Tag Archives: Eco Friendly

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Safe, Natural Pest Control for the Tiny Dweller

If there is one “tiny” thing we do NOT want in our small dwellings, it is pests. As we repurpose, re-use and re-package here in Florida, it is a very real possibility that we may be introducing tiny intruders along … Continue reading

About These Tiny House Types- a Letter from Brad Kittel

That, in a short time, I have engaged in conversation with leaders of the Tiny House Movement who are dreaming with me by email, is nothing short of shocking. I am a person who watches others and tries to get a feeling for the people I see. Although I cannot see these people, physically, I am “seeing” them by the words I am reading. For Dear Reader, I am nothing, if not a READER. I read nature, and intent and passion. What I see here are passionate and brilliant people.

I am learning that Tiny House people are not alike. Some tiny house builders are engineers, like Bill Kastrinos, and some are poets, as is Jim Wilkins. Jay Shafer is a scientist,  Abel Zimmerman is an artist, and Brad Kittel is a pioneer . Of course I could go on, there are philosophers, salesmen and dreamers, and each one brings a unique veiwpoint. All are craftsmen, and all are zealous about their mission. These are inspiring, wonderful people who are creating and rebuilding our country and even pointing the way for sensible living.

I tried to keep the comments in the post regarding the most important thing to consider when buying a tiny house short. I could see the passion in these builders and other knowledgeable folk, but tried to pare down the words to a terse, “juicy” tidbit. I am going to make one exception. Brad Kittel wrote to me a piece that I want to share with you and there is no “paring.” I am going to give it to you in its entirety, and I believe you will be inspired by this modern day “pioneer” as much I was when reading this.

He wrote:

“What to you is the most important stage of Tiny House construction?”

“This is a great question, as it addresses the very foundations of what we believe in. Each individual must consider the quality and cost of the materials we build with, the impact of the toxins that are used to create the materials, the out gassing released from the products for the first year or two, and the cost to the planet.  Each must calculate the resources available in terms of fuel, environment, and human energy. Each person has to evaluate the importance of values from the standpoint of physical, mental, and immune systems conditions, spiritual, political, and Earth oriented perspectives. Affecting the choices of materials and size, will be your personal goals. If you want to build a house to live in for the rest of your life, make it portable, or leave it as your legacy, then you will need to consider size and mobility.

You must take into account that importing from other countries is sending our wealth to other places. Global corporations make their profits on cheap foreign labor, resources, manufacturing, and transportation to Americans. Our money and our jobs go as well.

Buying local encourages employment. If you want to create work, hire local people to create what you want. If you want to be free from toxins, the United States is rich in pre-used American made materials, like lumber from virgin forests, or bricks from clays loaded with iron and baked hard at high temperatures. This will last for centuries, as will hardware made from the finest iron, brass, copper, and zinc that was ever mined in the United States

If you want the quality America was once known for, buy repurposed goods, instead of the foreign made items that are built-to-break. Use your hands, your minds, and your imagination, to build a house from the recycled materials from houses, buildings, and barns that already exist, and these virtually for free. You can do it without shipping across oceans, by reclaiming the 51% vintage building materials that comprise our landfills each year. This means your decision saves resources that are sorely needed. You can save 99% of the materials already mined, smelted, formed, porcelain coated, and shipped all around the country, ready to use, like a giant home depot, that is practically free for the picking.

Lets teach our children how to survive without foreign imports, cheap labor, oil products, energy waste, or toxic health issues. Lets avoid a breakdown in family, community, and the old fashioned simplicity that modern marketing has nearly extinguished. At the same time, you will also help our planet, our species, and our environment socially.  You will be thinking, not only of Tiny Houses and Pure Salvage Living Villages, but also about the kids who need to know that all the materials they need for the future, that made this country great, are still hidden before our very eyes.  At the same time, we must provide a safety net for the 76,000,000 baby boomers hitting the wall.

To be fair, I am a purist at the fringe with the elements used in my artistic world of 99% Pure Salvage Tiny Texas Houses. I have pioneered to push the envelope of what is possible. We can achieve sub zero carbon footprint, a sustainable, portable, healthy, 100+ year lifespan, with import free housing that is built entirely in America. I am biased towards my solutions. These ideas can create sustainable societies that will survive without taking, but instead give back to the local community and the entire planet. That said, and with my bias exposed, the most important thing you can do is decide what you want to be happy.  If that means making the individual decision, to do things that will benefit you, the species, your parents, friends, children, and the generations to follow, then this is what is important in the final score. Decide for yourself if sub zero carbon footprint, all natural, organic, items forged with the energy of our forefathers should be handed off to others to appreciate or thrown into the dump. Lets preserve and respect these materials that have lasted for hundreds of years.

Perhaps then decide on what you want to use to build. Consider how big, and how longlasting you want it to be. How healthy do you want to be once you move in? Environmental causes for illness are now being recognized for numerous ailments, (and that without even discussing cancer). We must see the big picture and respect the human energy, resources, and ingenuity with which we have been gifted. What our forefathers built centuries ago, without benefit of electricity or gasoline; these things can not be ignored, under valued, or forgotten. If so, we no longer deserve to be taking more from the planet. I believe that the right answer is, reuse, recycle, make it last, re-invent, reconstruct, pass it along, and never ever throw it away until there is nothing left to save.

I have proven solutions are easily within reach, and no one else has to strive to prove these ideals are possible. Now the trick is to let everyone know there is an alternative. The only cost is in human energy, imagination, ingenuity, community, and many other qualities we have an abundance of inAmerica. Best of all, if we join together, this passion is a fuel for hope. We will find self sufficiency; self respect, freedom from debt, and a way out of the rat race when we arrive at the end. It is at this time when we need a tiny resting spot the most. Thank you for being part of the dialogue about Tiny Houses. I hope my vision for a Pure Salvage Living Movement  will make solutions possible, even faster and for more people.”

Brad Kittel

The Most Important Stage of Building a Tiny Home

An Idea in Blogging- Tiny House Interactive

As I consider my own tiny house, dreaming, (and waiting for the funds), I have many questions.  I think likely these questions are what OTHER tiny house dreamers are wanting to know, too.

I wrote about 20 or so of the leading Tiny House Builders, (as well as other knowledgeable people), and I have a few more in mind to contact. Rather than wait until each one responds, lets have an ongoing compendium, just for fun. I will update this as the comments come in, in order, with the most recent at the top. Readers can comment at the end in the appropriate section, as well.  The info coming in is astounding! So without further ado:  I posed this question:

“What to you is the most important stage of Tiny House construction?”

20. Steven Harrell:  “The most important part of a tiny house’s construction is before it starts in the planning stage. Selecting the layout, determining where materials will come from, how many reclaimed materials, (if any), will be used, determining the location for building the tiny house and lining up the people that will be assisting in the tiny house’s construction.”                                                                 -www.tinyhouselistings.com

19. Laura M. LaVoie:  “For me, the most important stage of tiny house construction was actually starting it! It was a little terrifying, but we couldn’t plan it forever – eventually we just had to break ground and start.”                              –http://120squarefeet.blogspot.com/

18. Macy Miller:  “I would say ‘ACTION’ is the most important part. Mistakes will be made at all phases, don’t be discouraged, keep going forward and keep ‘doing’.”      -www.minimotives.com

17. Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller:  “I would say that the most crucial part of building a Tiny House is choosing a design and sourcing materials that reflect your values and style.”
www.tiny-themovie.com

16. Kent Griswold:  “I think it is a decision to simplify your life. You need to be able to get rid of the things that clutter your life and figure out what you really need to live and be happy. You also need to see if you can live in that small of a space, so it is necessary to try it out.  Create a space in your current home and try living in that space for a while.  Or go on a vacation and stay in a cabin or something of similar size.  Anticipate changes that may come to your life and work through them.  If possible, get rid of debt and only pay cash up front so you are not tied down to a mortgage or loan.”                                                                         -www.tinyhouseblog.com

15.  Dan Louche: “Planning is definitely the most critical step.  Without proper planning you can waste a lot of money, time and then perhaps not even end up with what you had envisioned.  Anyone considering building a tiny house should spend the time up front to plan everything out to save themselves a lot of trouble.      -www.tinyhomebuilders.com

14.  Michael Veil:  “The most important thing in building a tiny home, is preparing it for your climate zone. I am in New England and the temps can be brutal. I heavily insulated the roof and walls with R13 insulation, and used expensive foam for the floor. Its easy to change some things once you’ve built, but insulation is not one of them. You must take the time to silicone and caulk all cracks and voids if you want to keep it warm-or cool with little effort.  An opening window is the best way to clear cooking odors or to just get some fresh air.”                                 -michigan-mike

13.  Jim Wilkins: “The most crucial piece is the process; communication, known expectations, documented specifications and build plans. A good, well drawn set of plans goes a long way towards getting what someone wanted, and yet leaves a lot of room for,  unexpected “surprizes.” The carefully thought out plans connect specifications with the process of building which become a living document that communicates the spirit of the “build.””                                                       -www.tinygreencabins.com

12. Bill Kastrinos: “(Whether stationary or trailer), the foundation is the most important aspect, including how the house will be attached. The trailer IS the foundation, and how it is attached is critical. Best to involve an engineer in either case. Tiny houses weigh more than RVs, so the simple bolt through is not enough. The design of the floor, the rodent shield, and the attachment to the trailer is very important. A house going down the road at highway speeds, into heavy winds, hitting a large pothole, you can quickly get 2 or 3  gs force applied to the hold downs. So that means a 7000# house now weighs 21000#(7000x3g)! Get at least ( 4) 10,000# simpson mst straps welded to the trailer, AND attached to the studs or corners of the house.”                                                              -www.tortoiseshellhomes.com

11. Ethan Waldman: “I’d have to say: Design,” (Ethan’s Fireman rescue window is pretty vital too).  -www.thetinyhouse.net

10. Jay Schafer: “A tiny house would be particularly vulnerable to condensation problems if you didn’t use the right insulation, venting and/or vapor barrier. ”     -www.tumbleweedhouses.com

9. Stephen Marshal: “Deciding if you want your house to be primarily nomadic or stationary is a crucial consideration. If it is to be roadworthy it needs to be trim and not too tall. If it is to stay in one place for a year or more, you have the freedom to design a wide load that will require a permit to travel. Stationary houses that will be moved occasionally, can be taller, heavier, and designed with comfort over speed in mind. Give thought to what level of mobility you need.”     -www.littlehouseonthetrailer.com

8. Andy Lee:  “The most important thing is for you to have the right attitude. Can you really live in one of these things? Knowing what you want to accomplish is the first step. Do the research, talk to the people who have built them and are living in them and see what worked for them and what didn’t. There are maybe a hundred questions you will want to answer before you begin. Adopting the right frame of mind and doing that initial planning are two of the most important things to begin.” -www.myandylee.com

7. Abel Zyl Zimmerman: “For any tiny house that is meant for fulltime living– determining its relationship, (impact), to zoning and utilities where you site it! For some this is easy, but for others it is a deal-breaker.”    -www.zylvardos.com

6. Alex Pino: “The most important step if you are just starting is to shed as much of your stuff as possible. Pare down to what you really love because that’s all that will fit and you don’t want to worry about owning and storing the rest.”           -www.tinyhousetalk.com

5. Lloyd Kahn: “I don’t think you can designate any one step as more important than all the others. I’d say a number of things are critical, like a good plan, sensible design, solid foundation, good craftsmanship, roof leak-tight, etc.”             – Author of “Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter” http://www.Shelterpub.com

4. Tammy Strobel: “We didn’t build our tiny house, we hired someone to do the construction for us. So I would say the most important part in the process was designing our little home. It’s a crucial step because the space is so small.”                   – http://www.rowdykittens.com

3. Andrew Odom:  “The most important step – the most crucial, if you will –  to building a tiny house is preparing yourself mentally for the process of downsizing and maintaining a minimal lifestyle. Most anyone can construct a house. But preparing oneself for the psychological, emotional, and physical transitions is what is truly the most crucial step.” – http://www.tinyrevolution.us

2. Kevin Coy:  “Commitment. Commit to your project and  take “no” or “I can’t” out of your vocabulary. Failure does not exist unless you quit. Be a solution minded person. There are no problems only opportunities.”  -K                                                                            -http://kevinsmicrohomestead.wordpress.com/

1. Derek “Deek” Diedrickson:  “The most crucial step? Having the materials! No, while that is imperative, and assuming that one has the money or materials for said project, its really the planning phases, before, and often during (when confronted with a problem or when caught in a carpentry bind that you need to work around) a build, that are the most important. Poor planning will result in wasted, time, energy, materials, and often makes for a lousier end product. Planning, and even just thinking things out in your head before you make a move, might be a pain, but its truly important. ” – Author:
“Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts: And Whatever  the Heck Else We Could Squeeze in Here”   Available on Amazon.                               – http://www.relaxshacks.com

Thanks to everyone for participating! These are excellent responses. Every bit of it is useful and will help those of us as we think about building our tiny houses.

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Clocks Are Useless Here: A Review of, “Tiny Homes Simple Shelter,” by Lloyd Kahn

“Clocks are useless here…” A Review of Lloyd Khan’s new book, “Tiny Homes Simple Shelter.” In 224 pages of a dizzying array of stunning photography and how-to tiny home information, Khan has captured the movement in a book that is … Continue reading

New Series: Tiny House Safety

Today I want to investigate an issue I have wondered about since I first found out about Tiny Houses, and that would be the issue of Safety. I plan to pose the question regarding safety to some of those who know first hand about the reality of towing the tiny. I plan to cover the following safety areas: Towing, Theft, Fire, Break-ins, Carbon Monoxide, Roll-offs and Storm damage, to name a few. This will most likely be done in installments, with this post as the first. There are some posts out there that are comprehensive and therefore I am including a section at the end, that will provide click throughs to links out side of my blog that already include adequate information regarding some aspect of safety. I try to never waste my time by re-inventing the wheel.

In my neighborhood, a tiny dwelling with all the windows might be a red light to attract break-ins. As a fifty year old single lady, this could be a big problem. So I got to thinking about how to handle this issue, and I hit on an idea I have not seen anywhere- shutters or bars. To me, shutters would be a low cost and attractive way to sleep at night with peace of mind. They would be aesthetically pleasing as well as a safety feature. I would have one next to the front door, as well as the first floor windows. These could be accessible from inside with an internal locking device that I could pull in from inside. I would want for the loft window, however, to be completely free to open, because if a fire broke out, the exit would need to be a quick one, (more about fire safety later in this article). So right off the bat, I want to recommend for those building a tiny, PLEASE include some type of protection against break-ins.

As far as fire is concerned, I want to see every tiny home equipped with fire alarms and extinguishers. This is not so far fetched as you may feel at first, as we recently read about a tiny home in Alaska catching fire from a malfunctioning stove. You can read about this at Tiny House Blog, by clicking here: http://tinyhouseblog.com/stick-built/christmas-fire-in-our-tiny-cabin/

Luckily, this lady was not home when the fire occurred but the house was destroyed and I had to think about what could have happened if she had been asleep.  Smoke inhalation occurs fairly fast, so let all use some common sense when we are living in these tiny structures. Other fire dangers are from any type of electrical wiring or tiny woodstoves. This can occur when cleaning and a “clinker” is dropped or other types of accidents. Of course if you smoke, (and I certainly HOPE you do NOT), there is always the danger of falling asleep while smoking and catching fire that way. This is a very common thing to happen to smokers, so maybe a strict, outdoor only, smoking policy would be a great way to stay safe.

As I mentioned above, I would want to see fully open-able windows for any tiny house with a loft. Also recommended would be to have a rope ladder if your regular loft ladder did not operate in such a way that you could lower it and escape from the window in case of a fire.

In addition to a fire alarm, would be a carbon monoxide alarm. These devices detect carbon monoxide, which cannot be detected by smell alone. When I lived in my tiny log cabin in the mountains of NC that I have written about elsewhere on this blog, I incorrectly installed a woodstove into the fireplace. Luckily, I went out of town that weekend, because me, my four year old, the cat and the dog all developed symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning! The symptoms are, a cherry red complexion caused by the fact that carbon monoxide molecules bind to your hemoglobin, thus preventing the binding of oxygen, and you are suffocated from the inside out. Also common effects are headaches, nausea, diarrhea confusion and flu like symptoms.  I am actually a respiratory therapist by training, and it can be difficult to treat carbon monoxide poisoning quickly with O2 therapies.

I consider this important because, not only is carbon monoxide a by product of ANY material combusted rapidly at high heat in an unventilated system, I understand that carbon monoxide output is possible from the use of an on demand hot water heater. I have seen them installed both inside and outside the tiny home, with various problems, (such as freezing if they are un-insulated). For this reason, I consider a “work box” a better solution. I have seen many examples of the tiny being outfitted on the “business end” with a door behind which all of the electrical boxes, propane tanks and other necessities would ideally be situated. Also, as we are discussing safety, I would take care to place these items behind a lock to prevent theft or sabotage. Don’t laugh. It happens, but that is another story for another day!

In the next installment: Towing- can it be done safely?

As promised, here are some links to issues that are adequately covered on other sites:

Drew Odom wrote a fantastic piece covering everything you need to know about securing the tiny during a wind storm or tornado. You can find it here: http://www.tinyrevolution.us/2011/05/21/how-to-anchor-down-your-tiny-house/

A good article about the safety of PEX that is used to replace PVC pipes in many tiny homes can be found here: http://www.small-house-building.com/plumbing/how-safe-is-pex

Tiny Green Cabin Homes has a built in safety feature found here: http://www.tinygreencabins.com/Blog/?m=201103

I also found an article at Tiny Home Builders here in Florida that echoes some of what I just said: http://tinyhomebuilders.com/Blog/category/safety/

© Annie Blair and Tiny House Wisdom. WordPress.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Passive Solar Parking Spot For a Tiny House

When I was younger, a friend of mine lived in a passive solar house. Every time I walk in front of Walmart in the evening after another brutal Florida summer day, I am reminded of that house. The way the house passively collected and used the solar energy was because it was positioned to face south and because of the sun room.

It is all about “R” value, baby! The front room of her house had a huge window wall, and the flooring in that room was concrete block. Apparently, various types of building materials have a different R value. R value, is a rating of how well a material or method of building absorbs and retains heat to be released later.

I had an idea regarding passive solar heating of the tiny house. Based on the model of the front of the Walmart, (and concrete block does have a fairly high R value),  a parking space could be built for the Tiny House that would also help to heat it. During the summer, the tiny could be actually rolled BEHIND the wall into the shade in order to help keep it cool. This passive solar parking spot would be in addition to any other passive solar features already in the home. A great thing about tiny houses is that they can be positioned to get the most effective use of the sun, and can be re-positioned to eschew it.

My proposed  “passive solar parking spot” would consist of a concrete slab larger than the tiny to be laid and a concrete wall built on one side. Ideally, this would face south with unobstructed access to the rays of the sun. The tiny would not actually have to be there during the day, but could be rolled into place at night, as you wish. I would build the wall of concrete block. You can find this type of block with attractive surfaces, and I would build the wall as high as you can afford. This wall could be between five feet- to the height of the tiny itself. Of course this should be done by someone who knows how to build walls safely! I do not recommend a novice build block walls for this reason. Make sure you check out building codes in your area.

Many a time walking past the shimmering rays of heat rising from the concrete or asphalt, I have considered how this energy could be used. A south facing passive solar parking spot for the tiny would be a great way to collect this free utility and harness it to heat your tiny home.

 

© Annie Blair and Tiny House Wisdom. WordPress.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Link to a Brand New Video to Air on BBC

This may give the reader a little more clear picture of what types of dwellings we are discussing on this blog.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16348594

Compost, Incinerating and Flush Toilets: A Compendium

After reading recent comments in the Walmart RVing Yahoo Group I told you of a few days ago, (you can find the link on this blog if want to join), today I am thinking about what kind of toilet I want in my tiny house. The topic was originally a general comment about some presumed RVer who opened up the black water tank in a residential neighborhood. This was apparently NOT done at the Walmart, (thank goodness), but in front of people’s homes who had to walk through the stuff on the street. The offender was not observed, so it may have been an accidental dumping by an unwilling party. Malfunctions of this type do occur, and I had the thought that it may even be more likely with tiny houses as they may handle a bit rougher on the road than an RV. I do not know that for a fact, as I have never driven an RV or a tiny house, (but want to)!

So for your consideration, dear reader I have compiled the following:

There are several choices that are commonly found in tiny houses, RV, compost and incinerating type that are commonly used on boats.

RV flush toilets use water and flush into a holding tank which is usually carried on the underside of the craft. This must be dumped in specific places only. Apparently there are private, public, RV park, non-park, municipal, state, provincial, truck stop, rest stop, campground, camping, resort, commercial, pay, donation, and free, and so on, according to http://www.sanidumps.com/, which see if you need to know this information. This site directory includes sites in the US, Canada, Mexico and even over seas locations. This site claims that there are dump sites most likely that are even in your own city now that you are unaware of. This is for sure in my case as, one, I live in a popular vacation spot near water that attracts thousands each year by RV and boat, and two, I have never had need for one. The drawback to this system, as we have seen, is that the latches can malfunction or accidentally be left in an open position, causing an unexpected ejection at inopportune times. Also, there could be other types of accidents which could be nasty, to say the least. Although, I like the RV toilet upon first flush, for its lower price, (RV toilets and holding tanks can be repurposed from defunct vehicles for little money making them by far the most economical), I find myself leaning away from this system. I think that this one would serve best in a situation where the tiny house was at least semi-permanent in location and not moved frequently. There could be the ongoing cost associated with this type toilet if your dump site charges for dumping as some do. There is also a need for water, obviously, and those interested in water conservation would want to avoid this type for that reason.

Composting toilets are boxes that collect excreta and turn it into compost for safe disposal. A Wikipedia article about this can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilet . They range from several hundred dollars to right around $2000 in price, making them the second less expensive option for tiny-ers.
The proponents of this type toilet claim that there is no smell associated with the system, and that the materials they use with it are low cost. Some people use ashes and others use sawdust or a variety of materials commercially available. I think that charcoal used for speeding up regular garden compost bins and available in garden centers may also work and cause the process to complete more quickly. This type toilet appears to me to be the most popular with tiny house owners because it is easy to install, and can be disposed of safely with little or no cost. I personally would not want to see anyone use this for your vegetable garden, (please don’t), but a flower garden would be appropriate. For those who are trying to reduce the carbon footprint, this is THE method as it uses none or little water, and no other type of fuels are necessary. There are types that also use/treat the grey water from the shower, as well.

A few links for purchase:
http://www.envirolet.com/
https://www.thenaturalhome.com/compost.html They have a variety of brands.
http://www.enviroalternatives.com/toilets.html

The third type of system that is available for tiny houses is the incinerating toilet. This toilet is by far the most expensive type to install and to use- ranging from just under two thousand dollars to a whopping 5K for the toilet alone, in addition to installation and operating costs. The toilet is found mainly on marine vessels and there is even a learning curve to the safe operation of it. Wikipedia has an article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incinerating_toilet
An informative article by the board of health in Barnstable county can be found here: http://www.barnstablecountyhealth.org/ia-systems/information-center/compendium-of-information-on-alternative-onsite-septic-system-technology/incinerating-toilets. These toilets are useful where there is no other option available for various reasons. They can be used in units that are unheated, and some require additional materials or catalysts and additives. They are not for those seeking to avoid pollutants and fuels. They may produce some pollutants and they need electricity or gas to operate. For that reason they require venting. The resultant ash is benign and can be safely disposed of without harm. Some types cannot be used during incineration, and some may incinerate with every use, and still other types collect wastes to be incinerated later.

Some links for purchase:
http://incinolet.com/aboutus_2.htm
http://www.propaneproducts.com/catalog/propane-toilets/ecojohn-sr.-propane-electric-incinerating-toilet-12v-110v-380.html

A short film is available from Amazon on the subject here:
http://www.amazon.com/ReInventors-Episode-6-Incinerating-Toilet/dp/B003HNNEQ4
More info on incinerating toilets by the EPA is here:
http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/upload/2002_06_28_mtb_incinera.pdf

So to recap, if you are seeking low cost of toilet and maintenance, the RV flush is the one to chose. If you seek low environmental impact and ease of installation, choose the composting toilet, and for those with money who are not trying to avoid fuel use, but do not want to tote your waste with you, the incinerating toilet is the one for you.