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Off the grid bathroom for wedding venue

 
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We’re starting a outdoor wedding venue. The ceremony will be held in our woods(we are not offering receptions/just ceremonies) we will have two “clamping tents” (pictured) for the bridal parties to hang out in afterwards. We will also need a bathroom(something that goes with the clamping theme). I am thinking one will be fine since it’s just the ceremony. We don’t want to deal with plumbing so I’m wanting to do a composting toilet. From your experience what it the most “normal” or “not-gross-for-normal-people” composting toilet. Price is really not much of a problem. I’m willing to pay more to make people more comfortable. Also, has anyone found very simple instructions that I could post to explain to people how to use it? Also, any tips on the hand washing station? Thanks!
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Well, one options is a willow feeder.  It's got sawdust but it can be cute as hell and the garbage cans are pretty big so no one has to deal with anything until the guests are gone.  Here's a link to a thread on here about it.  Downside is that you are pooping on a sawdust covered pile of poop....  I used this one at the lab last summer and it didn't smell at all so it's much better than a porta potty.

https://permies.com/t/47814/permaculture-projects/willow-feeder-wheelie-bin-pooper
 
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The Nature’s Head toilets are probably the most similar to flush toilets that I know of. I have one out at my ranch and no one seems to complain about it. I have a little piece of paper explaining what to do for people, but honestly — it’s extremely easy. You take a poop, turn the handle, and you’re done. For hand washing I would look into RV foot-pump style sink and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
 
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Humanure Handbook.

Sawdust toilets are simple to use, the user experience is great. Far nice than chemical toilets, in terms of smell and cleanliness. I have used this system for week long camps with 60 school kids. Make up a cute poster to go on the wall explaining how it works ("flush" with a scoop of sawdust). I was able to get 13 year old townie school kids happy using these with minimal fuss.

Re bucket size etc... I bought 20 buckets with tight fitting lids for a few quid each. When full the lid was clipped on and moved to behind the toilet tent (30 second job) and the next bucket was ready to move in place. Buckets prefilled with sawdust for "flushing".

Advantages: No one has to mess around emptying any buckets, or dealing with anything messy during the event. When the event is over the buckets are easy to manage, and can be transported to the final compost site in a car. Ideal for a site like a wedding venue where you need to be able to quickly pack-down and leave no trace. Someone mentioned using huge bins - I would definitely avoid in this situation for just that reason!

With multiple buckets available it is really easy to make up multiple toilets to avoid queues etc...

With any non-standard toilet there will definitely need to be someone responsible for checking them every 30 minutes or so through the event. Replenishing sawdust, swapping out full buckets etc... I got in the habit of swapping them before they were quite full. They were both easier to handle, but it also ensured no one ever faced a situation where they were confronted with a full toilet.
 
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A friend asked me about designing a portable bathroom that can be pumped for campsites he was planning that are rustic. Local regs are no privy or cess pits. Composting toilets were rejected due to the ick factor among “normal” people and the need to frequently empty and clean (he considered multiple composting toilets so a clean one could be quickly swapped out with a clean one and that idea still is alive). He looked into fancy portable event toilets that provide hand washing and flush toilet and decided too expensive and besides they look exactly like they sound like. One thing he liked is the portable high end units offer hot water for hand washing which requires an electrical hookup which is not available unless we come up with a water heater of some sort.

One possible we worked on was a rustic log cabin bathroom that has a space under it where a small trailer could be backed into, the trailer having a built-in RV Black tank so he could pull it out and take it to a place two miles away where they will pump RV’s and flush tanks for a small fee. The bathroom would use toilets designed for RV use and he thought a second trailer that can be rolled under the bathroom when full to minimize down time. The advantage to the idea is the bathroom not being portable allowed it to be a substantial structure while the portable black tank(s) not having a full bathroom on top is light enough to toweled easily from the remote campsite to the road.

That’s as far as the idea has progressed. He feels he can source the diy honey wagons for little to nothing other than the tank, build the bathroom/cabin out of roundwood available on site and he even has a pile of old windows and doors that can be used in the design. His thinking is go ahead and build the bathroom as a double to allow for men’s/women’s separate facilities feeding into the same portable tank. What type of toilet(s), tank, hookups, etc. is in this design can be informed and driven by experience in the RV community, so sourcing there is not an issue. That leaves the need for water (hot and cold). Also the question of handling grey water could mandate a second tank just for gw.

So at this point we are evaluating whether in the end it may be better to just get a permit for a well and septic for the campsites and the permitting and tax issues or go forward with the portable dump wagon idea.

The issue I see with a composting toilet for a wedding venue is it being quickly overwhelmed by pee & poo for even the smallest wedding.

 
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Taylor Cleveland wrote:We’re starting a outdoor wedding venue.

I am thinking one will be fine since it’s just the ceremony. We don’t want to deal with plumbing so I’m wanting to do a composting toilet. From your experience what it the most “normal” or “not-gross-for-normal-people” composting toilet. Price is really not much of a problem. I’m willing to pay more to make people more comfortable.  



One seems fine for small ceremonies, maybe just the bride and groom.  But if there will be bridesmaids, groomsmen, and guests then one might not be enough.  Then will there be room to change clothes?  I can see the bride changing into her dress with the bridesmaids changing theirs too in the glamping tent.  Will there be a separate place for the groom and groomsmen?

Having worked at a venue of sorts it doesn't hurt to be prepared for all sorts of happenings.
 
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Anne Miller wrote:

Taylor Cleveland wrote:We’re starting a outdoor wedding venue.

I am thinking one will be fine since it’s just the ceremony. We don’t want to deal with plumbing so I’m wanting to do a composting toilet. From your experience what it the most “normal” or “not-gross-for-normal-people” composting toilet. Price is really not much of a problem. I’m willing to pay more to make people more comfortable.  



One seems fine for small ceremonies, maybe just the bride and groom.  But if there will be bridesmaids, groomsmen, and guests then one might not be enough.  Then will there be room to change clothes?  I can see the bride changing into her dress with the bridesmaids changing theirs too in the glamping tent.  Will there be a separate place for the groom and groomsmen?

Having worked at a venue of sorts it doesn't hurt to be prepared for all sorts of happenings.



We are working with a few reception halls 1 mile down the road that offer large bridal/groom suites. As for on our location, the large tents is what we will offer for the bridal parties, at least for the first 2 years. I understand it may not be good enough for some people but its a very rustic wedding to begin. We have plans for a reception area and at that point we will put in legit water/power/plumbing. Were just trying to stay out of dept.
 
Taylor Cleveland
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Kyle Neath wrote:The Nature’s Head toilets are probably the most similar to flush toilets that I know of. I have one out at my ranch and no one seems to complain about it. I have a little piece of paper explaining what to do for people, but honestly — it’s extremely easy. You take a poop, turn the handle, and you’re done. For hand washing I would look into RV foot-pump style sink and a bottle of hand sanitizer.




I'm stuck between a sawdust system or the natures head. Originally i was thinking natures head, but now I'm slightly worried people would use it wrong and I would be stick fixing their mess every weekend? What do you think.
 
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Mike Haasl wrote:Well, one options is a willow feeder.  It's got sawdust but it can be cute as hell and the garbage cans are pretty big so no one has to deal with anything until the guests are gone.  Here's a link to a thread on here about it.  Downside is that you are pooping on a sawdust covered pile of poop....  I used this one at the lab last summer and it didn't smell at all so it's much better than a porta potty.

https://permies.com/t/47814/permaculture-projects/willow-feeder-wheelie-bin-pooper



I'm stuck between this and the natures head. Sawdust seems much more simple and easy for people to understand, but the natures head seems more "polished". Im just worried about people using the natures head incorrectly. I guess I can start with a sawdust and then if people complain splurge for the natures head.
 
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Taylor Cleveland wrote:

Kyle Neath wrote:The Nature’s Head toilets are probably the most similar to flush toilets that I know of. I have one out at my ranch and no one seems to complain about it. I have a little piece of paper explaining what to do for people, but honestly — it’s extremely easy. You take a poop, turn the handle, and you’re done. For hand washing I would look into RV foot-pump style sink and a bottle of hand sanitizer.




I'm stuck between a sawdust system or the natures head. Originally i was thinking natures head, but now I'm slightly worried people would use it wrong and I would be stick fixing their mess every weekend? What do you think.



Honestly, so long as you or a staff member are in charge of emptying the urine bucket and cleaning it after events (same kind of cleaning you'd do to any toilet), I struggle to think how people could use it wrong. But people can be creative. I'm sure they can find a way to use it wrong. Sawdust systems have similar ways of failing (people using too much / too little sawdust, not telling people when it's full, etc). I think the biggest benefit to Nature's Head vs a sawdust system is the built-in urine diverter. Urine is what makes composting/pit toilets smell and having a built in urine diverter is a godsend. The biggest downside (apart from cost) is that it does take more time to empty the solids chamber. With a sawdust system you can swap out the solids bucket real quick and keep trucking on.
 
Michael Cox
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Kyle Neath wrote:I think the biggest benefit to Nature's Head vs a sawdust system is the built-in urine diverter. Urine is what makes composting/pit toilets smell and having a built in urine diverter is a godsend. The biggest downside (apart from cost) is that it does take more time to empty the solids chamber. With a sawdust system you can swap out the solids bucket real quick and keep trucking on.



That has not been our experience when using a sawdust system, but I think it depends on the type of sawdust you use. We get very fine dust - mostly from horse chestnut - direct from a local yard that make fencing products. It is very absorbent, and has a very high surface area. A small amount covers deposits nicely as it flows around and over things. When we set one up using pine shaving - bought from a pet shop - it was very different. The shavings covered it, but there still seemed to be air circulation unless you used a very thick layer of shavings. And the shavings themselves seemed pretty much waterproof, rather than absorbent.

When people talk about urine making compost toilets smell I always suspect that there is a problem of some sort with the cover material being used.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:

Kyle Neath wrote:I think the biggest benefit to Nature's Head vs a sawdust system is the built-in urine diverter. Urine is what makes composting/pit toilets smell and having a built in urine diverter is a godsend. The biggest downside (apart from cost) is that it does take more time to empty the solids chamber. With a sawdust system you can swap out the solids bucket real quick and keep trucking on.



That has not been our experience when using a sawdust system, but I think it depends on the type of sawdust you use. We get very fine dust - mostly from horse chestnut - direct from a local yard that make fencing products. It is very absorbent, and has a very high surface area. A small amount covers deposits nicely as it flows around and over things. When we set one up using pine shaving - bought from a pet shop - it was very different. The shavings covered it, but there still seemed to be air circulation unless you used a very thick layer of shavings. And the shavings themselves seemed pretty much waterproof, rather than absorbent.

When people talk about urine making compost toilets smell I always suspect that there is a problem of some sort with the cover material being used.



I should have clarified: this was pretty targeted at people who don’t live with a sawdust system full time (i.e. guests). They can definitely be managed well by experienced users, especially those who meticulously source their shavings from sawmills and the like. For people who don’t use one every day, I find they never really know the right amount of sawdust to use and almost never use it for just urine deposits. For small numbers of guests (<10) this is usually fixed by a face-to-face chat, but once you leave people to their own will the urine problem always presents itself.
 
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