But What About the Toilet?

Picture the following scenario. It might sound vaguely familiar. You’re a city slicker who stumbles across an online blog detailing the benefits of off-grid living. You’re reticent to read on, but the idea appeals to you. You open a new tab on your browser and find yourself Googling ‘off-grid living’. The options are mind-boggling. You didn’t even know this was possible! Your excitement begins to mount—a life powered by solar panels and rainwater collection systems that support a series of self-contained greenhouses that produce healthy, organic food for you to enjoy year-round! You imagine yourself quitting your job and escaping somewhere deep into the forest, nestled in the perfect tiny home, far away from the evils of the big city where no one but the birds can disturb your environmentally-sustainable dream life! Free at last!

Then the proverbial ball drops. What about the toilet? In the tiny home world, we call this ‘flush toilet anxiety’. Rarely does anyone have a problem with off-grid equipment like solar panels or rainwater systems, but when it comes to off-grid toilets, anxiety ensues.

I am here to reassure that there is nothing to fear. Off-grid toilet technology has come a long way since it was first invented. There are several excellent, odour-free, easy-to-use options available on the market. In hopes of easing your anxiety, here is a tiny home guide to all things toilet related.

Before we talk about off-grid toilet options, let’s review the pros and cons of regular flush toilets. If you have access to a sewer system or septic tank and plan to live in a set location, flush toilets are a feasible option for tiny homes. They are much less expensive than off-grid toilets and relatively simple to install. They come in different shapes, colours and sizes, which gives you more choice when it comes to design. The biggest issue with flush toilets is that they limit where you can take your tiny home. As I already mentioned, flush toilets require a sewer or septic hookup so they’re not particularly useful on the road or for off-grid living. They also waste a lot of water, which costs money and adds to your ecological footprint.

Another option is an RV-style toilet with a holding tank, which is arguably a similar experience to using a flush toilet. However, holding tanks require chemicals, and create blackwater, (as opposed to greywater) which needs to be disposed of safely and regularly. They can be quite smelly, and add substantial weight to your home. Because of this, RV toilets and holding tanks are not usually a great solution for tiny living—on or off grid.

When it comes to off-grid options, there are two main choices: composting toilets and incinerating toilets. Neither require water to operate, and both are suitable for an off-grid living. Composting toilets are more common than incinerating toilets, mostly because they are less expensive and use less power. A composting toilet can cost anywhere between $1000-2000CAD, whereas an incinerating toilet will can cost upward of $6000CAD. Compared to a regular flush toilet, (which you can get on sale for as little as $50), both composting and incinerating toilets are considerable investments. However, over time they can save you money on your water bill, they do not require chemicals or professional maintenance (like a septic or holding tank) and they produce a byproduct that is easily disposed of or composted.

But how do they work? Like really.

There are several functional differences between models and manufacturers, but in general, composting toilets work by separating solid and liquid waste. We’ve had a lot of success with Separett toilets, as they are easy to install, built to last and our clients love them. A Separett toilet bowl is ‘separett-ed’ into two parts, one that funnels away urine and one that captures solid waste. Because urine is mostly water, and considered sterile, it can be disposed of via a french drain, a tank or diverted to a greywater reuse system. The solid waste drops into a lower chamber, lined with a compostable bag where the waste dehydrates rapidly with the aid of a fan. Because there is virtually no odour, the toilet can be vented through the wall or ceiling. Depending on the amount of people living in your tiny home, the waste chamber only needs to be emptied (taken to the compost) about once a month. One thing to note about composting toilets is that because they use a fan, they do require a small amount of power to run. Separett makes a model called The Villa 9210 which can accept 12V DC power from a battery or solar source, or standard AC power, so that you can live either on or off-grid with your composting toilet.

At the push of a button, incinerating toilets literally incinerate solid and liquid waste into sterile ash. They traditionally run on electricity, but more recently, companies like EnviroToilets have engineered models that use natural gas, propane, diesel and even rechargeable solar power. Incinerating toilets draw a lot of power, so if you did opt for solar, you would want to make sure your system was sized to keep your toilet running year-round. We receive a lot of inquiries about both the EcoJohn series by EnviroToilets and Cinderella Motion by Cinderella Eco Group. Ringing in at $4300 CAD, the TinyJohn by EcoJohn is definitely more affordable than the Cinderella Motion, which costs a whopping $6490 CAD. According to Cinderella Eco Group’s website the Cinderella Motion is not yet available in Canada and the USA. Although incinerating toilets offer the potential of mess-free, off-grid living, their lofty price point can be a serious obstacle for the average consumer.

For more information on Separett toilets, click here.

For more off-grid toilet options head to Tiny Life Supply.





Wheatgrass Tiny Home Community is Hosting a Tiny Home Festival!

Where? 1295 Timberwolf Trail Road - Bridesville, BC
When? October 13th, 2018 from 10-6pm
Cost to attend: FREE (donations suggested when viewing homes)

Come one come all to Wheatgrass’ first FREE tiny home festival! The Wheatgrass Tiny Home Community is inviting builders, workshop hosts and tiny lifestyle enthusiasts to partake in the festivities. If possible, people are encouraged to carpool and as a reminder, snow tires are required by law on BC highways after October 1st!

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For more information check out their Meetup event or Facebook page.

Please contact Wheatgrass Community leaders with any other questions here.

For more general information about the Wheatgrass Tiny Home Community, head to their website: www.wheatgrasscommunity.com

Catching up with 'Big Hearts Tiny Vegans'

An interview with the ultimate tiny home DIY duo!

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It’s been over a month since we delivered a custom 24’ trailer to Leala and Zach in Courtenay, BC. Together they run a vlog and Instagram titled, Big Hearts Tiny Vegans, where they chronicle their adventures of moving from the big city to beautiful BC, in search of the good life. Leala and Zach have made tremendous progress building their own tiny home, and we caught up with them to ask about the process.

1. You have talked about the importance of living deliberately and simply. How does going tiny embody these ideas for you?

For us, going tiny embodies an escape from the everyday rat race. We often found ourselves in cities, paying high rent, for poorly managed places. The rent in cities is so high that we felt trapped in a cycle of living to work instead of working to live. Going tiny will enable us to have exactly what we need, while affording us the time we want to embrace the things we love. Simplicity, to us, is a life without financial burden. Without that burden, we can finally be purposeful with our time, and spend it bettering either ourselves, or pouring it into our passions. Or maybe just finding a bit more peace, and kicking up our feet more than now and again.


2. What have been the greatest challenges in this process so far?

We are still in the infancy stages of the build. That being said, we must have gone through five thousand million different designs before we settled on the one we are currently constructing! The construction process so far has gone fairly smoothly, but at every stage there is a lot of research that has to be done, and there is a bit of stress that comes along with that. Probably the biggest challenge though, is the delicate balance of regular life and tiny house building. Working, paying bills, and budgeting materials can be a pain. When we are on a roll though, it is a lot of fun. Seriously, a lot.


3. I know you're still in the early stages of construction, but what do you consider to be the most important aspect of your future home? Where are you planning on focusing the most energy?

The biggest thing for us is making the space feel like a home. We also are attempting to keep the build as green as possible, and plan to use recycled material for our siding, flooring, and cabinetry etc. Also using eco friendly wood finishes, to keep our space as clean of VOC’s as possible. At the same time, we don’t want to compromise the structural integrity of our home, or have leaky windows. So finding a balance has been a primary focus of ours.


4. What do you consider to be the most common misconception about living tiny?

I think the most common misconception is that there is not enough space for life. We have been living in tiny apartments with two dogs for years, and we have always liked the intimacy of closer quarters. It does allow for a closer relationship, more cuddles, and less clutter. Since dogs are den animals they love it too. We think the real misconception is in standard housing. People feel they need a ton of space to have personal value. We used to feel that we needed more personal items to have a personal identity. We were among the ranks whose items defined them.  After letting go of all those unreciprocated attachments, finding value in people has proven to be far more rewarding.

5. What is the most surprising thing you've discovered through this process so far?

We can build stuff!! If you look at it one step at a time, divide it into small goals, they are perfectly achievable, and does it ever feel good to drive in that last nail and step back and see what you have accomplished. Seeing it all come together is so rewarding. Surprising that we haven’t broken down yet… yet…


6. Do you have any advice for those who want to follow in your DIY-live-vegan-and-tiny footsteps?

An ethical vegan lifestyle has led us to where we are today and having less of an environmental footprint feels like the next gradual step for us. At the start of our journey we had to take a good hard look at the way we lived, the way we were socially conditioned and feel the void that was longing to be filled. It was through that process that brought us to a shift in perspective. The truth we come back to and need to remind ourselves of is that there is no planet B. How can we make a difference and embody the compassion we wish to see? I guess our advice would be to take an honest look at where your compassion lies and encourage yourself to live there. We try to find multiple uses for many materials such as clothing, building supplies and even food! Trying to give life to things that have been cast aside is a creative challenge that benefits the environment, which is why we wanted to take on a DIY tiny house project! As far as an ethical vegan lifestyle is concerned, we found that embracing or eliminating one thing at a time is a great place to begin. The journey grows as you grow and it is important to let go of judgment of yourself and the world around you—take it one day at a time. It is empowering to know that the way you choose to live, can make a world of difference!

7. Are there any specific building materials or products that you’ve found to be particularly helpful in building your tiny home?

One product we love is called Eco Wood Treatment. It’s all natural and commonly used in Banff and Jasper national parks! We used it to treat our plywood. You add it to water, it goes on easy and so far, it has been amazing. It’s also super affordable! Check out the product here.

Can’t get enough of Big Hearts Tiny Vegans? Follow their journey!

Instagram: @bigheartstinyvegans

Facebook: /bigheartstinyvegans

YouTube: Big Hearts Tiny Vegans

Interested in building your own tiny home? Purchasing one of our custom trailers is a great way to start your DIY journey on the right foot! Read more about our trailers here.