Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Composting Toilets

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Composting Toilets

At Green Mountain Technologies, we love composting and we’re always looking for ways to practice what we preach. So we are excited to be installing a composting toilet at our Headquarters here on Bainbridge Island. By using a composting toilet, we’re able to conserve water, recycle our waste,  and lower our overall environmental impact.

Lots of folks are interested in the idea of composting toilets. However, the reality of relieving themselves in anything other than a traditional commode can seem downright intimidating. And we get it! Change can be scary. Especially when it comes to how we “do our business”. But once you learn a little bit more about how composting toilets work, you might even be ready to try one yourself.

What Is a Composting Toilet?

Simply put, a composting toilet is a toilet that composts human “waste”. What we call “waste” is actually nutrient that other living beings use to live and grow.  Rather than flushing these “nutrients” down the drain, a composting toilet collects these “deposits” so that they can be composted into a useful soil amendment.

From there, the composting toilet works the same as any other composting system. It recycles human waste by using the natural processes of decomposition and evaporation. Waste entering the toilet is over 90% water. Composting systems evaporate that moisture and convert the remaining amount of natural material into useful fertilizer.

Why Use a Composting Toilet?

So, why should we use a composting toilet anyway? After all, water flushing toilets work just fine.  Well, according to the EPA, the average US household uses 300 gallons of water per day. And a whopping 24% of that water goes toward the toilet, more than any other category!

Composting toilets use little to no water at all, meaning the average US household could save over 26,000 gallons of water each year by switching to a composting toilet.

Aren’t Composting Toilets Smelly?

We all have that one person in our household that makes us afraid of entering the restroom after they’ve done their business. So, with a composting toilet, isn’t that stench even worse?

Not at all!

When done properly, a composting toilet shouldn’t be smelly at all. The key is to keep those deposits covered with adequate amounts of sawdust. The sawdust itself has a pleasant odor. It is amazing how quickly the sawdust eliminates the odors from the human waste. Microbes live in the sawdust and literally eat the odor compounds. This is the same process that has been working on forest floors for millions of years.

DIY Your Own Composting Toilet

There are many different types of composting toilets, varying in complexity and price. But you don’t need a fancy, expensive set up to get started. In fact, we made our own toilet using only a few items.  The type of composting toilet we use is called a sawdust toilet. This is an incredibly simple technology.

All you need to get started is:

  • 5-gallon buckets
  • a toilet seat
  • a toilet box
  • sawdust

In-between deposits, sprinkle a layer of sawdust. Once the bucket is full, simply transfer the contents to your composting system or pile. Once properly composted, the finished product can be used for fertilizing the landscape. For human waste, we recommend composting the material for two years prior to use.

The Earth Cube in-vessel composting system is a great tool for composting challenging feedstocks like human manure, especially in urban and suburban environments.  The Earth Cube provides excellent control of odors, liquids and keeps the critters away during the composting process.

If you would like to learn more about sawdust toilets as a technology, we recommend checking out the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins.

Want to learn more about compost and sustainability? Follow us on Twitter!  And if you have any questions about your company’s commercial composting needs, shoot us a message. Will work with your business to find the right composting solution for your company’s needs.

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