Bucket Showers, Composting Toilets, & Urine-Powered Cars

composting toilet


Through traveling and personal research, I have experienced and read about some fascinating approaches to cultivating sustainability in communities. I would like to share what I have learned in this article.

Bucket Showers

I think that bucket showers are something everyone should experience, especially in a cold, mountainous region that has no hot water heater!!! The idea of a bucket shower is to fill a bucket with water and pour it over yourself. According to home-water-works.com, the average American shower uses 17.2 gallons (65.1 liters) and lasts for 8.2 minutes (1). I did not calculate how much water I used for bucket showers in India and Mexico, but I’d say probably only a few gallons per shower if that. You get equally as clean, you just do not have water running as your are bathing.

Composting Toilets

While I was volunteering at Sadhana Forest near Auroville, India, I came across composting toilets (2). The basic idea is that you go number two in a a pile of sawdust. After you go, you put more sawdust to cover your droppings and then close the lid of the toilet. When the toilet becomes full, a volunteer removes the barrel of collected solids, covers it, and lets it sit for 4 weeks. After the four weeks have past, the barrel is transferred to a large compost pile, which is safe to use many months later as compost for plants not being cultivated for human consumption. So, you can use the restroom without needing to flush the toilet and waste water. Then, your waste is used to fertilize plants. Neat huh!?

Using Water to Wash Your Bum

Being a Western city-folk, I never had even considered that there was another way to clean your butt after “doing your duty” before I traveled to India… In India, I learned that it was common to wash your bum with water, using your left hand. Toilet paper was rarely used, and this may be TMI, but I found that the water actually cleaned better than toilet paper. Plus, I was not wasting any paper in the process. I was only using a liter or less of water each time nature called.

Rarely Using Air-Conditioning

In my travels to both India and Mexico, air-conditioning was rarely used, if at all. In moderate climates, this is okay, but about a week after living in 95-100+ degree Fahrenheit weather, I kinda missed AC. But, I learned people can survive without it. When I got hot, I’d just go to the river and swim, or take a quick bucket shower. I observed that the heat also tended to push people out of their houses for the cool breeze. It was really neat seeing people hanging out in front of their houses and talking to each other, playing Lotería, as opposed to hunched over the TV in the cold AC.


Reducing Water and Electric Bills

I rented a house while living in a small town in Mexico. The water and electric bill came to about $15 USD for the month. I took bucket showers and did not have AC though.

Sustainable Housing Made of Garbage

I heard about earthships a few years back from some good friends of mine. “An earthship is a unique type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and recycled materials (such as earth-filled tires) (3).” Basically, earthships are designed to rely very little on fossil fuels and other unsustainable resources while providing all the comforts of a typical home. I have never personally seen an earthship nor lived in one, but just wanted to share because they sound super neat.

Alternative Energy Sources

Over the years, I have heard about so many alternative energy sources, everything from pee-powered automobiles to recycled plastics being used as a fuel source. I am not an expert in this field, so I cannot discuss the pros and cons of such projects. But I will provide a few links here if you would like to learn more. Renewable energy-The Venus Project; Urine-Powered Cars; Greesecars; Air-Powered Car; Energy Recovery from Plastics.


There are hundreds of other ways to reduce our carbon footprints and live more sustainability. I shared a few that I had great experience with or just sounded really intriguing. Let me know if you enjoyed and have other simple strategies for fostering self and community sustainability!


1) http://www.home-water-works.org/indoor-use/showers

2) http://sadhanaforest.org/

3) http://earthship.com/

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