Friday, October 7, 2011

Composting Book Review: The Humanure Handbook

I just finished reading The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins, and I highly recommend it, especially as you can download it for free if money is tight. I think it's worth the ten to twenty bucks to pay Mr. Jenkins for his wonderful work, but I know not all composters have the cash to spare.

The book primarily addresses how to compost human waste (poop and pee) in an environmentally responsible and safe manner. Jenkins has amassed a huge collection of scientific studies showing that pathogens will be completely eliminated in responsibly managed compost, and that composting "humanure", is often more effective at turning out a safe, usable product than standard sewage treatment facility procedures. Mr. Jenkins does a very good job over the course of the book at convincing "fecophobes" that humanure is safe for use in both horticultural and agricultural applications.

I particularly like the gradual build of subject matter in the book from an introduction to thermophilic composting, which leads to a review of studies on composting humanure, to an all-inclusive tutorial on how to collect, compost, and use humanure without odor, pests, or pathogens.

If I had to pick the most important idea Mr. Jenkins puts forth in his book, it's that human waste isn't really waste at all, it's a resource rich in nutrients that requires only a cheap, simple process to make safe for use all over the world. He has picked the term "humanure" to particularly highlight this fact and to move our collective mindset away from the idea of poop and urine as disgusting things, and more towards the understanding that these are natural byproducts of our bodies which would best be used to close the loop on food production.

The Humanure Handbook is written in a friendly, informative tone that's accurate without being boring, and provides a plethora of new ideas and concepts which become more convincing with each passing page. Best of all, the topic is addressed with not only common sense, but a sense of humour, something that's invaluable when talking about poo. You can obtain a copy of the book, in whatever format you like, through a page on Mr. Jenkin's official site here (the bolded book options are clickable).

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