Humanure Handbook coverThe Humanure Handbook
2nd edition (Yep, so good they wrote it twice.)

Submitter: A patron returned this book the other day and I happened to glance at it as I took it to the cart to be reshelved. I could not contain the sound of disgust that escaped from me. I was immediately appalled that this man was interested in this book, and I’ll admit – I judged him a little… but that was quickly replaced by the shame that we are the ones who have the book in circulation.  It’s been checked out 3 times in its life here at our library.  But since I circulated the picture to my friends’ phones, I have had a couple of requests for it.  Perhaps its novelty will keep it in circulation.  Oh, and we found out there’s a 3rd edition out as well.  Perhaps we should update – got to stay on the cutting edge of humanuring.

Holly: Rest assured, you are not the only ones that are circulating this book.  It’s…”interesting”…but I wouldn’t say it is a horrible choice for a public library collection. The concept seems strange, but in the interest of building a balanced collection, it is information people may want.  Certain communities might find this perfectly acceptable and check it out over and over again. At my library, we can probably get by without it. I personally can get by without it as well, but I do think it belongs in public libraries in certain communities. You know, those where the neo-hippie movement is alive and well. Or in rural Alaska where people live on homesteads.

Clearly, I’ve been watching too much Discovery channel.


Drawing - man on toilet

Human nutrient cycle

Types of toilets

Growing tomatoes from humanure


  1. Its interesting the chemicals we’ll put in our food that don’t gross us out: Aspartame is bacteria poo. If human manure is allowed to ferment to the right temperature, the pathogens are cleaned up quite nicely. 1.2 Billion Chinese have been using it as the main fertilizer on far less arable land than the USA. That indicates they must be on to something these last 5000 years.

    The whole earth movement is pretty internet savvy, you could probably toss it without much regret. and possibly just keep a file with URL’s for anyone who has not figured out how to use Google.

  2. Now silly me thought useing human manure was illegal because of the high chance of spreading diseases.

  3. I honestly didn’t know this was done until I saw a Craigslist posting not long ago! The man had moved to our area and wanted to find new “clients” for his waste! He went on and on about his diet, and offered to eat special (vegetarian) things for extra. He was charging a lot of money “per pound.” I couldn’t help but wonder where he stores it until he has the ordered amount!


    But, you’re right, there are people who want to know, so it, or a newer book, needs to stay. They actually published a newer edition of this one! There is one published more recently called Holy Sh**.

  4. I think this is actually a fantastic idea. It was widely used in Western countries until relatively recently, and continues to be used in much of Asia. In fact, it is still used large-scale in the US: where do you think all that %#$* goes after it leaves the treatment plant? 🙂

  5. I would put this in my collection. Some folks are going to want the information, and I think demand will grow.

    It’s not that long ago that most people in western countries did something like this with their waste. They never stopped in some other places. (My SIL’s mother was not allowed to go to the bathroom at her friends’ houses when she was a kid–her waste was too valuable to give it to neighbors!)

  6. My local library has a copy of this. And I’m sure that around here, where many people are into permaculture, it circulates. (Har har.)

  7. *shrugs* Small homesteading, micro-farming, and similar things circulate really well at my library and this book certainly qualifies.

  8. Did I ever tell you about the time the guy called and asked for books about burying your own dead? That makes this look benign, in my opinion!

  9. I have a friend with a composting toilet. I’m not sure how it works, exactly, but even if it’s not used to fertilize the garden, it saves water.

  10. Composting is, of course, a reasonable and ethical thing to do.

    Human waste, is, however, incredibly dangerous. No food grown in human waste should be consumed as there is no guarantee that pathogens will not survive the composting process. There is even less guarantee that diseases will be contained to the farmer’s land.

    The composting process itself presents risks because any insects or vermin who come in contact with the waste while being process will spread disease.

    So: ethical issue. Do we circulate a book that promotes behavior that is unethical? Imagine an infant next door to this cesspit, asleep in his bedroom. A fly lands on its hand. fingers go in mouth….

  11. Whether or not the idea is sound or the book a good inclusion for a public library, the term “humanure” strikes me as trying way too hard. Your mileage may vary, of course.

  12. The concept only seems strange and disgusting if you think that human waste magically evaporates from the planet once you flush the toilet. The truth is, “humanure” goes right back into our environment, after varying degrees of treatment.

    With all the recent interest in living “off the grid,” graywater recycling, and the introduction of composting toilets in the west, it’s a useful kind of book for a library. Whether this edition of this book is useful depends on how up-to-date it is about addressing things like public health and sanitation requirements, and the latest models of composting toilets.

  13. i can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would be ashamed of circulating this book.

  14. This is definitely “a thing”, big among certain groups mentioned above and, I will add, survivalists. If you serve these patron groups, keep/acquire it!

  15. I will wager you that everyone who goes “eeew” at this subject lives in a major urban area, and seldom if ever goes out to “flyover country” where most of your food comes from and subject matters like this are critical.
    Example: My in-law’s family in Arizona has several horses, goats and alpacas; my sister-in-law co-owns about 50 head of cattle with her boyfriend and is an honest-to-goodness cowgirl; my one brother-in-law is a contractor for a company whose specialty is sustainable/”green” building technology (including solar energy, wind power, and–yes–self-composting septic systems); all their water for drinking and growing comes from their own well, pumped by an old-style windmill…….. And THEY live in a slightly-populated area, within walking distance of a post office, gas station, fire department, and convenience store! I won’t even get started on folks who have houses far off the beaten path, ten to twenty-five miles from the nearest pavement!
    If you put this book up for surplus sale, I’d snap it up for their “library” of sustainable living texts.

  16. The city of Milwaukee does or did something like this and sells/sold the result, calling it “Milorganite.”

    Is human excrement so much worse than that of other omnivores? Although admittedly I would not fertilize my vegetable garden with waste from humans or dogs, or carnivores such as cats. Herbivore poo, though, is fine and I have used it for years. I get the old manure from the back of the pile at the stable and it’s already composted for me. Works great and improves the soil texture.

  17. Eh, why not? Is pig or chicken poo less gross as fertilizer? I don’t think so.

    Sounds like a Judgey McJudgerton working behind the circ counter, though.

  18. While it may not be illegal, I wouldn’t want to eat anything grown in this manner. ‘Night soil’ as it’s more commonly known, leads to the transmission all sorts of diseases and parasites, and is used in developing nations where infection with these pathogens is common. Proper waste management uses bacteria to eat human waste. Some sewage treatment plants even manage to filter waste into potable water. Certainly, the waste isn’t getting dumped back into the environment raw. If someone really wants to make a difference, they should be composting food waste that HASN’T gone through the human body.

  19. That is disgusting. I guess people have never heard the saying “don’t sh*t where you eat”!

  20. I have no problem with this in principle, but the fact that the Unabomber did it gives me pause.

  21. With water shortages throughout the world, this is actually a timely topic. Humanure proponents note the millions of gallons of water we waste by flushing them down the toilet.

    If you plan to use it on food crops, you can compost for two years to remove pathogens. Otherwise it’s fine for flowers and such.

    I’m also guessing that most of the “ewwwws” are coming from folks from non-rural areas. Composting toilets are in use in our National Parks for crying out loud:

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