Off-Grid

Taking Your Toilet Off the Grid

Hi there 🙂

This past week I’ve been talking about off-grid amenities, starting with stoves, and most recently about refrigeration methods. Now, I’m starting to think about the bathroom. Toilets, showers, and sinks.

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Toilets seem pretty daunting to me.  Everybody is so funny and picky about the way they do their business. Most of our grandparents or at least great grandparents used an outhouse sometime in their life, but these days the mention of an outhouse elicits thoughts of hillbillies and dirt poor days gone by.

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People just don’t want to do what’s natural in a place where they can see that other people have too. I get it. If I were to ask my parents to come visit and tell them my only toilet was a compost toilet, I’m sure they would imagine visions of a port-a-potty and head for the hills.

But, believe it or not, it is possible to have “green” toilet in your home, sans plumbing, and it still be comfortable and sanitary. Just like every other “off grid” amenity, your level of modernity depends on the amount you are willing to spend. Personally, I’m not going to go off grid if it costs me more to build my self-sustaining homestead than it would a regular house.

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A doable option for many homesteaders is a commercial compost toilet. These come in many different variations, but the principle remains the same.  You do the doo and cover it with a material such as sawdust to prevent odor and aid the decomposition process. Then, you periodically empty the tank. After your compost pile has decomposed a year or two, you have a wonderful fertilizer.

My biggest fear would be the smell.  A number of homesteaders swear by their compost toilets and vow that they have little to no odor. I’m seeing rave reviews about a book called The Humanure Handbook. This book is promised to be life-changing, and give you all the information you would need to set up your own compost toilet. The benefits go far beyond the one that initially caught my eye: the next-to-nothing price tag. I intend to purchase the book soon (and it is available digitally)!

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I’m also very interested in outhouses. They don’t have to be as primitive as you think. You are limited only by your creativity as to how snazzy you make it. And, if you don’t like seeing the whole household’s business, what about adding a little flap?

I’m imagining combining these ideas into one, using the compost toilet concept but placing it inside an outhouse-style toilet structure (like a little bench) and adding a flap to the hole so that no one has to see the “humanure”. Straw or sawdust, etc. Can be put on top of the flap to keep it relatively clean and assist the decomposition.

Besides what it can do for the soil, why use gallons of water every time we flush? A compost toilet or outhouse is a major step toward going off the grid!

What do you think? Is this appalling or appealing to you? I can’t wait to tell you about some great shower options I’ve found for off-grid use.

Check out this cool combination outhouse-style bathroom I found with my Houzz app!

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3 thoughts on “Taking Your Toilet Off the Grid

  1. I love the idea, I plan on building at least one outhouse this coming year. Now I will plan on making the “house” with a built in container to hold sawdust that we can cover the “doo” that we did:) Thanks for the ideas and discussion.

  2. As a humanure user for a few years now, i can honestly say it is a win/win/win. Faced with a thousands of dollars septic system install, we looked for a cheaper solution. Our cost came in under $10. It was also a solution we could build ourselves. Instead of contaminating thousands of gallons of water a year getting rid of, well you know, we now create rich compost which is excellent for the tree seedlings we put in every year. The smell was a concern for us too, but our experience has been that there is only a minor smell once in a while when emptying the container.

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