The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water (Google eBook)

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Chelsea Green Publishing, Aug 1, 1999 - Technology & Engineering - 124 pages
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A classic is back in print! One of the favorite books of 1970s back-to-the-landers, The Toilet Papers is an informative, inspiring, and irreverent look at how people have dealt with their wastes through the centuries. In a historical survey, Van der Ryn provides the basic facts concerning human wastes, and describes safe designs for toilets that reduce water consumption and avert the necessity for expensive and unreliable treatment systems. The Toilet Papers provides do-it-yourself plans for a basic compost privy and a variety of graywater systems.


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Read when first published, 1978. This review based on memory; I have not seen the new edition. Based on the length, I assume it is the same, republished. Some things don't really change. Written just before the suthor became California's State Architect. The book was used as the basis of ad hominem attacks on Van der Ryn and the Governor who appointed him, Jerry Brown.
It was a real "game-changer" toward the end of the "back-to-the-land movement." Very interesting "...notes on the history of easing thyself...." the devices and the evolution; where we got the term "crapper," and other useful knowledge about our everyday (or several times a day) lives.
If I recall correctly, it argues that the pit privy is the safest means of disposing of human waste. Combined with a greywater system, it can point the way to living more lightly on the land. (Obvious limitations in dense urban environments, but the arguments against "modern" human waste disposal -- sewer systems, septic tanks - are worthy of more consideration.

Review: The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water

User Review  - Andrew Watson - Goodreads

Some intersting sh... stuff about waste management and mismanagement. Read full review


Notes on the History of Easing Thyself
Meet Your Wastes
How To Build Your Own Compost Privy
Household Composting
The Urban Sewer

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Page 17 - And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee...
Page 25 - The privy generally has two compartments — the first one having a wooden or porcelain urinal ; the latter form being called asagaowa, as it is supposed to resemble the flower of the morning glory — the word literally meaning morning face. The wooden ones are often filled with branches of spruce, which are frequently replenished. The inner compartment has a rectangular opening cut in the floor, and in the better class of privies this is provided with a co vethaving a long wooden handle. The woodwork...
Page 25 - ... up by a swinging door. In the city house of the better class it is at one corner of the house, usually at the end of the verandah, and sometimes there are two at diagonal corners, as a reference to the plans will show. A curious superstition among many is attached to the position of the privy in its relation to the house, — a trace possibly of the Chinese Fungshui. The privy generally has two compartments, — the first one having a wooden or porcelain urinal ; the latter...
Page 28 - ... being long cylindrical buckets borne by men and horses. If sensitive persons are offended by these conditions, they must admit that the secret of sewage disposal has been effectually solved by the Japanese for centuries, so that nothing goes to waste. And of equal importance, too, is it that...
Page 27 - ... routes; and as an illustration of the value of this material for agricultural purposes, I was told that in Hiroshima in the renting of the poorer tenement houses, if three persons occupied a room together the sewage paid the rent of one , and if five occupied the same room no rent was charged! Indeed, the immense value and importance of this material is so great to the Japanese farmer, who depends entirely upon it for the enrichment of his soil, that in the country personal conveniences for travellers...
Page 28 - ... who depends entirely upon it for the enrichment of his soil, that in the country personal conveniences for travellers are always arranged by the side of the road in the shape of buckets or halfbarrels sunk in the ground. ' Judging by our standards of modesty in regard to these matters there would appear to be no evidence of delicacy among the Japanese respecting them ; or, to be more just, perhaps I should say that there is among .them no affectation of false modesty — a feeling which seems...

References to this book

Inclusive Urban Design
Clara Greed
No preview available - 2003
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About the author (1999)

Sim Van der Ryn has been a teacher, writer, researcher, and practitioner of design for forty years. A leading authority on ecologically sustainable architecture and design, he is Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1961. As California's State Architect in the 1970s, he initiated landmark programs in energy-efficient building and environmentally appropriate technologies. His innovative designs for homes, sustainable communities, retreat centers, schools, and commercial buildings have received many awards and been widely published.

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