Let me start with a disclaimer. This is not a glamorous subject. In fact you might think it’s kind of gross. Ordinarily I might have a hard time finding an angle that makes this topic resonate with anyone living in an urban setting (or anywhere for that matter), but the rapidly rising waters of the mighty Mississippi could be forcing the closure of sewage plants any day now, and that means people may not have access to tap water, and toilets might operate like they should. So here we go. Most of us don’t care to think about what happens when we flush the jon, and I’ll be the first to admit that I prefer to not give it much thought either. So why am I bringing it up and what am I getting at? You might not have considered it in your emergency preparedness plan, but in terms of disposing of human waste there’s not a more natural method than a compost toilet, and in extreme emergency situations it may be the safest and most practical means to prevent the spread of disease. Now you may be conjuring up images of a rank and smelly outhouse that requires holding your breath as long humanly possible once you set foot inside, but new compost toilet solutions are chemical free, almost entirely odorless and can even be customized to supplement an emergency preparedness or survival kit. I don’t mean to imply that everyone should run out and buy or build a compost toilet when you’re done reading this, but it’s a solution that’s worth understanding and considering in case you’re ever in a dire situation. Since I’m definitely not an expert on the topic let me instead refer you to the aptly titled Humanure Handbook. This edifying and witty text (with chapters that can be viewed on the site) offers up an interesting scientific argument described through clever commentary and quirky cartoons. In the process the author actually assembles an interesting read all about human excrement and waste management. Hard to believe, but yes, I did just say that.In truth, the compost toilet isn’t something people should rule out just because they prefer to not think about it, but it is the kind of subject that requires a lighthearted approach in order to take it seriously. After all, hitting the commode can sometimes be an urgent and serious matter.
—Jared Matkin—Jared Matkin is a Salt Lake City based freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast who is continually on the lookout for innovative and usable products designed to help improve the way we live.