The Humanure Handbook - Summary and Key Ideas

The Humanure Handbook offers an in-depth look into the practice of composting human waste as a sustainable and ecological approach to sanitation. This fourth edition distills over forty years of experience and updates the language and content from previous editions.

This book is ideal for sustainability enthusiasts, environmentalists, and those interested in alternative sanitation methods. It's also a valuable resource for anyone looking to implement composting systems in their homes or communities.

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The Humanure Handbook

Key ideas


The Humanure Handbook promotes ecological sanitation to combat global "shit illiteracy."


Microbes, Earth's original masters, are foundational and essential to all life.

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Antony van Leeuwenhoek's microscopic discoveries transformed science, leading to modern microbiology.

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Overuse of antibiotics disrupts microbiomes, causing antibiotic resistance threats.

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Thermophilic bacteria thrive in heat, decompose organic matter, and persist globally.

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Properly composted human excrement can sustainably enhance soil fertility and health.

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Composting humanure is an ecological solution, recycling nutrients and conserving water.

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Composting transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich soil for sustainable growth.

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Composting sustainably degrades pollutants.

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Unturned composting preserves nutrients, reduces odors, and supports microbial diversity.

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Composting toilets offer sustainable sanitation and nutrient recycling, challenging traditional methods.

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Properly composted humanure supports sustainable agriculture and prevents disease.

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Summary & Review

Final Summary: The Humanure Handbook: Shit in a Nutshell by Joseph Jenkins explores the sustainable practice of composting human waste, known as humanure. The book distills over forty years of Jenkins’ experiences and research, offering practical advice and insights into the ecological benefits of composting human waste. Jenkins emphasizes the importance of this practice in promoting environmental sustainability, reducing waste, and creating a more harmonious relationship with our planet.

Joseph C. Jenkins

Joseph C. Jenkins is an advocate for sustainable living and composting, having lived off the grid for over a decade and designed his own compost toilet system.


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