MAKE YOUR OWN SOIL from your poop: Nance Klehm's "Humble Pile Chicago" project

From In These Times


A bushel of sawdust and a low-tech composting toilet used for compost collection.

Your Crap, Our Compost: Squat and the earth shall grow
By Sisi Tang

In These Times


A generally fecal-phobic society reacts to the thought with a mix of snickering interest and fearful aversion, all dispatched in a single flush. But Nance Klehm, 43-year-old urban forager and grower, transforms human excrement into nutritious soil one bucket at a time. 

Klehm’s Humble Pile, a local do-it-yourself human waste composting project, introduces a backyard alternative to the machine-churning, power-draining waste-processing facilities tucked away in remote locations. 

“I’m not treating it chemically. I trust microorganisms to do it for me,” Klehm says. 

In early 2008, Klehm sent letters and humorous surveys to households in six Chicago neighborhoods, calling on potential participants to help “transform waste into fertility, pollution into resource, and isolation into connection.”

With no need for “Compost 101” instruction, complex machinery, electricity or water, Humble Pile asked its 22 volunteer “nutrient loopers” to opt for dry buckets with snap-on toilet seats when nature calls. 

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