A major part of Permaculture is using what is naturally around you with a keen eye on reducing all waste and producing what you need sustainably. This post might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the aim is to highlight an under-talked about issue in the Western world; HUMANURE.
From waste to resources… Joseph Jenkins’ excellent book on the subject calls for a semantic move away from the word ‘waste’ when linked to recycling to ensure that human ‘waste’ is not thought of as such; something which is not beneficial and is in fact completely devoid of any further use. For millennia, ‘night soil’ as it is referred to in Asia has been regarded as extremely valuable and still is today. It’s just that now Western society seems to hide away its recycling of humanure under the banner of ‘municipal slurry’, a term which encompasses human manure and which turns it into the necessary fertilisers for growing our food. Now it is mainly the domain of industrial farmers in the west. A cycle such as this, where the manure, which has come from the soil is returned to the soil as nutrient, is actually the normal way of things in nature.
For the last year or so we have been utilising a chemical caravanning loo, but with crowds of visitors arriving at Les Vignes Basses, it was time to up the game. Composting loo here we come. Leon was our first visitor of the summer so we made it our first project (lucky Leon 🙂 ).
For anyone thinking of creating their own, here is a gallery with a step-by-step guide. We have since had up to ten visitors at any one time and the composting loo has been a surprising success. We weren’t sure how well it would work (and more importantly how we would keep the smell at bay), but honestly we, and all our visitors, have been pretty impressed with the lack of odour (due entirely to the urine separator) and the excellent composting. Feed your guests well = excellent compost for next year’s veggies!
Creating a composting toilet…..
Once the loo is full it is time to put the goodies onto the special compost pile and within six-ten months it should have been turned into lovely black fertiliser for your veggie patch. It is advisable to have two or even three composters on the go at the same time to allow each one to have a solid six months of worm and bug composting whilst the others are filled.
Please feel free to contact us if you would like any more information about the actual composting of the loo contents! 🙂
Update: This excellent TED talk by Molly Winter really helps to demonstrate the logic behind composting humanure: