The Tiny house Blog

Building a Better Compost Toilet with Elizabeth Paashaus

Updated on:
April 15, 2024
Building a Better Compost Toilet

Image Source: Canva

In a period where sustainability and tiny living extend beyond trends, the search for eco-friendly, efficient alternatives has led to a reconsideration of basic home amenities, including toilets.

Elizabeth Paashaus, experienced in tiny living and an advocate for sustainable living, shared her insights and experiences at the 2024 Online DIY Fest, focusing on how compost toilets can be not just an alternative but a preferable choice for those aiming to reduce their environmental footprint.

Elizabeth's Journey from School Bus to Sustainable Living

Elizabeth Paashaus

Elizabeth and her husband embarked on a remarkable journey in 2016, transforming a 40-foot school bus into a mobile home for their family of four. 

After three years on the road, they settled on a piece of land in Vermont, transitioning from a nomadic lifestyle to establishing roots in a not-so-tiny house. 

Reflecting on her journey, Elizabeth shares, "When we were just getting started with our bus, we initially chose a compost toilet because we wanted to be as off-grid as possible."

The Advantages of Composting Toilets

Many people approach the concept of composting toilets with a mix of interest and skepticism, with common concerns focusing on potential smells, the complexity of maintenance, and hygiene. 

However, Elizabeth highlights the practical benefits that these systems offer, especially for those interested in tiny living or leading a nomadic lifestyle.


Composting toilets provide significant freedom, allowing individuals to live comfortably away from conventional infrastructure and closer to nature. This independence from traditional sewage systems is not only cost-effective but also minimizes water usage and prevents the disposal of nutrient-rich waste into landfills.


These systems are beneficial for those who travel with their homes, eliminating the need for expensive septic systems, plumbing, and the costs associated with using dump stations. 

“If you're stationary, you're minimizing how much plumbing you have to do. And I know plumbing can be a major expense when building a house of any size.” emphasizes Elizabeth.

The lack of a requirement for conventional plumbing simplifies installation and opens up more options for where you can settle or park your tiny home, locations that might not have been viable due to the absence of sewage services.

Reduce Waste Impact on Earth

Composting toilets play a key role in reducing one's environmental impact. They offer an off-grid solution that significantly reduces water consumption. 

By converting human waste into compost, they prevent harmful materials from contributing to landfill mass, thereby reducing the overall waste footprint on the Earth. This process conserves water and recycles waste in a manner that can benefit the soil.

Elizabeth's insights shed light on the practicality and ease of installing composting toilets, emphasizing their capacity to enable quick settlement after traveling and reducing reliance on plumbing infrastructure. 

The ability to park one’s house in diverse locations without the need for a sewage connection, combined with water conservation and waste reduction, are key benefits of composting toilets for those seeking a sustainable lifestyle.

Overall, composting toilets present a viable solution for those looking to live in a more environmentally friendly way, offering a sustainable and autonomous lifestyle choice that reduces both cost and ecological footprint.

Image Source: Canva

Demystifying Composting Toilets: Overcoming Common Challenges

Elizabeth's extensive experience with compost toilets, both on the road and stationary, has given her valuable insights into their operation, benefits, and misconceptions.

1. Managing Smells

The most common concern about compost toilets is the potential for unpleasant smells. However, proper management and the right setup can completely eliminate this issue. 

“You can successfully eliminate smells just by using enough cover material” shares Elizabeth. In reality, simplicity is key. A well-designed liquid diverter and adequate cover material can make smells a non-issue.

2. Ease of Emptying

Discussing the less glamorous aspect of compost toilets, Elizabeth shares that emptying the toilet is a chore, but it doesn't have to be a dreadful one. She advises considering the weight of the waste container and the frequency of emptying when choosing a compost toilet. 

Options for bagging solids and easily managing liquid waste can make this task more bearable.

3. Cleaning and Maintenance

Maintaining a compost toilet's cleanliness is crucial for a pleasant and hygienic experience. 

Elizabeth warns against designs with hard-to-reach areas and highlights the importance of smooth, easily cleanable surfaces. 

Every component of the Throne Composting Toilet, for example, is removable and soakable, ensuring there are no inaccessible areas where waste can accumulate.

Introducing the Throne Composting Toilet

Drawing from her and her team's collective 50 years of "pooping in buckets" experience, Elizabeth helped develop the Throne Composting Toilet

"Our goal was to create a toilet that addresses all the common pitfalls of existing compost toilets while being easy to use, clean, and maintain," she says. 

The Throne Composting Toilet features a highly effective liquid diverter, a spacious solids opening, and a vent fan for optional odor control. It's designed for simplicity, durability, and user comfort.

Conclusion: Embracing Sustainable Solutions

Elizabeth's journey and expertise highlight the viability and benefits of compost toilets in promoting sustainable living practices. 

"By rethinking how we manage our waste, we can significantly reduce our environmental impact and lead more self-sufficient lives," she concludes. 

For those considering a compost toilet, Elizabeth's insights and the innovations embodied in the Throne Composting Toilet offer a compelling argument for making the switch.

As the tiny living movement grows, stories like Elizabeth's are not just inspiring but also instrumental in guiding others towards more sustainable and independent living solutions. 

The compost toilet, once considered a quirky alternative, is now at the forefront of this sustainable living revolution, proving that even the smallest changes can have a profound impact on our lives and the planet.

Note: This article encapsulates Elizabeth Paashaus' expertise and personal experience with compost toilets, offering a comprehensive guide for anyone interested in adopting this sustainable alternative. Through her journey and the development of the Throne Composting Toilet, Elizabeth demonstrates that with the right approach, living tiny and sustainably is not only possible but also deeply rewarding

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