Human Poop

That well-worn saying — ‘waste not, want not’ — is bandied about with reckless abandon on countless eco-lifestyle websites, but today we’re going where very few of our eco-compadres dare… behind the closed door of your bathroom. This is a snicker-free zone, people. Surely you’ve wondered (at least once?) if you could do something, um, a bit more practical with what you’d normally just flush down. There ya go – there’s no harm in wondering… and no, that doesn’t mean you’re a tree-hugging wackadoodle, either.

Scientists have shared the very same curiosity for decades and upon completing a series of agricultural growing trials in just the last few years, they’ve determined that the stuff we’d normally allow to ‘mellow’ offers precisely the right fertilizing 1-2 punch to make countless types of edible and ornamental botanicals thrive. All of the naturally occurring nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in urine seems to make veggie crops especially enthusiastic about bulking up like the Incredible Hulk.

On the other hand, there’s a deep-seated ick factor regarding solid human waste that makes us more than happy to just bid it good riddance via several gallons of water, but there’s an infinitely better way to make the most of this plentiful resource. I’m not suggesting that anyone needs to create the people-poop equivalent of elephant dung paper or cow dung bricks, but composting it? Sure, why not!

Why On Earth Would Anyone Want To Compost Human Poop?

In a world where fresh water will only continue to become a precious commodity, it seems entirely impractical to flush bodily waste down the toilet (along with perfectly good H20) when every single one of us generates the raw ingredients necessary to create naturally fertilizer for lush garden soil.

Sounds Like A Messy, Smelly Pain In The Neck!

Chicago’s Humble Pile experiment – which transformed the bathroom donations of 35 willing households into gardening gold through a two year composting process – found that layering daily bucket deposits with ample amounts of sawdust significantly reduced olfactory shock while keeping gag reflexes in check.

What About The Potential For Exposure To Bacteria and Disease?

When allowed to ‘cook’ for an ample period of time, humanure compost can be rendered perfectly safe for gardening – even on edible crops. In the case of Humble Pile’s efforts, they transferred mass collections of waste into a single outdoor pile that was augmented with straw and comfrey (the latter of which naturally generates nitrogen and ramps up heat). The resulting compost ultimately tested negative for all coliform bacteria, proving that at times it’s a-okay to lay it on thick.

Can The End Product Actually Be Used For Any Other Practical Purpose?

Okay, so maybe you’re not terribly enthusiastic about feeding your tomatoes, carrots and peppers, well, you know. Fair enough. It’s not for everyone. Remarkably, human waste can be used in a lot of other practical applications, whether as a potential spacecraft fuel source, greener go-go juice for the latest-greatest eco-automobile, an odorless biogas to heat homes or fertilizing sludge pellets which apparently make lawns achieve great new heights of lush, emerald greatness. Going green has suddenly taken on a far earthier meaning, wouldn’t you agree?

image: timtak