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The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  759 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
There are almost seven billion defecating people on planet Earth, but few who have any clue about how to constructively handle the burgeoning mountain of human crap. The Humanure Handbook, third edition, will amuse you, educate you, and possibly offend you, but it will certainly pertain to you--unless, of course, your bowels never move. This new edition of The Humanure Han ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 255 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Jenkins Publishing (PA) (first published July 1996)
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Dec 31, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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
Let's talk about poo.

It's gross, isn't it? Over the last 150 years or so humanity has advanced in the realm of how we handle poo. Instead of allowing it to flow through the streets, we sit on a ceramic bowl filled with water from the same source as the water we drink. We then flush it away into a city sewer (or septic tank), it gets treated with a bunch of chemicals, and the treated water is then put back into our water supply. Yum, chlorine!

With a dwindling fresh water supply for a growing popu
Feb 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rachel B
Jan 20, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Mar 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jeremy Kinney
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. :
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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...
Eric T.
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.)
Michaela Hutfles
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Feb 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
David Gross
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So I've been reading a book lately called the Humanure Handbook and basically it is a book about what to do with human excrement to keep it from becoming 'waste.' Which is a really good thing because right now we basically shit into our drinking water and then flush it off where it is 'treated' and then put back into the world. Not only are our treatments often ineffective, resulting in pollution but we also lose all the possible nutrients we could gain by composting our 'waste' back into a usef ...more
Victoria Haf
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
El tema es un poco raro pero también necesario, tendríamos que pensar más a donde van nuestros desechos. Como estamos por construir el baño en nuestra casita fuera de los sistemas públicos, decidí leer este libro que tenía desde hace un buen rato.
Aunque a veces resulta un poco repetitivo, aprendí mucho y en retrospectiva veo que muchas de las cosas que estaba haciendo están mal. Cuando tenía perros, hice un agujero y puse ahí toda su popó, igual cuando murieron los enterré. Ahora sé que hubiera
Alison Van Arsdel
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was excellent and everyone should read it. If you aren't into the science or political parts you could skip the involved pages on those topics. But anyone who could read this book and not want to begin composting and using grey water systems...well, I don't know about them, they concern me.

I think the book gives you everything you need to get started including the motivation. If you are very serious about setting up a grey water and composting system and live in a trickier a
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A practical guide to putting back into the soil the nutrients you took out, in a way that is best for the health of your family and community.

(thermophilic composting done correctly (it is not that complicated) kills all pathogens except prions (mad cow disease). Septic systems and flush toilets- the water is usually treated and put back into lakes and rivers, the sludge is usually put into landfills (we are pulling nutrients out of the soil, and packaging them away!)- but watch out! This bioslu
Ruth Timmons
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was given this book by a friend when I complained that I wasn't finding anything on line about the practical details involved in composting toilets. She'd found this book in a reading list for would be Mars colonists. In it, Jenkins does a great job of discussing a topic most people would rather not think about.

There are other books that cover the dangers of not treating human wastes, but Jenkins also detail the problems and dangers of modern sewage treatment systems. Mainly that we in the fi
Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: agriculture, diy, skimmed
This book is free to download. just Google it.

You can guess what this book is about....
If you keep an open mind, you'll find that the author asserts this practice is entirely safe (more so than than our current "sanitation" systems: waste-water treatment plants, septic tanks...) and even better, effective at turning what some call "waste" into something useful. By composting our waste we're just completing the natural nutrient cycle. The author says he uses his own composted humanure on his gar
Nicholas Moore
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book, though a bit repetitive. But considering how the general public views human feces I think repetitive is necessary. This book not only tells you how to compost your poo, pee, and any other organic substance, it also tells you why you should and why it is safe to do so. I have not built a composting toilet yet because I don't currently have a place to compost it. But shortly after I read the book, weirdly enough, I met a family who did build one and has been using it for ...more
Chris Jones
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
For me, this book served me more as something that sparked my imagination than it did as a manual. I was ignorant to the ways of humanure composting before I found this book at my small neighborhood bookstore and I was fascinated by the concept. Waste recycling is something that I think about a lot so when I read this book I was quite relieved (no pun intended) that there were more productive uses for human waste. Very informative and well written, contains all the instruction you need to build ...more
Jun 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, housing
I am having thoughts that this book is pretty revolutionary. Somehow I've always thought about western toilets as just wasteful of water...I had not thought about how we than treat sewage and turn it back to drinking water (with lots of chlorine and other stuff, requiring tons of resources), nor had it occurred to me that the waste just goes to landfills when it is totally a resource that can be used to improve soil quality. I watched a youtube video of the author, and my fave quote is: "You can ...more
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who think it's weird to put human waste into drinkable water
Shelves: gardening, how-to
Does it make sense to put human waste into drinkable water? I don't think so and neither does the author of this book (with whom my friend Louise did an internship).

This book gives you everything you need to know in order to compost your feces. It's a funny book too, not a dry academic tome.

I was kind of skeptical of all of this before my housemates and composted our poop for about nine months in 2004/2005. It worked! We used the compost on our vegetable garden and no one got sick. Yippee! The e
Aug 29, 2008 added it
You can download this book from
Based on what I understood from Jenkins, the main advantages of turning your feces and urine into nutrient-rich soil via natural composting, other than that you get nutrient-rich soil, are that it uses no drinking water as flush toilets do and that it yields non-pathogenic humus (even if people sick with dysentery, worms, salmonella and other fecal-oral route diseases added to the pile). The book describes how to do it at home on your own
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“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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