Composting Toilets for Off Grid Homes
“Water, water everywhere” defines the contemporary approach to dealing with human wastes. We use clean, potable water to send the nasty stuff “away.” If you’re living off-grid, though, you may have a great appreciation for the availability of water. If you’re collecting it in rain barrels or a cistern, or even using a well, you want to use it even more efficiently. Water-efficient toilets certainly help, but if you’d rather not waste water on your wastes, composting toilets provide a low-water, or even water-free, alternative that also allows you to close the poop loop by turning bodily wastes into organic material ready to go back into the soil.
The DIY Composting Toilet
If you’re living off-grid, or want to, you’re probably already a do-it-yourselfer… so why not build your own toilet? You can find a number of easy-to-follow plans with just a few clicks of your mouse. A few resources about composting toilets for off grid homes include:
- The Humanure Toilet: The Humanure Handbook has become a classic among off-griders, and this plan, complete with images, shows why: all you need is some lumber and a toilet seat.
- The Green and Recycled Materials Toilet: Wikihow has a fantastic plan (with photos) showing how to build a composting toilets out of mud, plastic bottles, an oil drum, and bamboo.
- The 55-Gallon Drum Toilet: The National Water Center’s DIY plan is a little more intricate, but also very thorough.
Composting Toilets for Purchase
Not quite ready to take on the challenge of building your own toilet? No problem: a wide range of composting toilets are available for sale. They can be a bit pricey, and often require some energy use, but you’ll likely encounter fewer issues with odors. Among the brands available:
- The Biolet Composting Toilet: Biolet‘s been in business for about 20 years, and makes a range of electric and non-electric toilets. A non-electric model can run you $1400; electric models will run at a least a few hundred dollars higher. The company itself has a collection of testimonials; some reviewers have criticized non-electric models for odor (which is common), and electric models for fan noise.
- The Sun-Mar Composting Toilet: Sun-Mar‘s been around for almost 40 years, and features a product range of 22 toilets. The prices ranges are comparable to Biolet’s. The company’s engineers have focused on odor reduction, and Sun-Mar has received certification from the National Sanitation Foundation International for “liquid containment, odors, and solid end products.”
- The Clivus Multrum Composting Toilet: BuildingGreen.com described Clivus as “the pioneer in composting toilets”; at the same time, it notes that its technical innovation hasn’t always matched that of its competitors. It’s focused on commercial and institutional sales more than residential, though the latter category makes up about 10% of sales. The system uses gravity to move wastes, so it’s necessary to have (or be able to create) a large space below the toilet’s location.
- The Envirolet Composting Toilet:Looking for a composting toilet that’s not radically different from a flush toilet? Envirolet’s “Flushsmart” toilet (which is pricey — over $3000) closely mimics the traditional toilet, while using considerably less water. Envirolet’s FlushSmart toilet is a vacuum flush and composting toilet system combined.
Amazon.com usually has the best deals on composting toilets since so many manufacturers and distributors are competing with each other in the same marketplace. It’s also a good source for composting toilet reviews. Check out composting toilets on Amazon!
Also check out our list of composting resources, our toilet-lid sink review, and our intro to composting toilets.
Use an off-grid composting toilet (or other form of waterless toilet)? What are your impressions and suggestions? Share your thoughts below…
Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog, a long-running green blog which now generates its revenue primarily through the sale of eco-friendly products. You can follow him on Twitter @sustainablog