When you set out to do some RV camping, you have a choice of where you want to stay. Many prefer the secure, amenity-laden RV parks that come equipped with water, power and electrical hookups. This certainly makes life much easier to have these conveniences at your fingertips. However, should you decide to do some boondock camping (otherwise known as “dry camping”), there are a few changes in habits that you will need to prepare for, including conserving water where possible. You must always remain vigilant regarding your resources, and conserve where possible.
There are several methods you can use to extend and conserve the water you carry with you, but there’s one trick you may not have considered: a Composting Toilet! Yep, you read that right. There are actually toilets you can purchase that you can transport in your Cruise America rental RV, and they work using almost no water at all.
What is a Composting Toilet?
A composting toilet uses the natural process of decomposition to reduce the amount of waste (humanure) by 90%, converting it into a nutrient-rich usable soil amendment. It uses no water, so obviously there is no plumbing involved, no chemicals are needed and no flushing occurs. Best of all, there is no malodor. These toilets use the bacteria that are naturally present in the human body to do all the work. As many have mistakenly thought, there are no bugs or worms that play a role in the composting. As a matter of fact, you need very little supplies once you purchase (or make) the actual toilet.
The average RV toilet uses about 2 quarts of water, and let’s say that the average couple staying in that RV flushes 10 times per day. That’s 42 pounds, or five gallons of water that was previously clear and clean that is now sewer water. In addition, this couple will create approximately 1,300 pounds of waste per month that must be disposed of. If your RV is hooked to the campground sewer, you’re all set. If it is not, then your tanks will begin to fill up, which is okay, as that is what they are designed for. However, if you boondock, you will find that taking along a composting toilet will save you a great deal of water and effort.
Composting toilets produce an end product of humus (not to be confused with Hummus, which is a delicious dip for veggies made from garbanzo beans)! Humus is an ideal product that can be introduced into the soil as an ecological boost, just as manure from animals is used.
How a Composting Toilet Works
There are dozens of varieties of composting toilets, but for the purpose of this blog, let’s take a look at the “Nature’s Head” brand.
The toilet may be used inside or out, depending on the weather and how comfortable you are using the great outdoors as your potty room. There are two chambers in the toilet. The front chamber is strategically placed so as to catch the urine. The other chamber is a bit further to the rear (no pun intended), and catches the solid waste when it drops. The tank has a trap door that leads into the lower tank, which is where the composting takes place. So the solids fall into the lower tank, and the liquids are diverted to a tank in front. By preventing the two from mixing, there is no chemical reaction that causes that oh-so-familiar sewage smell.
Attached to the outside of the composting tank is a hand crank agitator that is turned each time any humanure is deposited.
Before you use the toilet the first time (or when the tank is newly emptied), you must add a few handfuls of fibrous material, such as peat moss or coconut Coir (a fiber made from coconut husks). After using the toilet for going #2, just throw a handful of the coconut coir on top of the humanure, close the cover and turn the crank two or three times to mix things up. There are agitators that turn inside the tank when the crank is rotated, and the humanure is mixed with the peat moss or coconut coir. It’s a clean, odorless process if done correctly.
The frequency with which you must dump your composting tank depends on how many times you go #2 in a day, how much toilet paper you use, and how many people are sharing the toilet. The average couple will end up dumping their compost tank every three weeks or so. You can either use your composting soil to fertilize plants (it works great in gardens, just as one would use animal fertilizer), add to other composting bins or piles, or you can simply empty it into a composting bag and toss it into the garbage.
The liquid tank will probably need to be emptied about every three days for the average couple. The urine can diluted with water and sprinkled on the ground, poured down the sewer or, if you’re in a boat, dumped overboard from a legal distance from shore.
Composting toilets aren’t made just for camping. They can be used inside the home as well. It’s a great practice for all those interested in conservation and reducing their effect on the environment.
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