Home Islands Staying on Maine’s One Big Sustainable Island

Staying on Maine’s One Big Sustainable Island

by Derrick Grant
one big sustainable island camping

The One Big Sustainable Island in Monmouth, Maine had it all. What is more relaxing than a fresh water island with comfortable lodging and even a composting toilet? Not much. We spent a great weekend here not being encumbered by unnecessary modern distractions.

One Big Sustainable Island on Annabessacook Lake in Monmouth, Maine provides opportunities for multi-day relaxation in tents or tiny homes. For the tiny home enthusiast, the island is also a place to explore innovative ways for off-grid living whether for personal “simple life” pursuits or for curiosity’s sake.

One Big Sustainable Island Overview

map of One Big Sustainable Island

This 14-acre island is located in the center of a Maine lake, a fresh water island that has been occupied for thousands of years. It is managed through a non-profit organization that works closely with the community and an area school to develop sustainable features and host events. While privately owned, it is graciously open to the public from sunrise to sunset.

You can watch the sunrise on one side of the island and the sunset on the other. There are bald eagles and osprey flying around, kayaks or canoes to use, and hammocks to lie down and do nothing.

sunset from the island
The island has a few benches facing west for sunset views.

When the sun sets, the island closes to outside visitors except for those who are staying overnight. Reservations can be made to stay on the island, either in one of their “glamping” tents or in one of their two tiny homes…

Island Glamping Tent

Glamping,” for those unfamiliar with the term, is a combination of “glamorous and camping.” If you are not staying in one of the island’s two tiny homes, you are staying in one of the glamping tents. This is where we stayed for two nights with our dog. Yes – dogs are not only allowed on the island, they’re allowed to run free!

glamping inside a tent

These were luxury accommodations by our usual camping standards, but if it is still too primitive for others, there are the tiny homes…

Island A-Frame Tiny Home

a-frame cabin outside

Anyone interested in tiny homes should pay the island a visit and talk with the owner. His cost-conscious approach to building, using low-cost materials, and living sustainably would be a benefit to anyone considering the plunge into tiny house living.

These interior pics below were taking during a cleaning, so that is why you see unmade beds.

a-frame cabin first floor
First floor of the A-frame tiny home.

The picture on the left is the first floor, the futon still folded out into a bed. The picture on the right is the upstairs bed with window looking out toward the center of the island.

a-frame cabin second floor
Second floor.

Oaktagon Tree House Tiny Home

The castle of the island is the Oaktagon Tree House. It is not a tree house in the sense that it is in a tree, but a tree house in the sense that a tree runs through it.

Oaktagon exterior
oaktagon exterior 2

Used by the owners when it is otherwise not rented out, it is a must-see for tiny home enthusiasts. As the name would suggest, this yurt-style structure is a custom built eight-sided tiny home with a large deck.

oaktagon interior 1
Inside the Oaktagon home.
oaktagon interior 2
View of the loft area inside the Oaktagon home.

Composting Toilets

Perhaps what is most interesting to me (and others) is not the tiny homes, but the composting toilets.

“Gross!” you say? Not gross at all. This dual composting outhouse would be appreciated by any off-grid enthusiast. It is, quite frankly, the way we should all poop!

composting outhouse
Gotta poop or pee on the island? This is your place! Note the rainwater catchment system.

Centered on the island, and graciously open to public boaters, this two-bathroom composting outhouse is grand in its simplicity. It was designed through cooperation with a local school. According to a newspaper article at the time

Students said they were surprised to find out how involved the project was. The outhouse couldn’t be too close to water. It had to be Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant. It couldn’t disturb too much soil. It had to fit in with the look of the island, be clean, convenient and usable year-round.

The students came through in designing a composting system that barely – I repeat – barely smells at all!

inside the composting outhouse
Did I mention this room doesn’t smell?

See the wooden pedal on the floor in the pic above? You pump that several times and rain water will run through the faucet for you to wash your hands.

In the pic you can also see the toilet to the left. If you lift the cover you will find two compartments, one for poop and one for pee. If you are sitting (all men must sit as well) pee naturally goes toward the front and down a separate shoot.

If you are going #2, that goes into a bucket that is lined with a trash bag. After you are done with your business, you take one scoop of compost (the bucket in the pic) and dump it on top. One scoop for each poop!

The compost covers some of the scent, but the actual separation of pee and poop does a lot of the smell control. You do not want these two to merge.

Yes, you have to throw dirty toilet paper into the trash can. It is really a first world convenience to be able to just flush your toilet paper. Anyone that visits other, less-developed countries knows that throwing toilet paper away is a necessity in many parts of the world. Usually it has to do with waste pipes not being able to handle the paper, but either way, after a few visits to the bathroom you are accustomed to the new process.

Getting There

If you are just visiting for the day, you can simply boat to the island and dock there. Again, it’s open to the public for day use. Visitors can walk the trails, use the toilets, and even jump off a rope swing!

If you have arranged to stay on the island, the hosts will give you directions on where to meet them on the shore. Then they will help you load your food and belongings onto their pontoon boat and give you a ride to the island.

Island Summary

Between welcoming hosts, interesting tiny homes, a cool potty, and a rope swing, this island is a great destination for people who are looking for a short, but very unique vacation. Off-grid enthusiasts will love it, and those visiting city folk from outside Maine might push their comfort levels while enjoying a bit of nature.

See their website and let me know in the comments section if you would stay at a place like this or if you know of a place like it somewhere else.

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