Amazingly, this is a project that beautifies public spaces, broadens the services offered by a city, and makes use of the most locally sourced fertilizers possible!
When Nature Calls is a project by Columbus, Ohio based industrial designer Eddie Gandelman. It is a public urinal that uses filtered pee as fertilizer for plants growing in an attached planter. When properly filtered, urine provides a number of essential nutrients that are vital to healthy plant growth.
Most urinals are a guaranteed eyesore in public space, cluttering otherwise open squares and adding unwanted odors to the aromas of the city. This design however, not only beautifies the urinal itself, but contributes to the aesthetics of its surroundings, filters urine to be smell-free, while providing a nice, shady oasis for its users.
The concept of using urine as fertilizer is nothing new. (Beyond peeing on the shrubs after a night of drinking, gardeners have been doing it for centuries.) But as urban agriculture becomes more of a reality and serious business, and people are becoming more concerned with sourcing materials locally, cities have to come up with systematic ways to gather and distribute useful, locally sourced waste – without having everyone peeing everywhere. Rather than a centralized solution, the When Nature Calls urinal offers individual, site specific resolutions to the question of collecting and reusing human waste.
And what about number two: Could solid human waste ever be used to fertilize a cities greenery, or to boost the productivity of urban farms? Composting toilets, though gaining in popularity, are for the most part completely banned in cities around the world. The taboo of poo is, understandably, hard to get over. But given enough time to decompose, humanure is a good source of fertilizer for plants such as trees, where the fruit is grown far from the ground.
Ingenious interventions such as this urinal represent the city’s progression toward a model of a circular economy – where there is no waste, no end to a product’s life cycle and everything can be reused – even pee!