Following a post that described my eating choices and diet, it seems that this one complements it in a beautiful cycle. Death follows life. Waking up follows sleeping and so inevitably pooping follows eating. It's a basic necessity and this post is about how we built ourselves a compost toilet to use in the hills.
The inception of this toilet started when I was in the city and visiting a dear friend and amazing boss lady behind Makhi Design Studio. We collaborated on this project with the idea to make a wooden composting toilet using her tools and expertise.
The base was a simple wooden box on top of which we would create the toilet seat. To do that, the first step was figuring out dimensions of the hole we needed for a comfortable pooping experience. We pretty much used the same dimensions of a regular western commode she had in her house and then emulated that onto a wooden seat.
Using a jigsaw to cut out the shape of the toilet hole
The freshly cut hole that needs rounding out to remove sharp edges
The hole after it's been rounded off and smoothened
The next step was sanding, treating and finishing the separate wood pieces. We also added a surprise element around the seat on a whim just for fun and to see what that addition would be like.
Sanding down the wood to a smooth finish
All the components of the toilet treated with a water based polyurethane solution to waterproof them
After all the components were dried and ready, the last step was putting it all together with screws and attaching the lid onto the base of the toilet with hinges.
The toilet assembled, and Java the curious cat was of course the first to test it
Toilet complete, I set about photographing it. Please enjoy this ridiculous, over the top and unnecessarily aesthetic photo shoot of our humble creation.
That's right, the toilet seat glows! That surprise element I mentioned earlier was glow in the dark pigments mixed with white paint and painted around the seat. A beacon to guide travellers on nocturnal pooping expeditions.
Building a Compost Loo on the Land
The entire toilet could be disassembled and flat-packed so I had no trouble carrying it with me on a bus back up to the hills. To house the toilet we started off with a simple wooden frame from which we hung old curtains and mats to form the 'walls' of the compost loo. The floors were done with treated wood planks and loose rocks.
The screening we used couldn't withstand the monsoon hurricanes, winds and rain and were destroyed pretty quickly into the first monsoon after this build was complete. To provide a sturdier shelter, we built a fortified wooden frame and used wooden planks to make our walls. We also added a tin sheet roof to keep the rain out.
The operation of the compost toilet is quite simple. At its core it's really a glorified way of shitting into a bucket. I line the bucket that sit's underneath the lid of the toilet with biodegradable plastic bags. All the waste is collected into this bucket and when it's full I simply have to take out the bag and deposit it into a large pit we dug right next to the toilet that we keep covered with a tin sheet. This is a dry toilet so there's no flushing. In between every poop, we add mud, leaves and sometimes sawdust to cover up the poo and fill the bucket. The key to getting no smell is to use enough cover material to absorb the liquids inside. As long as the bucket stays relatively dry, it doesn't smell. As we don't have a urine separator, the bucket does fill up quite fast, but is relatively easy to swap out. Whenever the toilet is emptied out into the pit, we add brown and green organic matter to help the composting process with the ideal ration of carbon and nitrogen to break down the organic waste. This toilet has been in operation for a little under a year and the pit we dug for the waste collection isn't even half full yet. I haven't used compost from the toilet just as yet, but I think it's amazing to be part of perpetuating a cycle. We eat plants from the land to nourish us, and then the plants grow from compost created by our waste. A beautiful circle. Great food and great poops make life so good.