When it comes to gardening, the thought of using organic fertilizers that are free from harsh chemicals seems… well, natural! But did you know that urine is a fantastic source for natural nitrogen-rich food for your plants? The Swedish start-up Guldkanna has designed Towa, a watering can combined with a chamber pot that can be used to collect, securely store, and distribute your “liquid gold”. This nickname given to urine fertilizer may not be far from the truth if you can get past the ickiness of the pot and learn about the benefits.
If using synthetic fertilizer doesn’t sound too bad, you may change your mind after learning that most artificial plant nutrient products are made from synthesized fossil fuels — it can take 1.5 tons of fuel to make 1 ton of fertilizer in a method known as the Haber Process. A report from CNN stated that the fertilization of crops represents well over one third of our food chain’s entire fossil fuel consumption — this figure considers everything from crop growth to cultivation and transport. Not only that, but the EPA states that crops treated with synthetic fertilizers release significant amounts of Nitrous Oxide (N20), a harmful greenhouse gas.
Another reason to divert urine from the waste stream and into the garden is that a surplus of nitrogen is bad for the water system. Even after blackwater has gone through treatment plants, much of the nitrogen is retained and is sent back into streams and rivers. Algae and other marine plants can become overgrown from nitrogen intake, and when they die, oxygen is stripped from the water during decomposition. The lack of oxygen harms fish and aquatic creatures. Our toilet waste is not the only source of nitrogen seeping into fresh water sources. Farmers worldwide purchase incredible amounts of nitrogen-based fertilizer which is washed away by rain, contributing to the overabundance.