The Compost Toilet Handbook

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April 21, 2021. 254 pages, 203 photos and illustrations, 161 color pages, hardcover, ISBN: 978-1-7336035-1-5; Trim Size: 6"x9"; $40.00 US


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Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
Reviews: 4
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The Compost Toilet Handbook is an illustrated instructional manual explaining how to make, use, and manage compost toilets, which are waste-free toilets that rely on the biological process of composting to recycle toilet material. It is based on the author’s 40+ years of first-hand experience. The 254-page indexed book has 161 pages of color photos including 203 photos or illustrations from 13 countries where compost toilet systems are in use. 

It is intended for readers who are interested in learning how to make and use compost toilets, for everyday use, for emergency use, or for specialized use such as in schools, orphanages, remote camps, villages, or off-grid buildings. The book relies heavily on color photos and illustrations. Although the 161 color pages have made this book expensive to print, a picture is worth a thousand words, and the cost is worth it. There is no other book like this in print.

This book is a companion book to the Humanure Handbook 4th Edition  (Joseph Jenkins Inc., 2019). Its purpose is to provide basic information about how to make compost from toilet material in a variety of situations, locations, and cultures. It is lighter on text and heavier on illustrations relative to the Humanure Handbook, in order to create a book that is easier to translate into foreign languages.

The 2nd half of the book includes case study reviews of compost toilet projects in African prisons and schools; Haitian schools, orphanages, and villages; schools in Mozambique; neighborhoods in Mongolia; a school and village in Nicaragua; and an ecovillage in the US. 

Along with the nuts and bolts of compost toilet construction, use, and management, the book covers emergency preparedness, cold weather composting, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, health, and safety.

We have toilet seats for sale too!

Compost Toilets: A Solution to the Global Sanitation Crisis

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  • Apr 12, 2024, 08:17 AM
    Decades ago, I had bought a used copy of The Humanure Handbook by Joe Jenkins. Flipping through my highlights now, I seemed to be considering the SunMar composting toilet. However, I never could convince my partner about storing months of poop inside the house despite claims of no odor! He has lived through my experiments with worm bins (and fruit flies) in the dining room!

    Recently, I read about an NGO (non-governmental organization) in India installing pit latrines for people used to open defecation. As I looked at their website, I realized that installation will fail, as have others in the past, when the pits fill up and the users can't afford to have them pumped out. The solution needs to be at a scale that a family can maintain. I remembered my own experiences with large scale food waste composting, and that the 5 gallon (20 liter) container was an optimal size for almost anyone to move about.

    This time when I dusted off The Humanure Handbook from my shelf, I went straight to the section titled "Simple Low-Tech Humanure Composting", and learned about the Lovable Loo -- a wood structure atop a 5 gallon plastic bucket. Soon, The Compost Toilet Handbook was on order, and many videos on the @joejenkins channel were consumed.

    Before the book even arrived, I had read it online. Since I still prefer print copies to bookmark and highlight, I read this book again, this time with a pen. And this time I was ready -- I had learned the difference between a composting toilet (the SunMar I had dreamt about) and a dry compost toilet with an outside bin for the actual composting. A dry compost toilet that collected in a 5 gallon bucket meant only one partially filled bucket in the house, at any one time. I could, and did, convince my partner! And I was presented with his version of the Lovable Loo to paint and test out, made from scrap wood in his wood shop.

    In addition to a dry toilet and a compost bin, the book also explained the need for cover material and human management of the process. Very different from the use it and forget it model of the flush toilet.

    The photo examples from several countries were an eye opener for me; especially to learn that a Lovable Loo was the first indoor toilet for some elders. Sadly, not many examples from India, which was my initial quest and ultimate interest for this appropriate technology. Perhaps this is work waiting for me to show up!

    While Part One of the handbook spoke to all my concerns about the actual design and operation of a compost toilet, Part Two was chock full of examples of the Lovable Loo in Uganda, Mongolia, Haiti, Nicaragua, even a US ecovillage and the extreme weather emergency where thousands showed up for the Standing Rock protest in 2018. The examples showed that this can be used anywhere humans go without the need for plumbed water or electricity. The modularity meant it could be scaled up swiftly for large numbers of people.

    I was sold, nay, inspired, to experience this in my suburban American home. A month into this journey, the outdoor composting bin in our backyard remains odor free. Even though we haven't lived through a year's cycle to use the finished humanure in our garden, I am a confident spokesperson for this type of compost toilet. All because I have The Compost Toilet Handbook!

    Apr 12, 2024, 09:44 AM
    Thank you for the feedback. It makes all the work that goes into writing a book worth it!
  • Jun 30, 2023, 02:11 PM
    The Compost Toilet Handbook is not only a fantastic read, describing an elegant solution to a chronic worldwide problem (safe conversion of poop to soil amendment), but makes the solution accessible to anyone interested. Even for those not yet brave enough to try humanure composting (true composting, not the unsanitary fake "composting toilets" commonly advertised), the method can be applied to deal with other problem materials, like dog poop & household food scraps. I personally struggled with a decent way to dispose of our dogs' poop until I found Joe's method. I harvested my first completed batch of this compost recently and it was amazing! There was no trace of the food scraps (except eggshells) or the poop, instead it was just loamy compost- the best compost I've ever made! No more worrying about contaminating surface water or anything else with Fido's poop!
  • Aug 16, 2022, 02:51 PM
    Built the compost toilet and am setting it up in my backyard today. It will certainly help with the water restrictions we are facing in California.
  • Oct 13, 2021, 05:17 PM
    Quick personal background: I've been composting since 2019 but didn't start using a compost toilet until late 2021. My wife and I built a compost toilet based on the instructions in the book. After using it for a while, I can't imagine going back to a water toilet unless there was no choice.

    This book is excellent. I've read The Humanure Handbook 4 times (an embarassing number for having waited so long to actually take the plunge) and The Compost Toilet Handbook is an excellent companion or just a great standalone book on composting in general and composting humanure in particular. The photos are great and totally worth it. I absolutely LOVE the case studies of humanure composting projects, detailing what worked and what didn't. The writing is engaging with concepts clearly expressed.

    I'm rereading the book now and can definitely "feel it" when the author says for example that one cover material works better in the toilet than another. My own personal experience with humanure and composting matches exactly with what's written in the book. This is a great resource!

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