048 Toilet Talk

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On this week’s podcast we discuss our new low flow toilet and the concept of humanure. During the show we mention:

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  1. Dh is nowhere near doing the humanure or composting toilet thing. But, I have never appreciated a toilet so much as when we switched out an old 80s Kohler low flow toilet (read SLOW flush clogsalot that always seems to smell swampy, even when cleaned) for a Toto Drake. LOVE LOVE LOVE the new one. Less water than even the old low flow. Flushes quickly and so much better, and has a “quiet close” lid that is an absolute must for nighttime usage 😉

    Found out about the Totos from a plumber up in WA state who has a website where he reviews toilets – ie he knows which ones work and which ones don’t, because he’s the one who’s called out to fix them. Many of the Toto models get his highest marks for both reliability and strength of flush/bowl cleaning power (he does the “hummus” test for the latter – splotch a big ole blob of hummus in the bowl, and can the toilet meet the challenge of cleaning it out with one flush 😉 It used to be hard to find them because the big box stores didn’t carry them etc, but now you can get them on Amazon etc. fairly easily. As soon as we have the extra scratch, we’re definitely replacing the other two old Kohlers with the same Toto we have upstairs.

    • Great tip re. the Toto Drake toilet! I make about 2 trips a week to snake out the clogged toilet at my daughter’s house. After reading the reviews, I’m definitely going to order one from HD.

  2. A fun and informative podcast! Thanks for handling an interesting topic with humour and a modicum of tact. I still can’t figure out how to make humanure composting work in our northern climate with neighbours so close at hand. More research is necessary…..

    • We had to fight hard against the temptation to use bad potty puns. It could work in tight quarters. If you maintain the compost pile well it doesn’t stink. We have a friend who does it full time in Chicago (Nance Klehm). Maybe we should have her back on the podcast to talk about humanure.

  3. Interesting podcast thanks.
    Humanure is such good idea.
    I personally separate urine and poo.
    Diluted urine is sterile and goes directly on the garden – its an excellent complete fertiliser.
    I mix my poo up immediately with any peaty type material.
    When I fill a 4 gallon bucket with this mixture I put it on the compost poo pile.
    I find this way it turns to nice compost within a few weeks, but I usually let it age for several months.
    Then just bury it in the garden.
    My composted poo pile is never more than 3′ by 1′ high and have never seen flies near it.
    Then just bury in the garden – it is fantastic fertiliser, too good to waste.

  4. Very similar story to you guys. We had an old toilet and just used to plunging it every day or so. Then at my new office there was a Toto Drake. I couldn’t believe how good it worked with very low water use. Replaced both our toilets with a Toto Drake and love it. Never thought of getting the taller one for me as I age …

    I have a question about humanure. Does it scale up? For example say you have a sewage plant that takes care of 10000 households. Would it be sustainable for everyone to have drums in their basements or yard? What about the amount of sawdust required? How many trees would be needed per year?

    On the topic of temperature – it doesn’t get cold where you live. In the winter our lows are generally below 0F, and can reach -30F or lower. And I think you could argue it doesn’t get hot where I live. It hits 90F and I’m wilting.

    Nutrient cycling is definitely a topic we need to discuss. I work as a farm agronomist up in Alberta, Canada and its something that I think about. The reason we have to keep adding nutrients to the soil each year is because we export a certain amount every year from the food we produce. Even when we get animal manure those nutrients come from the feed grown on someone else’s farm.

    • Scott, Does it scale up? That’s a great question. The answer, I think, is probably not. Some sewage treatment plants (like the one in LA) compost the solids. The problem is that heavy metals and other bad things are mixed in. The composted sewage is spread on an alfalfa farm called Green Acres in Kern County (someone has a sense of humor). There was a period in Western history when the “night soil man” would come around and pick up waste and compost it. There are probably ways we could improve what we have now–I should ask an expert to be a guest on our show.

      As to temperature, I should have Nance Klehm back on the podcast to discuss how she composts humanure in the winter in Chicago.

    • Sounds very similar to how they treat waster in our municipality. I’d look forward to hearing more on the subject. Love the podcasts and the blog posts. See you around.

  5. I don’t recall you talking about dual-flush toilets. If we tend to
    go #1 4x a day, and #2 only once, isn’t a .8/1.6gps better than a
    1.2gps ?

    Thanks for the fun informative podcast!

    • Good point. I looked at dual flush before going with the Toto. There was one installed at the new office I work at and its essentially a dual flush. If you just push the flusher it goes quick and doesn’t use much of the water in the bowl. Holding it uses more water for those times you need it. (And usually you don’t need it the extra even for #2.)

  6. So having just read the paper wasp blog post and then listening to the toilet podcast, I had this image of paper wasps building a nest inside Mrs. Homegrown’s imaginary/desired outdoor loo. And then, of course, the image of being stung in the tush while being eco-friendly with one’s waste seemed funny and scary.
    This was a very interesting and very funny podcast. I somehow think those folks who do the writing for Portlandia might be inspired should they ever listen to this particular podcast.

    Off to check out how cute Mr. Brad Lancaster is,
    Diane in Bloomington, Indiana 😉

    • lol — That scenario is all too likely, Diana!

      And we’re sure Portlandia has been watching us for years. 😉 This is scenario is preferable to thinking we’re just a predictable comic stereotype.

  7. Kelly, you made me laugh so much during this one – like, outloud guffaws several times. 🙂 Ahh, terlits.

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