Things that make you go, hmmmm

Urban outhouse / Image courtesy of Time Magazine

I was up a couple of nights ago wide awake at 2:00 in the morning. Rather than turn on the idiot box, I thought I’d catch up on many of the magazines we get that I just don’t have time to read during the day. I came across this article in Time (December 14, 2009) that first grossed me out then really had me thinking.

“Humanure. Goodbye, toilets. Hello, extreme composting. Why the future may hold more old-school commodes.” That’s right. I think you get the gist of it. Humanure is a green movement that promotes human waste converted into compost material. Your porcelain potty is replaced with a big bucket with a toilet seat. Toss in a scoop of sawdust (that I read neutralizes smells and also helps speed the breakdown of composting material; this has to be some special type of sawdust, no??), then empty it in your compost pile in the backyard. It’ll take about a year for it to completely decompose and pathogens are eliminated. Then you can go ahead and spread it over your vegetable garden as fertilizer.

Needless to say any sleepies I had at this point were completely GONE. This little read woke me up right quick! What initially grossed me out, dear reader, started to make sense. It’s an effort to not only save our drinking-quality water (as much as 3 gallons per flush!; and goodness knows Texas needs to save a LOT of it right now) but as well to save energy (wastewater treament is much more energy-intensive than composting).

I get that this is not for your average person, but rather for those ecologically committed that want to move beyond the recyclables, and riding their bikes to work. And to those skeptics among you, it’s catching on! The book that covers a lot of the topic, Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure is in its third edition and has been translated into 5 languages. Leave it to Austin, TX to lead the way on the homefront … Rhizome Collective, a sustainably minded nonprofit, succeeded this year in getting the city of Austin to approve what may be the first legal composting toilet in the US.

As forward-thinking as it is, and ecologically sound, the “ick” factor is a big one to overcome. I look forward to seeing how this eco-friendly commode is received and fares over the next few months/years.

Could you see yourself installing one? Be honest.



  1. Hehehe. I knew you’d enjoy that one!! I get the environmental aspect to it, but couldn’t they have prettied up that bathroom a little more?! Made it more inviting?? Reminds me too much of camping and you know how this city slicker doesn’t care much for camping! Thanks for visiting Al. Hugs!

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