Farm gets a simple compost toilet

As the farm is evolving one of the thing on our mind was to take care of Human waste and gray water. About gray water it was straight – reduce the production of gray water. So we hardly use (only when simple bathing or washing doesn’t work) soap either for washing cloths or bathing, we use ash for cleaning utensils and guide this water to our plants.

Compost toilet was also on our mind and we would like to share our journey in thoughts as reader might find it useful.

On our mind :-

  • Do we need a toilet or is it ok simply to use outdoors ?
  • Shall we only have compost toilet ? What about people who’d not be comfortable using it ?
  • If there is a jungle next door, do we even need a compost toilet ? Why not simply defecate outside and cover matter with soil or dry leaves ? (to avoid spread of pathogens)
  • If we need a compost toilet – how should it be ? Shall we separate urine ?

The decisions :

We decided that having a toilet will be a good idea as it might not always be good idea to use the outdoors (say in rains or during late night). Having only dry toilet will be better afterall it’s not that difficult – let those who are not comfortable – learn a better way of dealing with our waste. Also, having a compost toilet makes processes cyclic. We eat produce of farm, so better give it back. (instead of dispensing it elsewhere like in jungle). We also found that having a toilet will reduce chances of spreading of pathogens. On the question of separating urine or not. Currently to make things really simple we are not separating urine and faece. Urine also adds lot of nitrogen which is good if we can balance it. So, we are using rice husks and wood ash to maintain right carbon nitrogen ratio.

Helps :

Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins and his website was great help. Check it out here.

A lot of friends who’ve had experience in making and experimenting with dry toilets also helped a lot.

The Design

After thinking a lot through various designs available on various books, website. We were really impressed by the simple Arbor Loo idea. A similar toilet was also experimented by a friend from Mysore. So, we further simplified the design to suit our needs and went ahead with it. At the risk of sounding self approving, we must share that we feel this to be simplest, cheapest and quickest model of compost toilets.

The simple compost toilet inspired from arbor loo design. Soon the walls will be replaced by bamboo structure and a lot of flowers will be planted around the toilet.

The simple compost toilet inspired from arbor loo design. Soon the walls will be replaced by bamboo structure and a lot of flowers will be planted around the toilet.

The toilet was completely constructed in 2 hours by one man from scratch and cost zilch. We used waste materials or unused things from the farm itself, most of it was thrown as junk. It might look quite crude right now but it works well and is very convenient. We’ve already had few visitors use it and they found it very comfortable.

The idea is simple, dig a hole – deposit urine and fecal matter in it – cover it with husk and ash.You need to squat and  take a mug of water with you for washing (or tissue paper if you belong to the second category of man called the wipers ! ) . When almost full, cover it with few inches of soil and leave it for a month and then simply plant a tree on top of it and move the toilet setup to next spot.

It works fantastic for us as we are still planning to plant many trees. There is zero problem with odor because it’s open toilet. One can look at the stars and pee. The weather of Madhya Pradesh makes the composting very efficient. Most of the pathogens die at around 45degrees C, the temperature in summer here is around 45 – so imagine the temperature in the compost pit. Winters are not too cold too, so things should work pretty fine.

The next step

We are thinking of bringing beauty in. Right now, the toilet looks little bit crude. This made us think – why not make toilet beautiful. So we have planted lot of marigold flowers all around it. Soon, we’ll have flowers smiling at you as you make compost for the earth and recycle your waste.

We still need to think little bit about improving the design for monsoons as there is lot of water logging in the farm around this time. The simplest solution will be to put the monsoon pit somewhere at the highest point of farm so most of the water is drained. We might also need to cover the roof in monsoon to avoid too much water from reaching the pit.

The moveable structure of the toilet (which is currently of old iron sheets) will be replaced by an elegant design walls of local Bamboos. We are working with local artisan to get some interesting moveable structure for the toilet.

It really feels good to take care of our waste, take care of water, be responsible. Whether it’ll help save the world, or alleviate environment problems – we don’t know. But we enjoy it and it feels good to be kind to nature.