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The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  974 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Humanure; waste or resource? Joseph Jenkins boldly steps where no author has gone before. Considered by many a "moving" book, The Humanure Handbook will surprise you with its timely relevance, delight you with its humor, and impress you with its thorough research. Full of "eye-candy" illustrations, practical information, history, philosophy, and science, it addresses an is ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 302 pages
Published October 1st 2001 by Jenkins Publishing (PA) (first published July 1996)
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Dec 31, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book, but not great reading. I was looking for "how to," but the author was so afraid of people's reactions (and rightly so), that he took most of the book warming the reader up with the "why." After a point--maybe the second chapter or so--I got the idea, but he kept repeating himself.

To summarize:
1. Pooping in water is unhealthy and bad for the environment.
2. Poop should be composted.
3. If poop is composted properly, the end result is not dangerous.
4. If it's not composted
Feb 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a surprising eye opener to me. I'd always believed the fecophobic assumption that human manure was unsafe. While strongly commending people that compost it rather than flushing it, I also wrongly assumed that this compost was something one had to be highly wary of using.

In the Humanure Handbook, Joseph Jenkins spends a lot of time defending the practice and safety of composting human shit, and using the subsequent humus in gardens. Different than the direct application of "night so
lark benobi
good info for when you find yourself living in the middle of a natural disaster where water service may not come back to your house for months to come. It does require you to indulge in the author's many eye-rolling punnish asides and be ok with him calling human excrement "Mr. Turdy" but I could deal with it. ...more
Baxter Trautman
I love this book! It's very readable while also being very scientific, and yes, even spiritual about composting our own waste (see "The Ego Vs. The Eco" section). No, it's not at all gross if done correctly, and yes, people have been doing it since, well, forever! Obviously not everyone has the resources to turn their own waste into good dirt but those of who do kind of have an obligation to at least read this book. ...more
Mar 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: homesteading
Why do we piss, shit and vomit in our nice clean drinking water? I can't say I ever considered this question before reading the Humanure Handbook (via a free PDF). Since my guy and I are in contract on a sweet piece of land in the New York City watershed with a rustic cabin and no septic system (yet), I wanted more information on composting toilets and found this amusing and eye-opening screed.

In case you're wondering, my first purchase for "the land" will be a big ole truckload of sawdust so I
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great analysis of and unique insight into waste management, particularly the disposal of human waste (I refuse to use the word humanure). I found a lot of it overly technical and dull, but it was worth it.

Key things I learned:
- Composting human waste makes it safe to use for agriculture
- Asian agriculture uses it without composting, which is dangerous
- Excreting our waste into purified drinking-quality water is really dumb
- Composting closes the nutrient cycle and returns the nutrients in the wa
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to really, really like this book. I wanted to tell everyone that they should read it and that it really would solve world hunger, bring about world peace, stop the soil, air, and water pollution problems that are wreaking havoc on the health of humanity around the world over. I wanted to. I do, after all, have good reason to really like this book. I already compost my family's poop. I fertilize the garden with urea tea. I recycle my greywater, using it to boost moisture levels in the co ...more
Rachel B
3.5 stars

A very interesting read overall! I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in "sustainable living." The concept of composting one's own excrement obviously won't appeal to everyone, but this book gives lots of detailed information on the why and how for the counter-cultural.

As interesting as the book was, it begged for a proper editor. The author was very repetitive, went off on unrelated tangents, and simply had an inconsistent writing style throughout the book. Several of t
Jeremy Kinney
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book! Though using human manure for composting is not a popular subject, it is one we all need to think about. Jenkins really puts the importance of humanure into perspective while making it an interesting read and even adding a little humor. This book is definitely for the environmentally conscious person who cares for the future of this planet. I would recommend this book to anyone because, after all, we all poop right?

In his book, Jenkins explains how ridiculous it is to pollute
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a great book.

Great book to understand the basis of water pollution from human activity. I admire Joseph Jenkins to have gone against the tide and doing what he thought is right. It's definitely not easy to say the least.
I feel that it has solution to water problem in the developing world.

Nice quote from the author (The world is divided into two categories of people: those who shit in drinking water and those who don't)
Hilarious titles for the chapters are a plus - Crap Happens, Deep Sh*t. :
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
The most beautiful book ever written about shit. Not only is this something that I fully intend to practice on my homestead, but it is something that I wish I owned land RIGHT NOW so I could start doing it today, and stop wasting all of the valuable organic materials and nutrients my body passes.

If anyone should wish to criticize my praise for this book, please do so with A) proof that the system advocated by the author would not work, or B) a system that would be more hygienic and more effecti
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can read my full review on my blog. The short version is --- the book has the same pros and cons as most self-published books. The author goes out on a limb about things that don't necessarily make sense and spends far too long defending other things that the reader presumably already agrees with or she would never have picked up the book. And yet, in the midst of all that, self-published books tend to have an authenticity, passion, and non-mainstream weirdness that appeals to me and lets me ...more
Eric T.
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A lot of very good data and information. Unfortunately, one must be subjected to the authors misguided religious/political views in order to get at the raw usable information provided. If you have any reason to be interested in waste management and have the cognitive capacity to exercise discernment, I recommend reading, at least portions of, this book.

(My personal interest in this subject has to do with waste management applications in 3rd world missions.)
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm convinced! We'll be using Jenkins' method when we build our off-grid house, if not before. I've seen it in action a couple times now too; makes good conversation with other eco-minded folk. I continue to be surprised at how many people I find who are already using this method or planning to. Essential reading for anyone concerned about their impact on the planet and finding a better way to deal with our "waste" besides flushing it "away" with our drinking water... ...more
Michaela Hutfles
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you need to be sold on this as a good ideas, read the first half; if you need to understand how to do this because you are already sold skip to the second half.
Great book to hand to your building permit folks if you want to try to actually get this permitted on your property.
He kinda covers gray-water, but I would really suggest a different book if your seriously looking into gray-water reclamation.
Remember: it's not waste it's recyclables.
David Hughes
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sobering yet inspiring read. My favorite quote:

"Less than 1% of the earth's water is available for drinking. Why shit in it?"

I've read so much about nutrient cycling using livestock, and the odor-free deep bedding composting methods used by farmers like Joel Salatin. This is essentially the same thing, but for humans.
Excellent book. Not just for the technique (and there are some great youtube videos to help with this as well), but the great way the author tries to break down our general cultural resistance to dealing with our own shit, literally and figuratively.
Feb 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to help me save the world
Very encouraging. I look forward to shitting in a bucket in the near future.
Ashton D.
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environmentalism
Chapter 1:

This goes over some of the things humans are doing to the environment. Humans are consuming and growing at a rapid rate. We're losing large amounts of forests and species such as birds, mammals, and primates are decreasing.

Synthetic-made organic chemicals that are cancer-causing are increasing, and much of it is let out as toxins into the environment. 80% of all cancer can be attributed to environmental factors. The amount of chemical contaminants now found in the body are 250.

May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
It is beyond doubt that future historians will look back on our generation and the multiple water shortage and contamination problems we currently suffer from, and wonder how Western “civilization” could have advocated urinating and defecating into what little purified drinking water we have left. I apologize to the light-hearted among my readers for touching on such an apparently foul subject, but the growing global water and health crises stand in such stark contrast with current waste-managem ...more
Jessica Gray
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book out of necessity after losing my only bathroom and having to use a compost toilet as what I considered a temporary solution. I was skeptical that it could be as sanitary, odor and insect free as the author claimed. He is generally good at putting things in layman's terms, but there was one chapter where I was lost. He repeats points, but I understand that he is trying to drill in concepts people are resistant to.

I was surprised that it was an interesting read. I developed an app
Why oh why did I not force myself to finish reading this before starting to build my compost toilet? Here are the things I learned, some of which conflicted with my assumptions about the compost toilet, which I had already done a fair amount of research on before reading this.

- You don’t have to turn piles. Indeed, it saves time and decreases the loss of organic matter and nitrogen if you don’t.
- By insulating a compost pile, top and sides, with straw or even finished compost, this will allow
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was already convinced about Humanure, and this book just proved it all for me. It meant that a few chapters (esp. at the start) felt a bit like padding, but if you're a bit unsure about humanure/composting in general, this book will convince you! One difficulty that I had was ease of reading- I grabbed the ePub, and for whatever reason the formatting went haywire so the tables and grids weren't available for me which was a shame (bit of a numbers guy!) but otherwise this book comes highly reco ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The book's entire idea in a few sentences: Layer the contents of a bucket you do your business in between straw. As you fill up the bucket cover the feces with sawdust each time. Wash out the bucket in between loads. Let that pile compost for three years. You saved the entire world and this compost is totally safe to use on food crops. Also, pee on trees and it saves the world. But if you'd rather spend thousands of paragraphs reading about how great it is to compost human waste and congratulate ...more
Elisabeth Crocker
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have implemented nearly all recommendations of this book on our off-grid homestead, including the specific designs for the "humanure hacienda" (remote structure where the compost processes) and the "lovable loo" (collection toilet). Mr. Jenkins is an evangelist who has radicalized my views on processing human waste, especially in terms of using potable water for this purpose in drought-prone California. I appreciate his practical guidance and encourage anyone with enough space in appropriate ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
This shit is so important!! It's common sense, really. Composting humanure is truly the only sustainable path into the future. The technique is simple, safe, and shifts our perspective from "waste" to valuable resource.

If this were required reading in schools, I can only imagine the profound impact this would have on the health of our society.

My only critique is that it is a bit repetitive. The same amount of content could be synthesized more effectively into a more concise read.
Jonathan Schaber
Good read about crap, and what to do with it.

I have asked myself for quite some time: "Well I'm reasonably healthy and so is my family, we are all one of God's creations, but why can't we use our poop in our gardens to grow food like we do with composted animal manure? It doesn't make much sense. We eat the same things every other animals eat, so why not compost our poop along with animals?" This book did a wonderful job of answering those questions.
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, foreword
Reviewed for Foreword Books Indies awards.

A surprisingly interesting book! The author is clearly passionate about composting and has some practical suggestions for the world, particularly those in developing areas, to recycle human excrement into usable compost. I found myself well engaged in the book, and the author has a friendly manner of presentation. The book appears to be well-researched as well, both from personal experience and from other scientific articles.
David Gross
My main problem with this book is that it touts itself as a handbook when it's really a philosophy book with a couple of practical chapters at the end. I was easily convinced that this is something that needs to be considered, so beating me over the head with it for a couple hundred pages before telling me how to go about it was unnecessary and pretty annoying. ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Humanure Handbook is a great how to and more importantly why-to guide to composting human manure. It's clear, informative, scientific, interesting and at times even humorous. Jenkins is a great writer with a passion and knowledge of nature and ecology is quite thorough, making this work popular for very good reason. ...more
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71 likes · 11 comments
“We line up and make a lot of noise about big environmental problems like incinerators, waste dumps, acid rain, global warming and pollution. But we don't understand that when we add up all the tiny environmental problems each of us creates, we end up with those big environmental dilemmas. Humans are content to blame someone else, like government or corporations, for the messes we create, and yet we each continue doing the same things, day in and day out, that have created the problems. Sure, corporations create pollution. If they do, don't buy their products. If you have to buy their products (gasoline for example), keep it to a minimum. Sure, municipal waste incinerators pollute the air. Stop throwing trash away. Minimize your production of waste. Recycle. Buy food in bulk and avoid packaging waste. Simplify. Turn off your TV. Grow your own food. Make compost. Plant a garden. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you don't, who will?” 11 likes
“When viewed at the next quantum level of perspective, from which the Earth is seen as an organism and humans are seen as microorganisms, the human species looks like a menace to the planet. In fact, the human race is looking a lot like a disease -- comprised of organisms excessively multiplying, mindlessly consuming, and generating waste with little regard for the health and well-being of its host -- planet Earth.” 6 likes
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