As my husband and I began mapping out the interior of our rustic shed-turned-cabin in Montana, he knew we wouldn’t have plumbing, and I knew I didn’t want to deal with chemicals or smells. With two small children and weather that can range from -20 to 85-degrees Fahrenheit, we also didn’t want to deal with schlepping outside for potty breaks. Building our own humanure toilet turned out to be our perfect solution.
We get quite a few jokes from friends and family about our “lovey loo,” but I would take our lovely-loo over a honey bucket any day! It’s a bucket inside a wood box, and we cover – um – the deposits with sawdust. it has a real toilet seat on it for looks and comfort, but it is what it is, and it works very well.
I’m a city girl with a flushing toilet, and if our composting toilet had ever started to stink or had drawn bugs, I would have buried the whole mess and put up an outhouse last year! In fact, we did install an outhouse on our last trip and I hate it! Within one day of putting the outhouse to regular use, it stunk to high heaven and was full of flies even though we continuously tossed lime into it. So pardon me if I prefer my little lovey-loo over in the cabin’s quiet corner. Privacy is highly overrated anyway, or so I tell myself … before swearing that we must purchase a curtain next time we’re in town!
I’m not sure why wood shavings and leaf debris work so well to cover the smell, but I would emphasize that new shavings don’t work well. We take our composting debris from the wood pile, and perhaps the older debris has more microbes? We keep the shavings in a basket next to the lovely loo, and we do put toilet paper in with the leavings. Every “deposit” is covered with about an inch of dry compost. I would not recommend using kitchen scraps.
To make your own, build a wooden box around a bucket. Create a removable lid with or without a toilet seat attached. Know where you’ll be burying or composing your deposits. We bury ours deep out in the fields where the tractors will till it under the following season, while some build a separate compost pile, covering it with straw and claiming that humanure is usable after one year. As long as fresh waste is kept away from human consumables and out of reach of small pets and children, it is an eco-friendly and smell-free means of living comfortably off-grid.