Thursday, February 21, 2013

Loveable Loo - The Composting Toilet

There are many things that I think about as I plan and create my tiny homestead. One of the most common questions I get is plumbing related. I explain how I will have a gravity fed water system with a supplemental pump for water pressure, how we will harvest rainwater and use grey water to water the gardens, but the one question that is most popular is how my toilet facilities work.

There are lots of options for the disposal of human waste today. Flush toilets are of course the most popular at least in developed countries, followed by the well known Outhouse, but there are other options for unusual applications such as in remote cabins and sustainable homesteads such as chemical toilets, incinerating toilets, and finally, our choice, composting sawdust toilets.

I ruled out a flushable toilet because of its wastefulness when it comes to water. I ruled out an outhouse because the idea of that on a hot summer day just turns my stomach. Chemical toilets are not environmentally friendly and expensive to maintain in the long run. Incinerating toilets are ridiculously expensive and terribly ugly. I chose the sawdust toilet which is affectionately known as the Loveable Loo.

The sawdust toilet is kind of a misnomer. I really don’t have to use sawdust exclusively, but can use wood shavings, peat moss, and straw as well. The system is super simple and relatively inexpensive. Once the bucket is full you empty it into a compost bin, compost for a period of time to break down the matter into rich, safe soil and use it to fertilize plants around your property.

Loveable Loo
So, let me go into some detail about how this toilet system works in our house. First, if you have been reading this blog for very long you will know already that I don’t plan to use toilet paper. I know. Get over the shock. Go ahead. Freak out a little. I will be using Family Cloth (click here to read my blog post about family cloth).  Family cloth is basically fabric wipes that you use, wash, and reuse. Just like cloth diapers, Family Cloth eliminates the disposable and environmentally unfriendly factors and costs tied to using commercially produced toilet paper. Even though toilet paper is compostable, we chose to go with Family Cloth, you could use toilet paper in a Loveable Loo without issue.

Secondly, because I will not be drilling a well or digging a septic for a long time, I don’t want to have a flush style toilet. A Loveable Loo uses no water and is, in fact, designed to remove the liquid component of poo. Poo is 90% liquid. Once you get rid of the liquid you are left with greatly reduced bulk.  This bulk, combined with the organic matter is then emptied into a compost bin where it is broken down by bacteria and heat. Once it has broken down into a rich loam, you can then spread it in your garden. The time to process your poo depends on quantity and your environment, but where I own land it will take between two to six months (based on outside temperature and humidity) to break down into safe compost.      

Constructing a Loveable Loo is very easy. Broken down into its parts, a Loveable Loo is a five gallon bucket, a toilet seat, and whatever box you construct to conceal the bucket. There are some that are very fancy and some that are very simple. Mine will be custom built into my 3 x 6’ bathroom so that a hinged lid will conceal the bucket and the toilet seat with lid will be attached to it. There will be a lidded spot built into the custom built top to conceal a container where I can store the straw and a scoop to add it to the bucket. In addition, I have plans for a solar powered fan to turn on when I need to remove particularly unpleasant odors before they invade the rest of the small house. Please see my picture I have drawn of what it will look like and how to assemble your own Loveable Loo.

For more information about composting poo, I suggest the book Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. For pictures of the Loveable Loo and more information and resources on humanure, please visit the website www.               

Questions, problems, or concerns with composting toilets? Please feel free to drop us and email at or leave a comment below.