January 1, 2009

As anyone who has ever camped knows, nature calls even when it’s cold, rainy, or dark

la tour des bebelles lake view trees1

For three little boys, having to venture behind a bush in the middle of the night was less than appealing. So one of the family’s priorities when building the house was to figure out some kind of toilet system—without going septic.

“In order to build a septic system in such a rugged area,” Dewhirst explains, “we would have had to cut down trees, truck in sand, and, in general, make enough changes that the front of the house would have looked like a lawn. Plus, any waste from a septic tank would eventually find its way to the lake, especially with all the rocks around here.”

The solution was a composting toilet. A European off-the-shelf model called the BioLet was installed inside the house, and although it looks like a severely bloated version of a normal commode, it works just fine. Peat moss is used as the starting compost ingredient, and the contents have to be emptied only once a year. Since the toilet “can be quite smelly when it vents,” as Dewhirst delicately puts it, they aimed the vent through the roof—perhaps not appreciated by birds flying by, but scentless for the cottage’s residents. —A.H. 

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