Living off-grid can be extremely rewarding for those who wishes to lead a more sustainable life. However, with many changes that need to be made in an off-grid life, managing and disposing human waste is vital to your health and survival. With off-grid living being your go-to living arrangement, self-reliance on your homestead with a system in place, it’s important. This article will guide you on innovative options available for off-grid waste management, disposal and waste reduction.
Proper handling of feces, urine and vomit is among the most important of survival tasks. Diseases spread easily through soil and water pollution from such human waste. Pathogens and parasitic diseases spread from man to livestock and back to man and the cycle continues. Human excrement is a breeding place for flies that can also carry disease.
Without proper hygiene and waste management, you can contract many diseases and illnesses:
- Intestinal parasitic worms
- Rodents scurrying to your compost also will spread disease
- Mosquitoes are another factor stemming from poor sanitation as they will hover over any standing water leaving you vulnerable to Zika virus or Dengue fever.
Off-Grid Waste Disposal
One of the major benefits of living the off-grid life is that you’re already disconnected from the municipal sewage system. It’s major a benefit because your family will have an off-grid waste management system in place in a long term emergency.
Most importantly, you have three main waste streams you must plan for: Human wastes, gray water wastes and trash wastes. In living the off-grid life, you’re not part of the municipal sewage system, and you really must have a system in place that works for you.
Human and Water Waste Streams
One solution for both human wastes and gray water wastes is the tried and true septic tank. A septic system is the best route for those who can afford to have one installed, who can get the large equipment access to your location for installation and to pump out the solids every two years.
You can hire someone to install a septic system, however, homeowners are responsible for the outcome of sizing the system and completing the permit paperwork. Unfortunately, septic tank won’t work for every off grid home. So what are your other human waste and gray water options?
There are many elaborate off-grid plumbing systems. For example, a small system of 275 gallon tote tank will cost you around $350 with shipping included. It will be in general condition with some scratches and small dents, but with no mechanical problems.
Turn your waste streams into compost. Use your compost to heat your water and your small home, then use the decayed compost to nurture and expand your garden. So you can support your off grid heating needs and food independence using your fundamental core waste stream.
Gray Water Waste
The easiest way to deal with your gray water outside a septic system is to pipe it out away from your home, so it can absorb naturally back into the ground. Some people even use their gray water to water their trees and gardens.
Be cautious about any soaps or chemicals you use and end up in your gray water since those can be harmful to plants and trees in high concentrations.
Another option is a composting toilet. It has the benefit of using human waste for fertilizing the soil or at least integrating it safely into the environment. Finally, an outhouse is a classic option for off-
grid waste management that’s extremely popular in Alaska where sewage is more challenging.
Trash Waste Options
Non-compostable Trash Waste. To clarify, for all waste streams that are organic in nature, just add those to your compost heap. Now, for remaining wastes such as plastics, you have three options.
Collect these items in a secured, sealed location to keep critters and animals from getting at it. Once you’ve filled up your waste storage location, you’ll take the trash to your nearest landfill for disposal.
Bury it yourself. Make yourself a mini landfill on your property. This setup works well if you have enough land, so you’re not burying your trash close to your actual home; and if you have a tractor with a front end bucket. Otherwise, you’ll be digging this pit by hand.
You can burn your trash in a burn barrel or burn pit. Then once the ash and soot built up and filled the pit, buried it and dug a new pit.
How to Reduce Waste through Off-Grid Living Solutions
While it’s predicted that over half of new electricity connections will be off-grid by 2030, it’s clear that eco-friendly ways of living are here to stay and form the future of how we live our day-to-day lives. The public must be informed on the new and innovative options available for off-grid living and waste reduction.
Subsequently, having an off the grid electricity source is one of the most important parts of living the off-grid lifestyle, continuing to reduce waste through day-to-day living can also be simple. While composting toilets have been around for a while and can be the go-to eco-friendly by being virtually waterless (thus reducing water waste), other simple ways to reduce waste throughout the day can involve composting food scraps and harvesting rainwater.
These are all eco-friendly ways to live, they can contribute to living a zero-waste lifestyle while living off-grid. Often seen as a new and popular trend among the younger generation, zero-waste is a philosophy designed to eliminate waste that would otherwise end up in landfills and oceans. By incorporating zero-waste techniques, the public can help to reduce plastic and non-recyclables waste dramatically.
The best place to start making a difference in our environment every day is right in your own home. Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials to decrease household waste. Whether you’re at home, on the go, in the office, or at school, there are many opportunities to go green by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
Learn to compost at home. Use food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic wastes to create a compost pile. Adding the compost you make to soil increases water retention, decreases erosion, and keeps organic materials out of landfills.
Raise the cutting height of your lawnmower during hot summer months to keep grassroots shaded and cooler, reducing weed growth, browning, and the need for watering.
If you need large lawn and garden equipment such as tillers and chainsaws, you can reduce waste (and save money) by setting up a sharing program with your neighbors.
When you mow, “grass cycle” by leaving grass clippings on your lawn instead of bagging them. The clippings will return nutrients to the soil instead of taking up space in landfills.
Donate healthy plants that you want to replace for the community gardens, parks and schools.
If you have a wood burning fireplace, save your ashes instead of throwing them away. Once cooled, wood ashes can be mixed into your compost heap and provide nutrients to your garden.