luxury compost loo
What is a compost luxury loo?
A compost loo is essentially a dry toilet, stand alone, not connected to a sewer system or septic tank. It will come in all different shapes and sizes – drop toilets, tree bogs, wee & poo separators. Some will compost in situ, others need the material taken away and ‘treated’. It depends on the set-up. Some will channel the ‘waste’ through a reed bed for filtration and let nature clean and absorb the nasties. Some will just be basic composting vessels, where the material gathers, festers, composts and reverts to soil. Most people imagine all compost loos are a very basic, totally unattractive, and (if they have ever used one at a festival)- very smelly indeed!
So why are our loos luxurious? Well, our compost loos don’t look – on initial inspection – any different to your household toilet, other than there is no visible china toilet bowl. The seat is on top of a wooden frame, and everything around it is clean and ‘normal’ looking. We have deliberately designed ours like this to get over that first barrier – make them look attractive.
The compost loo in Log Jam even has a novelty toilet seat. From this we created the “Angus McCoo looks after your poo” persona. There are playful poems on the wall explaining how to use the loo. By bringing fun into the room, we hope to break down some of the potential stigma associated with using it. Be brave, come and stay, give it a go and find out for yourself.
Why don’t you have “real” toilets?
The cabins are build in the woods at the farthest part of Little Menherion from our access lane. They are nestled in amongst the trees and engulfed in nature. When we set out to build them, we were (and still are) keen to avoid harming the very environment we want to invite you here to enjoy. So we have tried really hard to disturb it as little as possible.
In order to have real toilets – ones that flush with water – you need plumbing, you need somewhere for the waste to go, the ‘black water’ as its known – your wee and poo and paper… This can’t just be pumped into the ground as there are regulations around this and it creates environmental & health issues. So a septic tank or in a small treatment plant would be needed to deal with the waste first. Mains drainage isn’t even a possibility for the farm cottage at Little M because we are so far from a main line.
Both of these options involve digging a huge hole, through and into the tree roots and ultimately cause a great deal of damage. The septic tank would need emptying regularly and the cabins are too far from the road to make this an option. You can see, it’s not an easy problem to solve any other way.
The biggest stigma around using compost loos that most people find off-putting is the thought of the awful smell that must be there. After all it’s not going anywhere, its just sitting there in a hole in the ground! Isn’t it?
Well, the short answer is no! – see below, how does it work.
I’ve never used a compost loo before before and I’m a bit nervous. Help!
There are instructions in each cabin handbook that explain exactly how to use it. We are happy to answer any questions and when you’ve used it once, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about.
How does it work?
We give each set of guests an immaculately clean new loo set up. This involves two buckets – both hidden from sight. At first glance it will look pretty much like a normal loo. One bucket contains a compostable bag and has a little damp sawdust in the bottom, this is under the toilet seat, and you do your toilet in it as you normally would at home. The only difference is that we ask everyone to sit down for a wee, yes please boys! The second bucket is under a hatch and contains lots and lots of damp sawdust and a scoop! Yes that’s right its damp!
So why no smell? Well that’s the beauty of it, after you have ‘gone’ you cover your business with the damp sawdust. This smothers the smell and hides any unpleasantness. It’s just like you pulled the chain/pressed the button and flushed with water. Then it’s ready to use again.
What do we do when we fill it up?
We are happy to ‘service’ the loo whenever you feel the need to have this done, so don’t hesitate to ask. All that we require is that you make sure the top layer is sawdust and fold in the bag. We can take it from there.
What can go wrong?
The most common reason it ‘goes wrong’ is because guests scrimp on the sawdust. We have loads and have access to loads too. You really want to use it very liberally, cover everything up. They other important job the sawdust does, is to soak up the wee, and it can’t do this if you’ve only used a few flakes. So don’t be shy!
What do you do with all of the ‘compost’ created?
Each bin when full has a lid put firmly on it and is taken to the composting area on the other side of our land. Here it is emptied into series of compost bays. When each bay is full, it is left to compost for a minimum of two years (we haven’t reached this milestone yet). By this we mean over time it will become a nutrient rich soil, which we can then use around the base of all of our young trees. The nutrients will help them to grow. Don’t panic! – we won’t be using it on our veg garden – there should be no nasties after the advised two year decay/transformation, but it is best to avoid any risks.
How can I find out more?
Joseph Jenkins is a huge advocate of compost loos and when you stop to think about it… we (the western world) capture rain water, we treat it (this costs a lot!) and then we flush it back down the loo! Also as the world warms up, water will become scarcer and scarcer. So it makes sense that we all think what we use it for and using it to flush away our toilet really doesn’t make sense. Does it?
Go find his book, it’s called Humanure and it’s fascinating. There is one by each of our loos, some light reading for when you’re on the throne.