Off Grid Waste Systems - Off Grid Toilets

Selection of Waste systems and Off Grid Toilets

Going Off Grid? How to Handle Waste Sustainably

So you’re ready to go off-grid and say goodbye to city sewers and trash collection. It’s a big move! While exciting to live more sustainably, you’ll need to figure out new eco-friendly solutions for dealing with all the household waste streams.

In this guide, I’ll walk through the various options for handling greywater, sewage, food scraps, and trash when living off-grid. My goal is to give you the nitty-gritty details in plain terms, so you can make the best choices for your family’s needs and property. Each site and situation is unique, so what works for your neighbours might not be right for you.

Let’s dive in!

grey water solutions

Reusing Greywater

Greywater is the wastewater from sinks, showers, laundry and such. Believe it or not, it accounts for 50-80% of home water use! Instead of just piping it out, there are ways to reuse greywater onsite for irrigation and other purposes.

Q: How difficult is it to set up a greywater system?

Greywater systems can definitely be DIY’ed, especially if you’re handy. But professional help is a good idea for designing the right system and meeting local codes. Expect to put in some work maintaining and tweaking things too – it’s not fully hands-off.

Q: What’s the gross factor with reusing sink and shower water?

It’s a fair question! Greywater contains some soap residue, dirt and grime from washing. But it’s not sewage – no human waste. The treatment systems filter out solids and soaps. With proper maintenance, it’s clean enough for watering plants without yuck factor.

Options for Reusing Greywater:

  • Basic Filtration – Filtering solids and piping water out to plants
  • Constructed Wetlands – Letting nature filter the water through vegetation and soils
  • Sand Filters – Using different grades of sand to remove particles
  • Storage Tanks – Storing greywater for natural treatment before reusing.
compost heap

Composting Waste

A huge chunk of household waste is actually valuable organic matter like food scraps and yard debris. Composting this material allows it to naturally break down into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your soil.

Q: How much time does maintaining a compost pile take?

Expect to spend 5-10 minutes every couple days turning and watering your compost pile. It’s good exercise too! Once you get the rhythm, it becomes a simple routine. Vermicomposting (worms) takes less work – just occasional feeding and harvesting.

Q: Any tips for composting success?

Chopping scraps into smaller pieces speeds decomposition. Getting a good mix of wet, dry, brown and green materials prevents odor and keeps the organisms happy. Turning the pile weekly provides oxygen. And don’t forget the worms – they do the heavy lifting!

Composting Approaches:

  • Backyard Compost Bins – Pre-made units for converting scraps to soil
  • Worm Bins – Vermicomposting uses worms to rapidly break down waste
  • Aerated Piles – Air pumped through pipes accelerates composting
  • Covered Pits – Simple layered open pits work too

Dealing With Trash

Even with lots of composting and recycling, you’ll still have waste that needs disposal off-grid. Burning, burying or just stacking trash creates problems. Here are better ways to deal with non-compostables:

Q: How often will I need to transport trash offsite if living off-grid?

For a family of four, expect to haul your sorted bags of trash to a local transfer station or collection point every 4-8 weeks. Recycling can go less frequently. You’ll get to know your waste output!

Q: What everyday items can I reduce or avoid to cut down waste?

Eliminating paper towels, plastic bags, bottled beverages, packaged snacks and disposable razors, plates, etc. makes a big dent! Buy dried goods in bulk, and look for products with minimal, recyclable or compostable packaging.

Trash Management Strategies:

  • Regular Transport – Haul sorted bags to transfer stations
  • Burn Safely – Commercial incinerators reduce volume
  • Limit and Separate – Reduce waste at source and sort rest
  • Designate Storage – Have a securely covered area just for trash

Living off-grid presents challenges, but also opportunities to live more sustainably. With some thoughtful planning and the right systems tailored to your needs, you can handle all your household waste responsibly. Here’s to less impact and more freedom and self-sufficiency!

compost unit

Going Off the Grid: Choosing the Right  Off Grid Toilet System for Your Homestead

So you’re ready to go off the grid and live a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Exciting! One key question you’ll need to figure out is how to handle going to the bathroom without modern plumbing. Choosing an off the grid toilet system may not be glamorous, but it’s an important decision.

In this article, we’ll walk through the pros, cons, costs and considerations for different off grid and off the grid toilet options. My goal is to give you the straight scoop on what’s involved so you can make the best choice for your needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but with some thoughtful planning you can find an eco-friendly toilet setup that will serve your off grid homestead well.

Alright, let’s dive in!

Off the Grid Toilet Options: An Overview

First, what types of off the grid toilet systems are out there? Here’s a quick overview of some common options:

Composting Toilets

These waterless systems compost waste right in a storage chamber using sawdust and airflow. The resulting fertilizer can enrich your soil. Takes some maintenance but very eco-friendly.

Incinerating Toilets

Incinerating toilets burn waste to sterilized ash using propane or electricity. Convenient to use but higher energy needs.

Portable Camping Toilets

Lightweight portable toilets with removable waste tanks offer a flexible temporary solution. Need to be emptied and cleaned regularly.

Pit Latrines

Simple hole dug in the ground for waste. Need to maintain sanitary conditions and plan for closing when full.

Septic System

Conventional septic tanks can work off grid, but require water for flushing and a large drain field. Maintenance is key.

Lots to consider! Let’s explore some key factors when weighing your options…

Off Grid Toilet Considerations

Here are some key things to think about when choosing the right off the grid toilet setup:

Water Usage

If water is limited, choose a composting or incinerating toilet to avoid flushing altogether. Every flush uses gallons of precious water.


Consider peak usage if you have a large family or plan on hosting guests. Composting units have size limits.

Power Source

Incinerating and some composting toilets need electricity or propane. Make sure you have ample off grid power.


All systems require some TLC. The simpler the better if you want minimal upkeep.

Waste Handling

How will waste be disposed after treatment? Septic fields, fertilizing trees, trash removal?


Comparing initial purchase costs and ongoing expenses like supplies and pumping helps choose wisely.


Make sure your system meets local health codes for proper off grid use.

Doing some homework on these key considerations will help you hone in on the right toilet solution for your situation.

Off the Grid Septic Systems

Let’s start by looking at whether a septic tank system could work for an off the grid home. Here’s an overview of what’s involved:

Septic systems rely on a water-tight tank where waste separates, then drains via pipes into a gravel and soil drain field. While proven and comfortable to use, septic systems have downsides for off grid settings:

Water Usage

Lots of water required for flushing toilets and transporting waste. Not ideal if water is limited off the grid.

Drain Field

Requires substantial space for waste disposal trenches. At least 2-3 times tank size.


Tank needs periodic pumping, which requires access for a septic truck. Annual inspections and repairs are key.


Installing a full septic system and drain field costs thousands and requires careful planning and permitting. Ongoing costs too.

No Power

Doesn’t require electricity, so can work off grid. But occasional pumping does.

For some properties with space, water and funds, a septic system can handle an off the grid home’s waste. But it’s not the most sustainable or affordable solution. Let’s look at some alternatives…

Off Grid Composting Toilets

For an eco-friendly, water-free setup, composting toilets are a top choice for off grid living. Here’s an overview:

Composting toilets collect your waste in a ventilated chamber. With the right conditions, it decomposes into nutrient-rich humus. No need to flush or deal with odor when properly maintained. Let’s look at how they work:

Self-Contained Units

All-in-one residential composting toilets are sized for 1-3 users. Electric fans provide ventilation. Easy to use and maintain with proper bulking material.

Central Composting Systems

For larger households, multiple units can feed into a shared central composting tank. Passive ventilation or solar power.

Batch Composters

Simple 5-gallon buckets or bins are swapped out when full. Best for minimal seasonal use. Need offsite composting.

Ongoing Care

Adding bulking material, monitoring moisture/temperature, troubleshooting odours, and emptying humus regularly.

Ideal for Off Grid

With the right model and maintenance routine, composting toilets allow water-free, sustainable waste management off the grid.

Overall, composting toilets provide an efficient, eco-friendly solution for off grid homes ready to go without flushing.

Incinerating Toilets: Turning Waste to Ash

Looking for convenience without a septic tank or composting? Incinerating toilets offer a high-tech waste solution by burning waste to sterile ash. Here’s how they work:

Incinerating toilets use propane or electricity to generate internal temps up to 1800°F, turning waste to ash. The ash accumulates in a removable tray for disposal.

Off Grid Considerations:

Energy Use – Propane or substantial electrical power required.

Venting – Proper exhaust venting is crucial.

Safety – Fire risk if not properly installed and maintained.

Environmental Impact – Co2 emissions to note.


  • Removing ash buildup regularly.
  • Annual servicing of internal components.
  • Ensuring clear exhaust venting.

Incinerating toilets can be a good fit for certain off grid properties with adequate power supply and ventilation. But composting toilets are generally more sustainable and economical.

Choosing the Best Off the Grid Toilet

When it comes to picking the right off the grid toilet system, there’s a lot to weigh. Start by considering:

  • Water usage or conservation needs
  • Available space
  • Waste volume and disposal plan
  • Power supply options
  • Upfront and ongoing costs
  • Local regulations
  • Ease of use and maintenance

An off the grid composting toilet is ideal for water conservation and sustainability. For larger households or properties, a septic tank can work if properly maintained. Portable solutions offer flexibility.

Taking the time to assess your needs and research options will ensure you choose a setup that’s safe, eco-friendly and well-suited for your off grid homestead.

With the right toilet system, you can join the off grid lifestyle without missing some of the modern home comforts. Just don’t forget the TP! Wishing you all the best on your sustainability journey.