I attended the Tiny House Conference this past weekend in Charlotte and I can honestly say I have never been to a conference where just about every session touched on some aspect of dealing with human excrement. But the truth of the matter is, whether you live in a tiny house, a tent, a ranch-house or even a McMansion, you’ve got to come up with a way to handle your poop.
Why? Because if you don’t handle it right, someone’s going to get sick and it’s probably going to be you.
So the inside poop at the conference was you need to deal with poop from the get-go.
In a session on housing codes and tiny houses, poop was a big deal, though not as big of a deal as the stated need to pull a permit before you do anything involving a hammer and nail.
The overall codes message was “I am from the government and I am here to help you do things the way I want you to do them because there were problems in the past that you don’t understand or have taken the time to think about and study like I have.”
All of the sessions on building techniques, design, lifestyles and living off the grid also broached the poop subject, too. Event organizer Ryan Mitchell said poop comes up in just about every tiny house conversation, eventually.
The bottom line with building and housing codes is that if you live inside a city, plan to hook your toilet to the sewer system, or skip having a toilet in your house and use your neighbor’s facilities. I met several people who opted to do the latter, living in friends’ backyards and securing bathroom privileges when negotiating the terms of their stay.
A home-made composting toilet
Others use “composting toilets.” And by “composting toilets,” I mean a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat and a bag of cedar sawdust nearby to absorb liquids and mask odors. For the most part, they don’t live inside a city, so codes aren’t as big of an issue in their lives.
We had a fishing camp when I was a kid that had a cesspool, which was an upgrade in South Louisiana, where most camp toilets involved a board with a hole in it perched above a body of water that would wash the poop away really quickly. Out of sight, out of mind. But I digress.
A store-bough composting toilet
A couple of the model homes at the Tiny House Conference had store-bought composting toilets. Those are great, but somewhat pricey and can be quirky to use. A good composting toilet can set you back at least $1,000. Poop is big business.
Personally, my plans involve a septic tank. Why? Because you need one to get health department approval for your home if there’s no sewer system around.
In my life, I have pooped in garbage bags inside of buckets, I’ve hung my butt over the side of boats in a canal and logs in the forest. I have used chemical toilets, camping toilets, portable toilets and outhouses. I’d rather not have my house smell like any of them. A septic system will do just fine. And the grass above it will always be green.
I learned lots of things at the conference and met some really great people. I’ll have more on the conference later on. But for now, just know this. If you’re going to talk about a tiny house, be prepared to discuss poop. It will come up in the conversation.