Though much less stigmatized and more commonplace than even 5 years ago, it still feels awkward to tell people Jamie and I met online. Further blush-inducing is admitting one of the primary reasons I was intrigued by her profile was mention of her homemade composting toilet. A couple of messages back and forth and I learned it’s a fancy name for a 5 gallon bucket enclosed by a wooden square and topped off with a nifty toilet seat. “Since I started adding waste from the composting toilet, my compost is the healthiest it’s ever been,” she said.
For most, perhaps, not the beginning of a fairy tale romance.
A couple of dates in and I was hooked enough to brave the tiny house – composting toilet and all. The basics, as indicated above, are simple and straightforward. The wooden box encloses the bucket so all you see is the toilet seat, much like an outhouse but without the eye-watering smell. It’s inside the house, tucked in a back corner behind the slanted ladder up to the sleeping loft, but even so, if someone is in the house with you it’s like you’re both in the bathroom together. I will freely admit on my first visit to the tiny house (and for several subsequent weeks), I made Jamie go outside when I needed to, well, “go.”
It’s worth mentioning a scoop or two of sawdust (obtained free from a local custom furniture shop) is all that’s needed to help take care of any odors. Sure, there are times when the house smells a tad pungent (and if we’re being honest, that happens even in houses with indoor plumbing), but the smell dissipates very quickly. It’s also quite convenient in such a small space not to need an additional container for compost. Any food waste can go right into the toilet as it’s all headed for the same compost pile.
When I moved into the tiny house this summer, Jamie and I made an agreement. I take care of things like filing, paperwork and laundry and she takes care of the “gross stuff.” While the composting toilet is a fantastic alternative in a house that is not able to support indoor plumbing, dealing with the “toilet bucket” still fits firmly into the gross category.
P.S. When Jamie built the composting toilet, one of her favorite resources was the The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition which she highly recommends.