The Journey to Humanure
It generally gets no respect, at least the human variety doesn't. Now, cow poop, chicken poop, horse poop, these are the ones that garner respect, even if unconsciously. Think about this. Without animal manure, we as a human species would likely be up shit creek.
Manure and compost are essential components to organically growing food in the form of plants and trees. The nutrients released from the manure feed soil microbes, some of which break down or make nutrients available for plant roots to uptake and develop into leafy greens, crunchy apples, and beautiful flowers.
Why doesn't Human Manure, here called Humanure, get any respect?
Is Humanure physically inferior to animal manure?
Is Humanure dangerous?
Is it Psychological?
No. No. Yes.
Many of us in North America have a fixation on how gross and utterly disgusting we are when we spread our bum cheeks across a cold plastic toilet seat and prepare, in private shame, to "dispel waste".
We use fresh water, sometimes three times a day, to catch these little turd rockets as well as our bladder's ballast each time we sit on our porcelain throne to do the dirty.
What has caused us such harm? What has made us so neurotic to fill our bathrooms with fresheners, sprays, scents, and neutralizers in hopes of covering up our shameful natural off-gassing?
I will not go on to give answers for these questions and instead leave them with you to ponder - you likely get enough Q&A trying to convince you of one thing or another while cruising the internet.
What I do have is some hard science. Hypothesis. Process. Analysis. Results. This is what I would like to share with you now.
We, our family of three, have been on a three year journey thus far to change our perceptions about "human waste" and re-define the parameters that have been ingrained in us regarding our feces and urine.
Humanure is a safe and effective compost material. The process of composting humanure is safe, efficient, and has such little impact on the environment it almost cannot be said to have any at all. The process of composting human manure closes the loop of a an energy system.
We grow food, we eat food, we digest food, we expel the byproduct, we capture the byproduct, we compost the byproduct, and we insert the now humanure back into the natural system. Begin again.
Many people are squeamish about the thought of using a compost toilet let alone the actual process of having to be in connection with their own and other's composting poop.
At Earth Embassy we use a Nature's Head Composting Toilet. This particular one has two sections to collect solids and liquids. What makes black water or septic is when feces and urine mix and are left to sit in a contained system. This can lead to an abundance of septic bacteria that are so powerful they need to be left sealed away to do their job of breaking down this toxic sludge. In waste treatment facilities anywhere cities exist, tons of environmentally harmful chemicals are used to breakdown the co-operative colon cleansing of a collegiate of citizens. Clean water is turned to waste, human manure is toxified, and chemicals are introduced to our environment as waste.
By composting the solids in peat moss which is kept in a separate compartment from the liquids, we avoid any chance of creating black water or chance exposure to the dangerous bacteria that can come with that. After a "deposit" is made, one simply closes the lid and turns a small crank on the side to mix the solids in with a quantity of peat moss already stored within the composter. This eliminates the poop smell and leaves a woody earthy scent if any at all.
Once the composter is full we take the solids section to a black cone composter bin that has a fully covered bottom and locking lid. This ensures pests like mice or other rodents do not get into the humanure and potentially spread poop all over their environment!
Inside the composter we add worms. Lots of worms. They absolutely love it. It is amazing how prolific they become in only a few short months!
Called vermiculture, this is an essential process to breaking down the humanure, peat moss, and paper. Of course many bugs join the party as heat allows the thermophilic action to compost the material and regulates the bacteria content. It really takes care of itself - nature that is.
Now, many people have shown skepticism over the efficiency and safety of humanure and the process of creating it. That is fair - as long as it is skepticism founded on a rationality and not just emotional jitters arising from shame and disgust. Unfortunately most skepticism regarding Humanure arises from ignorance and not from a rational and analytical position.
It takes about one year for our family of three to fill a black composter bin. At that point we lock it up and let it sit for 2 years, open up the next black composter bin and start the process all over again.
The journey has brought us to a point where hard science can prove, finally, what exactly Humanure is.
I have taken samples of finished Humanure from Earth Embassy and sent it to a lab specifically in business for testing soil and water. The Humanure was sent as "garden soil" and asked to be tested for three criteria:
1. Fecal coliform / staph / dangerous bacteria analysis
2. Heavy metal and toxicity analysis
3. Mineral Analysis
The results are in and I would like to share them here with you.
Page 1 shows all sinister bacteria such as fecal coliforms, enterococcus, staph aureus, salmonella, and shigella are "ND" ie. None Detected.
Page 2 shows the Sample Vs. Normal Rates in Soil. The major nutrients in the sample are far beyond the normal rates found in soil. Some rates are 3 times that of normal soil while others are up to 100 times greater! As for the minor nutrients, some are in range while the rest are under the typical amounts found in soil.
Page 3 shows the elements found in the sample and lists the typical thresholds for allowable amounts in soil before it is determined contaminated. The sample is well below all toxic element thresholds.
Scientifically, these reports prove the safety of the process we use to compost our humanure. In fact, this sample cannot be easily differentiated from horse or cow manure samples. This result shows that there is no toxicity to our humanure, that it is safe to handle, and can be used in the same way compost from other organic sources can be.
One can lead a human to knowledge but one cannot make it think. Please read up on Humanure and the process to get more informed on how to close the loop!
Comments and questions? Please speak or ask away. Skeptics welcomed!
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