Best Composting Toilet System?

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Boonjon Best Composting Toilet

This guy invented the best composting toilet I’ve seen yet.

I recently discovered the best composting toilet system I’ve seen yet.

Today’s post may go outside of the comfort range of my more delicate readers, but remember… I literally wrote the book on extreme composting.

Compost_960-webALL ORGANIC MATTER MUST RETURN TO THE EARTH – TERRIFYING AND HORRIBLE THINGS INCLUDED!!!

There’s a gap in our thinking when it comes to our own waste. For some reason, recycling banana peels and coffee grounds is “great” but recycling sewage is “oh heck no I’m not doing that! Gross!!!”

I understand, really. It took me quite a while to come around to the idea of composting everything.

The first guy that changed my thinking on the subject was Joseph Jenkins, author of The Humanure Handbook. I built one of his “lovable loo” composting bucket toilets and installed it in our Tennessee house for a year as an experiment. It worked decently, but had problems with attracting some flies and odor. Close, but not quite what we wanted.

The_Humanure_Handbook_CoverGranted, the problem wasn’t really in the design so much as the fill material we had available. Peat moss worked great, but it consumed too much peat moss. I couldn’t find any safe sawdust locally, so that option was out, leaving us stuck with wood chips. Not great.

There are other composting toilet designs, ranging from quite expensive dehydrating Biolet models to the collection of cool outhouses Paul Wheaton covers in this video.

Now I have a new favorite… and have to say, I think it’s the best composting toilet system I’ve seen for both ease-of-use and simplicity of design.

The Best Composting Toilet System?

A few years ago, a man named Sandy Graves dropped me an email after finding my old Florida Survival Gardening website. He told me he’d developed a different composting toilet system and that I ought to come out and see it at some point.

I get emails from kooky people now and again, so the idea of going to see a stranger’s toilet wasn’t really all that high on my list… until I did some more research and realized he had something new and interesting going on.

Before the videographer who was helping me on the Crash Gardening series quit, I was going to go over with him to see Sandy’s system so we could film a pro-looking video. That never happened… and time moved on. I corresponded with Mr. Graves a few more times via e-mail but no solid plans ever firmed up. His office was about an hour from my homestead and it never seemed to be a good day for me to pack up and head off out of town to look at composting toilets.

Until a couple of weeks ago when we sold our homestead.

I’d loaded up a trailer with all our worldly possessions and we were heading down 40 towards I-95 when my wife says, “Hey – isn’t this where the guy with the composting toilets has his place?”

“Yes,” I said, “I should just stop now and see what he has going on… we could just film a spontaneous video!”

Rachel thought that was a great idea, so when we spotted the sign for “C-Head, LLC,” I pulled in.

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Out front was a U-Haul trailer remarkably similar to the one being pulled behind my van, and I noticed it was being packed by a solidly-built, gray-haired man with glasses.

“Are you Sandy Graves?” I asked.

“Hey – I know you!” he replied, “David! Welcome! We’re just packing up for the Mother Earth News Fair!”

I asked if he had time for a video, so leaving the packing behind, Sandy took me to see the best composting toilet system I’ve seen yet.

Check it out:

The system began as an experiment on Sandy’s boat… then moved to land… then became an entire business with a variety of models.

Row of the best composting toilets I've ever seen

 

The BoonJon composting toilet system ties in nicely with a backyard compost bin. Sandy encourages soldier flies in his compost piles and told me he keeps discovering new things about the species that makes him appreciate them more.

I was amazed how little fill material was required for a BoonJon composting toilet. Quite affordable! Back when I built my composting toilet, it consumed a lot of fill material.

A Unique Way To Fertilize With Urine

 

The diversion of urine into a separate receptacle is also a very good thing. That allows you to use it as a liquid fertilizer in your garden or orchard.

Urine_Fertilizer_Fertigation

The way Sandy irrigates his beds with urine is quite clever (don’t you dig inventors?) and grows some of the biggest tomato plants I’ve seen in a Florida garden.

He also grows some good-looking raspberries:

Raspberries

Final Thoughts

When you think about how much water we waste – plus all the fertility we literally flush away every day – composting toilets make a lot of sense.

Why would we use clean water to dispose of… fertilizer?

Everything is upside-down when you think about it. I’m glad for people like Sandy Graves who are using their talents to make a difference in the world through simple technologies. Decentralizing waste management makes a lot of sense.

Imagine how much water we could save!

How many gardens we could feed!

How many wastewater plants we could close!

So…

What do you guys think – is this kind of composting too crazy for you?

Homemade Composting Toilets

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I’ve composted human waste (humanure!) quite successfully before with homemade composting toilets… more on that is in here.

But for now, this tour of four outhouses is quite entertaining. (My kids have asked to see it over… and over… and over.)

We may have to start thinking about reusing our “waste” in the near future. We’re currently urinating and defecating into clean drinking water… a stupid use for a highly valuable resource. And our excrement is a darned good fertilizer if used appropriately.

homemade composting toilet

This homemade composting toilet saved thousands of gallons of water

Supply lines, water treatment and infrastructure are unlikely to continue in their current state for much longer… think about alternatives to the common commode before you’re forced to.

Another great video is here (Go ahead! Stick your head in!):

More food for thought: I have read (and own) this book and found it very impressive – worth buying. That’s where the design for the homemade composting toilet pictured above came from.

Anyone out there using an alternative system? Or seen a good model for re-use of human “waste?”

Composting toilets come in all types from sawdust bcuket models to odor-free dehydrating solar panel powered luxury rigs (which are still a lot cheaper than a septic tank!) It may take a crisis before homemade composting toilets go mainstream… but I hope not.

UPDATE: My new book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting has a chapter on human waste composting – plus lots and lots more. Get a copy!