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Off to Le Petit Chemin!

by Julien

Waterless Lécopot toilets in Savoie!

Jessika and QuentinJessika and Quentin introduce us to their gîte “Le Petit Chemin” in Saint-Offenge-Dessus (Savoie, 73), near Aix-les-bains, between Chambéry and Annecy.

Where did the idea for Le Petit chemin come from?

After a trip to Canada, which lasted 10 years, they settled there, where they experienced living together, the corporate world, then speeding along the major Canadian highways… The need to return to their roots, to the countryside, to well-being, imposed itself on them.
Back in Europe, in a camper van, with two children aged 1 and 2 and a half, this family traveled through France, Spain and Morocco with a curious eye for ecological gestures and ways of living independently.
They studied many theories, met many people and attended many conferences on the theme of modern ecology, self-sufficiency and bitnik gardens, all the while questioning the viability of such a project, and wondering above all where to set it up?

Why the name “Le Petit Chemin”?

“First it was a Facebook page created with this name to share our motorhome experience. This vehicle invites you to take the back roads.”
“Le Petit Chemin” is a reminder of the contrast between Canada’s highways and the small roads of the world.

ecologite in Savoie

Outdoor “Quilt and Coffee” ecologîte.

Room le goût du vent

Le Goût du Vent” room

What activities and services are on offer at your Savoie location?

ZEN Shiatsu treatments are offered by Jess, in a magnificent Japanese structure in the heart of the garden with a pagoda roof. She was trained in Canada by Maître Stéphane Vien.
Escapades for all ages based on the mythology of wild plants, hikes, gatherings, workshops to discover the benefits, tasting sessions and teambuilding activities are led by Quentin, a naturopath specialized in phytotherapy and aromatherapy.

“We renovated an old barn in Savoie. The renovation was deliberately based on local resources, French products! The gîte was completed in June 2020. And within 3 weeks of opening, it was fully booked for the summer season. This accommodation can be used for long or short stays, including activities over 2 days/1 night or 3 days/2 nights = night(s) in an ecologîte and/or shiatsu, workshops, getaways. We offer three different packages to suit all tastes: “Un Toit pour Deux” for lovers, “Ressource et Vous” and “Flower Power” for friends/family.”
A bright future ahead!

What’s your B&B like?

“It’s a 6-berth gîte with a large room (kitchen, dining room and sitting area), 1 bathroom, 1 toilet and 1 shower. dry toilet, 2 bedrooms (1×2 people and 1×4 people) with a large terrace. This gite is a life experience, a place to test, to experiment with systems we’ve tried out, it’s an invitation to change your glasses for a week!”

What was the most important project in the creation of Le Petit Chemin?

“We wanted to install a Roselière rainwater harvesting system, which I did on my own, because I couldn’t find a competent professional who knew the subject [Editor’s note: during our exchange, we told him about Pierre L’écoleau‘s expertise, which is very competent in this field]. This system stores 10,000 l of water (10m3) recovered from the roof in underground concrete tanks.
The shower in our gîte is equipped with an Amphiro flow meter. We welcomed a family who had fun calculating the amount of water they used!
This rainwater harvesting project highlighted the fact that the so-called “ecological” network is a network that works with money. For example, we wanted to install solar panels: installing them ourselves is between 3 and 5 times cheaper.
Our place also aims to make people aware that it’s accessible. It’s about providing a model, a place to really experiment with simple things!”

Why did you opt for waterless toilets?

“During this journey of life, our quest for meaning came up against a “so-called commercial ecology”, not at all ethical, which gave the impression that, without subsidies, nothing is possible.”

ecological gestures dry toilets
The objective of “Le Petit Chemin” then took shape:
How can we demonstrate that ecological gestures are simple and within everyone’s reach?

bécosse, ecological toilet

Illustration 1: The “bécosse” inside the Écogîte – “Bécosse”: colloquial Quebec term for toilet.

“Dry toilets are part of this primary coherence. First experimented with in Canada, then found in villages across Europe, seen in people’s homes, in ecovillages, we installed them, first, 5 years ago at home.” These dry toilets have been designed with the aesthetics of a reinvented hut in mind, titillating the desire to return to nature.
“We are committed to breaking down prejudices and enabling our customers to leave with desires.”

What do your customers think of the stainless steel kit used for the accommodation?

“Nine out of ten customers had never seen a dry toilet before.
We installed a slate (photo above), visible from below. Customers are invited to mark the bucket full with a cross. So I come and empty the bucket once a day during absences.
We have some funny scenes! For example, at the beginning, for 3 people, the bucket was full after 8 hours. There are 4 of us and we empty ours every 2 to 3 days for personal use! Another customer had put the soiled paper in the garbage can…”.

dry toilet with chip tank

Figure 2: Chip tank system for dry toilets (Savoie).

Stainless steel kit purchased from www.lecopot.com

“We then decided to humorously remind people how to use it at the beginning of their stay:
1 pee = 1 ladle; 1 poo = 2 ladles.
We remind you that you don’t need to cover all your needs with toilet paper, which can be put directly into the bucket.

What feedback do your customers give you on the use of dry toilets in gîtes?

“After the initial surprise, our customers tell us at the end of their stay that they quickly got used to it!
Some of them then want to find out what to do next with the bucket. They accompany me to the composters. On average, over a 3-day stay, we empty the bucket once.”

How do you compost?

“We compost in the garden using a bin made from pallets. We used to use it for personal use. We also put peelings in it. We like to observe the hedgehogs that sleep there, the field mice, the insects, and the young vegetable shoots that develop spontaneously. It’s a space full of life.”

ecological toilet waste composter

Illustration 3: A photo of the full compost! (3rd tray to come, as it’s essential).

“But we still need to improve our composting area. In the meantime, we’re coming up with tricks, like the weight of the bucket. We’ve set up a wheelbarrow in front of the kitchen to hold the kitchen compost and the dry toilet bucket, so that everything can be taken down to the composter. The lid allows us to preserve our privacy and to spare any sensitivities.”

decomposed compost

Figure 4: For the magic of compost

“For the “Compost Magic”, it’s a barrel that we fill with compost that’s not completely decomposed (it’s about 1 year old) and we let it… Surprise! In spring, flowers, cherry tomatoes and pumpkins came out in profusion! Since then, we’ve added a little compost every year, and above all… we don’t plant anything! We let nature take its course! It’s our magic barrel! It’s been 3 years now. This year, in addition to onions, we’ve got new kinds of tomatoes (beef hearts, orange pear tomatoes…) and the kids love throwing everything they can find into it!

How do your children react?

“Now aged 8 and 10, they give us their thoughts on their school. For example, the water tap that keeps running after hand-washing, or the lack of dry toilets at school. A specific anecdote: when a friend comes to eat, she washes her hands and they turn off the tap behind her… It’s when we accompany her to the toilet that it gets funny, she exclaims: “It’s economical! It’s economical!

They also want to live with the seasons, respecting what’s going on inside them. Like during the 1st year of installation of the rainwater harvesting system: the mad desire to take a bath for 3 weeks, when the water reserve was coming to an end. Only showering was allowed. Then, looking out the window, they see the storm coming. They ran outside, dancing in the raindrops, looking forward to the bath they would finally be able to take.”

Gîte shiastsu in Savoie

It seems that “Le Petit Chemin” is only just beginning to blossom, and its influence is beginning to be felt! With other projects underway, such as the creation of a space dedicated to local products, promoting meetings between producers and consumer networks. “It was an interview, an exciting and rich meeting, I can’t wait to book my next family vacation there!” Isabelle Beau Bois, sales assistant for Lécopot.

Thanks to Jessika and Quentin!

Find them in their Petit Chemin :

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