Building a house and living in a house both produce large amounts of waste. Not our house! This will be as close to a no waste as possible and our finished house will produce no where near what a conventional home might produce.
Since we are using almost all natural materials for the build, there won’t be building scraps. The mortar we are using is dug from the ground as will be the gravel. The wood we will be using is cut from our lot and any scraps we have will just be used as firewood. Unlike lumber you purchase, there won’t be any chemicals on the “extra” wood that we can’t burn. The windows and doors we purchase will not have much in the way of packaging because we buy them from the used or returns store.
We won’t be wasting money (hopefully) by doing the work ourselves and not buying a ton of materials. We take time to look around for building materials at a good price. The local swap or trade magazine is a great resource for finding buried treasures. Junk collecting on the side of the road or begging friends for their garbage is also a way of doing this. We may have to rent a machine for digging, but we tried buying our own once before and wasted a ton of money. This time we will not be wasting quite so much money by renting. Being off-grid, we obviously aren’t wasting money on utilities.
The house itself will not be hooked up to municiple waste, hence the off-grid. So where does all the plumbing waste go? The house will have a greywater system to water the gardens. Any kitchen water or bath water will be plumbed out of the house into the greywater system which provides not only water to the plants, but also organic matter from the water to help feed the plants.
That’s all well and good for water used to wash laundry, but what about the toilets? We have a composting toilet system now, which we plan to greatly improve in the new house. The waste buckets are dumped into a large compost bin and covered with hay so there is no smell. After the waste is allowed to compost for a couple years, we can use it on our plants. I don’t plan to use humanure on anything that we would be eating. It is apparently perfectly safe to use after it composts for a couple years, but I’m just not quite comfortable with it. Mostly because we share the food from our gardens when possible and other people may freak out if they knew. I have plenty of other uses for the compost, so it works out just fine.
I have already spent some time talking about the energy efficiency of the house. Being energy efficient means getting more out of what you have and to waste less.