Composting Toilet Case Study – Ethan Waldman

What sort of space do you have?

We have an on-grid 22’ tiny house on wheels completed in Fall 2013.

What kind of composting toilet do you have?

We use the Humanure Handbook's 5-gallon bucket method.  Our toilet is built into a cabinet that matches the interior of the house, no fan or anything.  Everything goes into the one bucket.  We don’t separate urine from solids. I get sawdust from a sawmill about 20 minutes away for cover material.  For two bucks, you can fill an entire trash can full of sawdust.

Why did you choose a composting toilet?

I didn’t know where I was going to park the tiny house, and I knew that trying to find a spot that had sewer access was a lot more difficult.  Even though I’m not off-grid now, I wanted the ability to be off-grid, and I saw the composting toilet as the best option for that flexibility.

I read the Humanure Handbook and I really dug it!  I was inspired by the idea of saving a lot of water, and not putting waste into the water.  I bought into the composting methodology and philosophy.

What is your routine for managing your toilet?

It’s pretty simple.  Once every 2-3 days when the bucket is about half to three-quarters full, we’ll just lift the lid to the toilet enclosure, pull the bucket out, and take it to the compost pile.

I remove some cover material from the pile, make an indentation in the top, pour in the contents of the bucket, then recover it with some straw or hay.  I bring a mason jar of warm soapy water out with me, and use a toilet brush I keep by the compost bins to scrub the bucket a little bit, then pour that water on the pile.  I make a stop in the garage to add some sawdust to the bucket, and put the bucket back in the toilet enclosure.

What do you like most about having a composting toilet?

I like how self-contained everything is, and the simplicity of not having another thing in the tiny house that has plumbing.  If we were to travel or move, we wouldn’t have to look for a place that had a sewer connection to hook the tiny house up to.

Is there anything that you would change about your toilet?

We go back and forth on this.  A lot of the commercial composting toilets separate urine and solids.  Not that our toilet smells, but it can smell if you don’t put enough cover material on it.  And if you go away for a while and leave a bucket in there and it’s not really well covered, it can be kind of stinky when you come back.  Sometimes I consider that maybe it would be better if we were separating, but then again, having to empty a container just full of urine just doesn’t appeal to me.  If I were doing a urine diverting toilet, I might look at rigging up a way to percolate the urine into the ground separately so I wouldn’t have to empty it from a bucket.

Ethan Waldman is a Tiny House author, speaker, and teacher.  Find his work and listen to his podcast at thetinyhouse.net.  Photos by Rikki Snyder.

 

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Photo by <a href="https://rikkisnyder.com/">Rikki Snyder</a>
Photo by Rikki Snyder
Photo by <a href="https://rikkisnyder.com/">Rikki Snyder</a>
Photo by Rikki Snyder
Photo by <a href="https://rikkisnyder.com/">Rikki Snyder</a>
Photo by Rikki Snyder

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