Sustainable WNC

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Archive for October, 2008

Humanure-It’s a hot topic!

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008


It’s a hot topic!

This entry is the beginning of the end of my opus on composting and I would like to take it out with a big bang. This subject is pre-controversial because for 99.9% of America, it isn’t even on their radar. Most would have to stop for a minute and try an figure out the meaning of the word through some recollection of high school Latin. Let’s break it down- HUMAN + manURE= HUMANURE,
or HUman+MANURE= the same thing. I’ll let out a little secret. It’s kinda personal so don’t let anyone look at your computer screen while you read this. Once, maybe twice a day, all the food I ate the day before comes out where I normally sit and it’s like brown, smelly toothpaste. There it is- I’m a horrible person, a parriah, a leper. I know I should go see a doctor, but I have a feeling that maybe this happens to other people too. I’ve seen animals do it, but no one I know even mentions it. Sarcasm aside….

I want to mention That most all of this information, Except my personal experiential anecdotes, has been collected from Joe Jenkins book- Humanure handbook. A thorough, informative, and sensible book, as well as, very well referenced. Everybody should have a copy to pass around to their friends and family. It is also online at-

I have some fun facts about the ‘wasting’ we do here in America. “Waste” is not a noun. It doesn’t exist in nature. “Waste” is a verb and it is something we humans do, and Americans have taken it to a whole other level. I highly recommend the short video clip titled “The story of stuff”. High paced, clear, and to the point. It is worth the 15 minutes to learn a little about the history of our consumerism.

If I want to get someone’s attention and open the up to the topic of humanure, I always start off telling them that 5 Billion gallons of water, that’s 5 with 9 zeros behind it, looks like this-


gallons of water is flushed down American toilets a day. I really don’t need to say anymore, but incase you’re not already scrolling down to learn how to… humanure your self, let’s see if a few more facts might loosen your encrusted, enculturism.

Americans waste- 1000 lbs of fecal matter and urine/yr
1000 lbs of other material wasted
Total 2000 lbs of waste/year/ American
There are close to 300 million Americans so lets crunch the numbers:

2000 x 300 x 1,000,000,000 = 600,000,000,000,000 lbs wasted by my fellow countrymen and woman per year. That is what Joe Jenkins would call the true “Gross National Product”!

Half of that could be… (should be…. better be!) used for Agriculture, 2/3rds of the second half is paper and yard waste and could be….should be…needs to be…. composted!

Where does it go? The same place that the guy taking down the old school maintenance building (as I write this) is taking all the perfectly good building materials he wont let anyone have for God knows what reason to- The Landfill. Landfills are the single greatest contributors of methane gas. Methane gas is 20- 30x more potent than Co2 as a greenhouse gas.

Lets take a brief look at what we are flushing down the toilet along with 5 gallons of drinking water in the form of unutilized nutrients discarded into the environment. Not only are we not replacing the nutrients and organic matter taken from our agricultural lands, we are turning them into pollution. Destroying our waterways and oceans. This is the fundamental crux of the issue. Why when we could be enhancing our agricultural future, we choose rather, to toxify our home?

Agricultural nutrients we waste and their value:
Nitrogen- 1.5 billion lbs
Phosphorus- 500 million lbs
Potassium- 200 million lbs
The modest value of these nutrients in the year 2000- 19 billion dollars
Meanwhile the price of fossil fuel based fertilizer has doubled since then.
In Asia, Humanure is traded on the black market. Shouldn’t that be called the “Brown Market”?

If it’s not bad enough we are wasting all these precious nutrients and organic matter and turning them into poison, lets do it with fresh drinking water while we are at it. Shall we?

% increase of the world’s population by 2050? Answer-100%
% increase of the world’s water by 2050? Answer- 0% (Actually, it will be less as our aquifers dry up. The same goes for agricultural land as the government continues to bail out, thus enabling senseless, ego driven developers and speculators.
The Average American consumes 188 gallons/day of water
If you include water used for finished products like cars, computers, and crates of corn flakes cartons, it is 1,565 gallons a day. The use of our ground water exceeds replacement by 21 billion gallons/ day.

To address the issue of “toxifying our home” here’s a few more fun facts-
1997 The EPA reports ( the EPA is no alternative, radical, liberal branch of the US Government mind you)
In 1997- 4153 beach closing, 69% are bacteria related
2003- 18,000 days of pollution related closings, 88% are fecal related
2000- 55% of US lakes, rivers and estuaries are unsuitable for swimming or fishing

Hey, just send it down the drain, the waste water treatment plant will take care of it.

Are you as livid as I am about our government and the people we entrust our civil maintenance to? Are you ready to do something? Something big? It’s as easy as planting a fern in your old toilet and putting the seat on a five gallon bucket with some sawdust in it. It’s called taking control of your life and doing something good for your kids, and their kids, this country, and damn it- The Earth! Let’s turn it around, all this craziness, politicians and their do nothing blabbering while the corporations bleed us dry just like the pharaohs did 4000 years ago, just like the Feudal lords did and the Catholic church did 1000 years ago. Folks its time for a “hole” new political “movement” called Humanure. It will change your life, and you will throw the shackles of the machine off of you and liberate all your brothers and sisters!

Ok, before we continue please review the previous chapters on composting. It’s very important to grasp the concept, the magic of what happens in your compost pile, because the key to minimal input humanure maintenance is that you compost everything. Yes , everything. The poop, the urine, the toilet paper. It all goes into the bucket which goes out to your compost bins in the back yard. This, in a couple of years will turn into beautiful, pathogen free soil that will grow great abundant food crops, hold water, and support complex natural diversity. That’s enough for now. I will continue the nuts and bolts of humanure in the next entry.

Covered in mulch,