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Thursday, December 17, 2009


Sit, flush and forget, that's what most of us do, multiple times a day. We use perfectly good, drinkable, potable water to flush our waste, what a waste it truly is. After we flush, we don't think about all the water that is used and wasted to process the sewage that is created, chemicals are pumped into our water system, the water we DRINK, so that we can do it all over again. I'm starting to sound pretty green aren't I?

Honestly that's not the reason why I stopped using a flush toilet system. For us, it was a case of necessity. We were moving completely off grid, building a cabin, there is little water, at least little water to waste on flushing a toilet. We had no well, no septic system, no flush toilets. We needed a good way to deal with our toilet waste so I started researching how to eliminate our eliminations.

That’s when I found Joseph Jenkins and Humanure. Well, first I learned about composting toilets. These are usually all self contained units, looking like uber toilets, they tend to come with an uber price tag too.

Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilets
How they work is they contain your waste within the unit, you add cover material, usually sawdust or something like that. Many of them have heaters,  vents and fans to help dry out the waste. After a period of time, you empty the container and finish composting outside if need be. The biggest problem with these is the price tag, usually thousands of dollars, plus these tend to be rather large, bulky units.

It turns out that Joseph Jenkins figured out a very simple way of composting bodily waste using little more than a 5 gallon bucket, a toilet seat and lid and some organic cover material. You split the composting  into two parts, with the majority of it going on outside in a compost pile instead of inside the unit. The system is so simple, nearly fool proof, I quickly decided it was the right way to go for us, or perhaps more accurately, it was the best way for us to go.

sawdust toilet
This is also a common question I get about living off grid, how and where do I go to the bathroom? It's quite simple once you know about composting and sawdust toilets. We have been using this system since Dec 2007, we have tweaked the system a couple of times, other than that it has worked like a charm for us.  The main thing we have changed is the outside portion. We started out using a wire enclosure to hold the compost pile, we are not on level ground and once the compost pile was as tall as I am, the whole thing began to tilt, we were afraid it would topple over and we did not want to have to deal with that kind of mess.

Bob created a 2 barrel system to hold and compost our humanure.  This system composts fast, there is little to no smell, the only time it has any odor is when we are dumping the bucket into the first barrel. Once the door is closed, no more smell. The bottom composter has no smell, well I take that back, it does have a pleasant, humus, dirt smell, nothing like what originally went in.
Here is a video about that:

Joseph Jenkins has been kind enough to shoot videos of his system and place them on YouTube, you can view them here, there are 14 videos, they will play one after the next:

You can read and download (free)  Joseph Jenkins Humanure book here:
This contains everything you ever wanted to know about sawdust toilets, including instructions how to build one yourself. You don't need to live off grid like I do to use a sawdust toilet, many people have and use sawdust toilets along side their flush toilets. I read about one lady who had a flush toilet and a sawdust toilet in her bathroom. She placed instructions on the door, stating that you could either use the pure drinking water wasting toilet, or you could use the Earth friendly, no water wasting sawdust toilet. She said that most people opted to use the sawdust toilet.

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  1. Wow! John really had some great videos!

    I like MMB's video with better sound.

  2. TexasMan, yeah, I really like the videos, glad you like MMB's video too.
    ipod headphones, did you read the article? Yes I read the book, I am actually using this method, I like it, you can download the book from the link at the end of the article.

  3. philadelphia product liability lawyer, I don't know what to tell you, I don't use one of those, I'd say call a plumber, or turn it into a planter and use Joseph Jenkins Humanure system.

  4. I have been using one for a while now and it is fine no stink no water real simple.

  5. I have this book, love this book and just finished my sawdust toilet! We are not offgrid, we are renters. However we do have to haul our own water and we too live inthe desert where it is scarce so it only made sense. Plus I HATE flush toilets and old house plumbing issues that shitty landlords wonlt fix right (no pun intended). We will eventually finish our cabin and mvoe into it in the High Desert of California, and will be taking out sawdust compost toilet with us


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