Barkeyville businessman Joseph Jenkins has rubbed elbows with a few celebrities in recent years as a result of his concept to recycle human excrement into compost, but he takes more pride in his simpler way of life.
“I want people to realize this is a possibility that exists,” he said of composting human manure, or what he calls “humanure.”
The self-published author of “The Humanure Handbook” and creator of the Loveable Loo – the basic, wooden toilet he makes and sells – Jenkins, 60, appeared May 29 on The History Channel’s “Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy.”
That episode, filmed in September, focused on Pennsylvania with stops in Pittsburgh, Hershey and Barkeyville, where the redneck comedian toured Jenkins’ business and home and learned how humanure becomes compost, which Jenkins then uses to fertilize his massive garden.
As expected, Larry the Cable Guy couldn’t resist some bathroom humor, but Jenkins remained serious for most of the episode since composting humanure is part of his lifestyle and livelihood, next to slate roofing, for which he’s also well known.
“People just don’t know about it,” he said of that kind of composting, which starts with the Loveable Loo.
And his own garden is a prime example – flowers, ornamental plants, carrots, beets, beans, squash, potatoes, corn, kale, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, fruit trees, berries and more – make up just one part of the 143 acres he shares with two of his five kids and their families.
“It’s the compost that grows the food,” Jenkins said while sitting on his back deck recently, enjoying a glass of lemonade.
His neighboring workshop sits in Barkeyville while his home sits in Irwin Township, and two of his sons help with the business.
Jenkins described the basic concept behind composting humanure, an idea he got while writing his thesis on the topic in 1994 while enrolled in Slippery Rock University’s sustainable systems program, which he didn’t complete.
“It became very fascinating to me,” he said of his research that led to the book, published in 1995; it’s sold about 60,000 copies and has been translated into about 15 languages.
The most important thing Jenkins has learned is that the composting process kills human disease organisms and pathogens commonly found in excrement.
“This is well established science,” he said of the misconception that the process is unsanitary.
People lived without running water for years and years and the toilet was eventually developed, but in modernized countries like the United States, using a hole in the ground for a bathroom is illegal since it could pollute water sources, Jenkins said.
His system doesn’t involve much. The Loveable Loo is a small, lightweight portable shell with a lid that many of his customers keep in their homes, said Jenkins, showing one of several he has in his own home.
A receptacle sits inside the Loveable Loo and when you’re finished, you sprinkle sawdust over the top and close the lid.
When it’s full, you empty it into a contained compost pile.
Anyone who orders the Loveable Loo, which costs $225, gets instructions, a copy of the book, four receptacles and a few other items.
“We never use an open pile,” Jenkins said of how the process is neat and tidy; compost piles shrink to about 60 percent of their original mass.
And contrary to what many people might think, there is no foul smell.
“People buy them all over the U.S.,” he said of his growing customer base.
He presented his ideas for large-scale use about four years go to the state Department of Environmental Protection in Harrisburg, but there’s an extensive permitting process involved for further research and development he’s not quite ready to take on.
Jenkins took the Loveable Loo to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and taught residents about composting after getting a call from actress Patricia Arquette, who found his research online and invited him to come along.
He’s also been to other countries including Africa and Mongolia and has had film crews from Korea, the BBC and Pittsburgh at his home, which he also shares with cats, a dog, chickens and ducks.
“A toilet should be an element in an agricultural cycle,” he said.
To get in touch with Joseph Jenkins or for more information about the Loveable Loo, call 814-786-9085, visit loveableloo.com or josephjenkins.com or find him on Facebook.