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P-CYCLE : The Urine Diverting Porta Potty Prototype

The post highlighting the safety of toilets reminded me of the ecological porta-potty project that a friend of mine recently completed. For this challenge, how might we protect women while also improving the environment?

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My friend, Karen Curtiss of Red Dot Studio, worked on a project in San Francisco to divert urine from a porta-potty to fertilize plants. Below is her story:

When approached to design a ‘green’ porta potty surround the one week race for a respectful take on a sustainable porta potty covering began. The initial research probed us to think about what role our bodies play in larger ecosystems and something unexpected happened...we got a bit obsessed with pee! 

Urine accounts for only 1% of human waste but up to 80% of the nutrient content.  The nutrients in urine are quite harmful to dump in oceans, but they can be extremely beneficial if used in agriculture. Urine is composed in large part by phosphorous and nitrogen, which are elements plants need in order to grow. Thus, urine is a great natural fertilizer! We found some exciting precedents including Hyphae Design Lab’s (Oakland based) PPlanter which is a public urinal and sink that uses bamboo bio filters to treat waste water; French design studio Faltazi’s Straw Bale Urinal, L’Urinatoir, that leverages the nutrients in urine to transform crisp new hay into great agricultural compost; as well as neat projects including drinkpeedrinkpee which turns urine into a solid fertilizer to be sprinkled on edible salad varietals.

P-Cycle is Red Dot’s Studio first Urine Diverting Porta Potty prototype. This project takes the previously explored and tested concept of rerouting urine so it does not cause harm (think ocean algae blooms and dead sea lions) to where it can actually do good (think beautiful flowers and greenery). However, RDS attempts to design this concept so that it can plug into existing systems, recombining common building materials.*  The quantity of urine being diverted is only 8-10 gallons per 200 uses, but with urine it is the quality of the nutrients rather than quantity that matters.  We are designing a way for porta potties to change the role our bodies play in larger ecosystems.

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Things brings in an entirely different area of study into play than I had previously considered. For myself, I rephrased your question of how might we "protect women while also improving the environment" to how might we improve the environment while also protecting women. In my visual-minded-self that helps to put the idea in my head that environmental solutions could have an impact on women's safety, versus women's safety could have an environmental solution attached.

And now my mind is teeming with other tangental lines of thinking: physical, environmental, and social environments; visual, tactile, and auditory environments; similar, novel, and schema-based environments.

Thanks for getting my mind churning, Michelle!

Have a nice day. :)

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Thanks, Duncan! I felt same the way about the post that inspired my post. I had not thought that toilets could help to make urban areas safer. There is a lot of richness in the idea of combining ecological solutions with safety concerns. I could see a solar-powered composting toilet with provides light at night and fertilizes plants during the day. I look forward to seeing your other ideas!