Off-Pipe With A Little Night Soil Music

by Lydia Breen
Composting Toilet

OK, folks., it’s time to tackle this subject head on.  Trailer Trash needs a toilet.   This may be a hard sell, but try to stick with us, because we are asking for your help.

The Trailer Trash Project is committed to creating a green space to live and perform art.  We want to conserve water and fuel and recycle whenever we can.  Or goal is to keep as much stuff as possible out of our landfills, oceans, rivers and lakes.A composting toilet was added to our wish list when we started thinking about the trailer’s design. When it came to holding tanks for water, we had to figure out our daily water needs.  That led us to wonder: What’s the use of a big expensive holding tank when most of that water would just get flushed down a toilet and sent into the sewer?  We thought why not use a toilet that requires no water at all?”

Help Trailer Trash Get A Super Green Toilet CLICK HERE to donate $10

Nature’s Head will sell us a composting toilet at a reduced price ($500 vs. $875).  We can get there if  50 people donate $10 through our Indie GoGo campaign.  Donate $20 and we’ll send you a copy of philosopher-farmer Gene Logsdon’s smart and irreverant Holy Shit.  Here is an interview with Logsdon on WBUR’s Here and Now: “Farmer Calls For Managing Manure to Save Mankind”.


The C.K. Choi building is widely recognized as a model of sustainable design

In case you think we are a bunch of extreme tree huggers, take a look at some of the organizations that have composting toilets:


  • Bronx Zoon (NYC)
  • Queens Botanical Garden (NYC)
  • C.K. Choi Building  (Vancouver)
  • Southface Eco Office (Atlanta, GA.)
  • Dufferin Grove Park ( Toronto)
  • Eco Dorm, Warren Wilson College (NC)
  • Neptune Elementary School (NJ)

…and lots of nature centers, trails, etc.

To see the system in action, check out this video made by the Bronx Zoo. Their system is designed for 500,000 uses a year.  They are also using the toilets to inform users with conservational messages.

Now, we’re getting down to brass tacks.  From what I read the toilets don’t smell (a vent fan should be kept running at all times).  Some people have told me that the toilets have a faintly earthy smell, like mushrooms.  O.K., I’m prepared to adjust to that.  But what about emptying the liquid and solid waste?  And where will I put it?

I admit, it will probably take me a little while to get used to this part.   Liquid waste will have to be emptied once or twice a week and dumped into a proper compost bin. The solid waste will require emptying less often and can also be dumped on a proper compost head.

I’m getting inspired and informed by two great, but very different books.  Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit and  Joseph Jenkins’ Humanure Handbook, which Trailer Trash will review in an upcoming post.

Trailer Trash is a member of Fractured Atlas; donations are tax-deductible to the extent permissible by law. Your comments and donations are welcome.

Links: The Guardian  UK:  Humanure:  the end of sewage as we know it? Time Magazine:  Goodbye Toilets, Hello Extreme Composting Tree Hugger:  Vancouver Office Building Goes Off-Pipe National Geographic: Urine Battery Turns Pee Into Power ——–

Lydia Breen has written and made films about refugees, immigrants and displaced people for more than 30 years.  She has filmed on-location in refugee camps and war zones in more that 30 countries in all world regions.  In 2005 she left her New Orleans home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and was never able to return.  When the Trailer Trash Troupe is not using the Spartan,  Lydia will live stay in it and write about living small and green in difficult economic times. Her permanent home is a 1972 Aristocrat trailer that occupies less 100 square feet.

This post is part of a series documenting Sam Breen’a Spartan Restoration Project. Please see his first post here and check out the archive here. The CSPA is helping Sam by serving in an advisory role, offering modest support and featuring Sam’s Progress by syndicating his feed from as part of our CSPA Supports Program.

Art Nature Dialogues: a review.

Ideas are a bit like oxygen. The right amount allows us functionality;  too much and we get all high. Such is the feeling you get after a read of Art Nature Dialogues, wherein John K. Grande interviews a series of environmental artists.  There’s a spectacular array of materials and viewpoints, from the manure sculptures of Jerilea Zempel to the interventions of Betty Beaumont. What emerges is not only a concise study of environmental artists and their motivations, but an opportunity to examine the way artists describe their work.

When asked what brought them together as artists, for instance, Gilles Bruni and Marc Babarit , known for such works as The Stream Path, reply:

“The face of working as a pair, in situ and outside brings a fundamental social dimension to our work, firstly about ‘minimal ethnic unity,’ . . . Being two, we develop the minimal conditions of collaboration and codependance, of synergy, of respect of the sharing, of conflict and contract . .”

To be blunt: What? Not every artist is quite so over-articulate, but the language of the interviews ranges from the simple and practical to the etheral and other-worldly. I’d love to be able to draw a parallel here between the quality of an artist’s work and the words they use to describe it, but that parallel would be nothing but gaudy bauble-words.

That same lung-opening high you might get from The Stream Path is present in Spin Offs by Patrick Dougherty, or Mario Reis’ river paintings. It’s what makes the artists particularly relevant and exciting (despite, not because of, their habit of comparing themselves to Andy Goldsworthy). These artists have struck a chord, gone beyond the Land Art movement of the 70s (which, they will tell you, was limitied in its true connection to place), and articulated relationships, feelings and memes that speak to where we are now(-ish).

It’s all summed up very well in a quote from Hamish Fulton, an artist of long walks:

Art is essential in a healthy society. As they say, art is like oxygen. Whether we say art is profound, or worth investing in, sexy, or a rip-off and and rubbish, it doesn’t matter, because all those crazy and insulting and wonderful qualities all go to make up what we call contemporary art.

Go to the Green Museum