbon, and absorb liquids. (Believe me: it really does keep down odor.) Humanure can then be dumped into compost bins, where it decomposes and cures after one to two years. After this time, you are left with nothing but purely 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.
After using the humanure system at my home, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage for well over a year, it feels very strange to me to use a restroom or bathroom where I must flush away my waste. It just feels so… wrong. Really!
For the full details on humanure and making your own humanure system, I highly recommend The Humanure Handbook, which is actually available for free online (in multiple languages, no less!) Human waste is someting to be embraced (well, ok, not literally), and recycled, not flushed away to continue polluting sensitive water tables.
(Image credit: Jenkins Publishing)