[permaculture] human urine as fertilizer

Marjory forestgarden at gvtc.com
Sun Mar 8 14:28:49 EDT 2009

Hi Dick,

Thanks so much.  And Carol, it is nice to meet you.  Thank you both for 
the details.  I want to be sure when speaking to to others - checking 
the facts so to speak.   I know I am preaching to the converted here, 
but urine is such a useful thing.  And from my very hard-won experience, 
the key to a green thumb is fertility.  Being into sustainability I 
don't like buying ammendments.  

It looks like the economy will have a lot more people interested in 
these things soon enough! 

Thanks again.


Dick Pierce wrote:
> Hello, Marjory - so glad you asked. I can [almost ] answer your question. My
> bible on the subject is "Liquid Gold - The Lore and Logic of Using Urine to
> Grow Plants" by my Guru on the subject, Carol Steinfeld. This wonderful book
> tells [almost] all in an hour or two of reading. Carol has other books on
> urine and other "excreta", is a great speaker, consultant, and distributor
> of urine-diverting toilets.
> She has 2 simple great quotes in her TOC that say it all for me: "A Resource
> in the Wrong Place Pollutes" and "FromPollutant to Fertilizer {Gold]."  Some
> stats that almost answer your question: "Every day Americans excrete about
> 90 million gallons of urine. That day's urine contains an estimated 7
> million pounds of nitrogen. By some estimates, that's enough to fertilize up
> to 32,000 acres of corn for an entire year. And, over one year, Americans
> piss away enough nitrogen to fertilize 12 million acres of corn - about
> twice the corn grown in Indiana." She points out that the above urine can
> vary widely with the amount of excess protein consumed and the variety and
> soil used for the corn.
> On pp. 39, she writes: "In a year, the average N. European produces 116
> gallons of urine. Many studies put the average daily nitrogen output for a
> healthy adult at about 11 grams. The more protein, the more nitrogen
> excreted (Ralf Otterpohl, 1998). Two Swedish University studies report that
> one N. European adult produces enough nitrogen fertilizer in its urine to
> grow 50-100 percent of the food requirement of another adult (Sundberg,
> 1995, Drangert, 1997." I quote these statistics, so that you will visit
> Carol's website, read her books, and attend her classes.
> Note the Swedish influence in the above. They seem to have made urine,
> urine-diversion [from the waste stream], and urine as fertilizer a national
> priority/focus. They are the source of the best simplest urine-diverting
> toilets and gadgets. And, without the urine, a composting toilet is a small,
> low volume appliance and the waste is easy to handle, compact, with little
> odor and stuff to dispose of. Carol has a catalogue on her web site.
> The other Guru, who we both know and respect, PC-Teacher Patricia Allison of
> Earthaven, NC, always maintained that she used diluted urine as her only
> fertilizer on her garden year after year. Her statement, I believe, was that
> our urine contains 80% of the mineral value of the food we eat.
> I became a real disciple of urine-diverting to fertilizer and compost piles
> while teaching on Martha's Vineyard this summer. Their Island Report and now
> Comprehensive Island Environmental Plan reports that 80-90% of the nitrate
> pollution that severely reduces and threatens their shellfish in their ponds
> and tidal pools comes from human urine via island-wide septic systems. (I
> was ready to blame industry, but alas, they have none.  I would also blame
> the golf courses, but the report exonerates them. It's human pee that's
> ruining an industry and threatening species, and septic and sewage systems
> do not, or do not do an effective job of, removing nitrates.
> I'm now on one of the committees and lobbying for incentives for urine
> diverting toilets.
> Urine diluted 5-10:1 applied on the garden is great for nitrogen, green
> leaves, and vigorous plants. Urine as-is, undiluted is great pured into a
> compost pile. The carbon and microbes in the pile or in the ground quickly
> takes away any urine odor.
> I made an inexpensive, highly functional composting toilet with a diverter.
> It's a plywood box with a seat/lid and a vent pipe, with a 6 gal.square
> bucket inside - just like most "field or PC-class" composting toilets. But I
> found a rectangular-shaped gas-can funnel at the hardware store - attached
> it to the front of the square bucket; pushed a 1" plastic hose on to the
> exit of the funnel; and ran the hose to a 5 gal plastic jug/gas can, which
> was *downhill *from the funnel. The urine and the smell go into the gas can,
> and only the poop and a small amount of sawdust go into the bucket. It, the
> poop, is a small amount and gets smaller as it drys/cakes, building up very
> slowly, almost odorless, and is easy/not sloppy to dispose of. I'll send you
> the plan if you'll send me an email, but I'd rather you check out Carol's
> website first.
> Again, thanks for the question, and the excuse. We have a national and
> world-wide human problem in "civilized" societies - urine as a huge nitrate
> polluter that we concentrate and force into our ground water. It is
> simultaneously a great resource as a nitrogen fertilizer if we can get it to
> the right place, in the right way. The above are also waterless toilets - we
> are down to 1.6 gal/flush, but wouldn't zero gpf be better? It appears that
> municipal sewage plants do not remove [much] nitrogen - thus its entry into
> groundwater at high/toxic levels. As in so many PC situations - the problem
> is an opportunity.
> Another other solution is, of course, aerobic (vs septic and anaerobic)
> systems like the Watson Wick that allow plants to take up and transpire the
> water and use the nitrates  (vs forcing it into water table). See Tom
> Watson, Watson Wick, on Google - and Kirby Fry here in C-TX.
> Happy spring and best to you all
> Dick Pierce
> On Thu, Mar 5, 2009 at 1:23 PM, Marjory <forestgarden at gvtc.com> wrote:
>> Hello Everyone,
>> A while back I saw a reference to a study that showed that the urine
>> produced by one person contained enough nitrogen to fertilize the
>> vegetable plants necessary to feed that person.
>> Does anyone have a copy of that study?
>> Thanks
>> marjory
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