- 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)
The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water Paperback – 28 Jun 1999
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
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.
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.
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