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The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water Paperback – 28 Jun 1999

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Pub Co; 2Rev Ed edition (28 Jun. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890132586
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890132583
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.1 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 554,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

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.

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Format: Paperback
The author of this one, Sim Van der Ryn has been designing alternative toilet and sewage systems for 40 years, and is currently Emeritus Professor of Architecture at Berkeley in California.
The book, originally published in 1978 way ahead of its time, now revised and reprinted, has a wider scope than The Humanure Handbook, and covers the ground more succinctly. The starting point is a history of sanitary systems and a travelogue of how they do it in other cultures, followed by details of manufactured and home made wet or dry systems which will reduce water consumption and/or enable recycling of nutrients. Greywater systems are covered in a later section, and there is an excellent chapter with details on how we could revamp our tired (or non-existent in the Third World) urban sewage systems. Excellent reading for the smallest room.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.3 out of 5 stars 14 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Composting human waste and its disposal in the contemporary setting 16 April 2015
By The Old Prof - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the space of 119 pages the author presents a plethora of black and white photos and many drawings about the topic. The philosophy behind this publication might generally be called the “back to earth,” “survivalist,” or what Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow calls “eco-fundamentalist.” (See my review of Koloski-Ostrow’s book, THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF SANITATION IN ROMAN ITALY: TOILETS, SEWERS, AND WATER SYSTEMS, 2015; esp. pp. 50f where she offers an evaluation of Sim Van der Ryn’s philosophy and approach, and also the endnotes in her book for chapter 2, no. 51).

There are only 22 references in Van der Ryn’s book, a highly selective list—but all of which are annotated. There is no index for the book which would enable it to be a useful reference guide. The drawings and photos, however, are very instructive and are detailed to the point that anyone who would wish to use them as reference, will find them quite good. On the other hand, since the photos are printed on absorptive paper, not glossy, numerous of them are not adequately detailed for the user to gain as much from them as from the drawings. The latter are far more detailed and useful.

He treats the history of the toilet in a succinct chapter (chapter 1) entitled “Notes on the History of Easing Thyself.” (pp. 17-32). His quotes and his drawings imply that he prefers the squatting position for urinating and defecating. Photos of his designs in ensuing chapters seem to confirm this.
But the book has a completely inadequate treatment of building codes (he refers generally to the “Unifom Building Code”) and those who enforce them (see pp. 72-74) and does not treat local interpretations of grey water, waste treatment, composting, and general runoff. Whereas individuals who wish to design and install composting units for their faeces and urine, those who monitor and enforce the laws are usually “anal retentive.”

While he gives California as an example he concludes the chapter entitled “How to Build Your Own Compost Privy” as follows: “A number of other states accept alternative systems on an experimental basis. The wheels move slowly, but only you and I can cause them to move at all.” (p. 74). Not only is idealistic, he does not list the other states so that one could use the internet to research the matter. I find his discussion of codes over all to be completely inadequate and even, at points, unrealistic. Moreover, in my own experience, I’ve been told that codes change, on average, every three years in Pennsylvania. And such changes tend to be rigorously applied and enforced making private enterprises—such as building one’s own composting unit—impractical.

The book must be viewed not as a “be all, end all” presentation, but rather as an introductory guide to his topic. One worry concerns the use of the compost product to fertilize gardens. We moderns take antibiotics and related drugs which have been shown by technical studies to pass through the human system and end up in the faeces and urine. I’m not so certain that modern composting will adequately address this problem.
5.0 out of 5 stars Using one valuable resource to rid ourselves of another seems senseless 10 Jan. 2017
By John A. Leraas - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent and practical discussion of the handling of human waste. Advantages to composting over the flush and forget technology we now use are discussed. Cautions are listed and practical ways to use human waste compost safely are explained.
Human waste is a valuable product that is currently being managed as a material to be rid of as opposed to a resource to convert and use to our advantage. Many areas of the country are in a water crisis yet we use potable, clear, clean water to get the stuff out of sight.
How to instructions on composting human waste are given.
This is a very interesting book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book 13 Mar. 2017
By JamesBBK - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I tell people I am reading about poo I get some looks! the book is very informative and I am working some of it into my new property! Thank You!
4.0 out of 5 stars More than bathroom reading 7 Dec. 2016
By Lee Sutter - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the definitive and fascinating book on how mankind has dealt with body waste over the ages. Sim Van Der Ryn is brilliant and writes clearly. I wish our ordinances allowed for some of these alternatives, instead of requiring expensive and invasive wastewater treatment plants. A friend lent me this book 20 years ago, and I was delighted to be able to buy a new one.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read and this will make you think 11 Dec. 2015
By integritygirl - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great read and this will make you think!! I am a composter and always have been, heck I'm the compost Queen. But this is an area I never really thought to much of, I had always been taught that recycling human waste was VERY dangerous. Well, if its done right, you could miss an amazing opportunity for saving earth and heading in the right direction. Your mind will be changed after reading this.
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