Off-Pipe With A Little Night Soil Music

by Lydia Breen

Composting Toilet

OK, folks., it’s time to tackle this subject head on.  Trailer Trash needs a toilet.   This may be a hard sell, but try to stick with us, because we are asking for your help.

The Trailer Trash Project is committed to creating a green space to live and perform art.  We want to conserve water and fuel, and we want recycle whenever we can.  Our goal is to keep as much stuff as we can out of our landfills, oceans, rivers and lakes.   We couldn’t see the point in buying a big, expensive holding tank when most of that water would wind up getting flushed down the toilet and out into a public sewer system (it didn’t seem like that was really being “off-grid”).  It made more sense just to conserve water up front.


Help Trailer Trash get a           waterless composting toilet                     CLICK HERE to donate.  Nature’s Head will sell us a composting toilet at a reduced price ($500 vs. $875). That’s 50 people x $10. Donate $50 and get a gift:  a copy of farmer Gene Logsdon’s smart and irreverent Holy Shit


The C.K. Choi building is widely recognized as a model of sustainable design.

In case you think we are a bunch of extreme tree huggers, take a look at some of the organizations that have composting toilets:

Bronx Zoo(NYC)                                                                                                                      Queens Botanical Garden (NYC)                                                                                                     C.K. Choi Building  (Vancouver)                                                                                           Southface Eco Office (Atlanta, GA.)                                                                                              Dufferin Grove Park ( Toronto)                                                                                                     Eco Dorm, Warren Wilson College (NC)                                                                              Neptune Elementary School (NJ)                                                                                                    …and lots of nature centers, trails, etc.

To see a large-scale system in action, check out this video made by the Bronx Zoo.  It is designed for 500,000 uses a year.  The Zoo is  also using these toilets as an opportunity to inform visitors about the importance of conserving water.

It’s getting down to brass tacks and answer some of the questions that are surely on your mind.  From what I read and here, the toilets don’t smell (you do need to keep a vent fan running at all times).  Some people told me that composting toilets such as the one made by Nature’s Head, have a faintly earthy smell, like mushrooms.  What about emptying the liquid and solid waste?  And where will I put it?

I admit, it will probably take me a little while to get used to this part.   Liquid waste will have to be emptied once or twice a week and dumped into a proper compost bin (more on that in the links below). Solid waste will require emptying every few months and can also be dumped on a proper compost heap.

Two great but very different books have inspired me:  Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit and  Joseph Jenkins’ Humanure Handbook.   Here is a radio interview with Logsdon on WBUR’s Here and Now:  “Farmer Calls For Managing Manure to Save Mankind”.  

As the cost of chemical fertilizers mounts and water becomes more scarce, we are probably going to have to get over our resistance to recycling human, farm animal and pet waste.  Stay tuned…

Links:                                                                                                                                                  The Guardian  UK:  Humanure:  the end of sewage as we know it?                                        Time Magazine:  Goodbye Toilets, Hello Extreme Composting                                                Tree Hugger:  Vancouver Office Building Goes Off-Pipe                                                          National Geographic: Urine Battery Turns Pee Into Power                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ——–

Lydia Breen has written and made films about refugees, immigrants and displaced people for more than 30 years.  She has filmed on-location in refugee camps and war zones in nearly 40 countries in all world regions.  In 2005 she left her New Orleans home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and was never able to return.  Lydia will use the Spartan as her base when Sam and friends are not using it, writing about living small and green in difficult economic times. Her present home is a 1972 Aristocrat trailer       (15′ x 7′) nestled under a grove of pepper trees in the outskirts of  Santa Clarita, CA.

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