Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 83: Pee on the Compost Pile: Yellow is the New Green!

Tony: I think I found another use for milk jugs that could help us save money and your precious planet.

Megan: I thought this week you were only doing urine-related postin...oh no!

For most of my childhood, I lived in a small farmhouse purchased by my great-grandfather, Willis Irvin nearly 100 years ago. When he bought it, it had dirt floors and no indoor plumbing. By the time I lived in it, wooden floors had been laid and a small closet under the stairs was converted into a bathroom. The water source was a well near the house and my Dad was constantly worried about it running dry. Perhaps that was the reason why he, my brother, and I would typically stand behind the house to pee when we got home rather than taking turns in the lone bathroom.

Once I moved to the city, there were obviously a lot fewer opportunities to urinate outside. (Peeing in Paris is one of the few exceptions.) Thus, I forgot this part of my upbringing until Megan asked my to look up what items could and could not go on our compost pile. Number 34 on the list of 75 Things You Can Compost But Thought You Couldn't: Urine. An interesting article in the Telegraph last November also mentioned how the the National Trust in the UK is encouraging people to pee on straw bales outside for composting.

Checking Out the Compost Pile

I have tried going out to our compost pile a few times at night to add my own personal nitrogen to the mix. Even during the day, with our enclosed back yard, there is sufficient privacy to pull this off. However, sometimes it is cold and muddy and I don't feel like making the trek. What to do, what to do? Over on YouTube, OrganicGarden123 has a solution in a short clip showing his collection of "natural liquid nitrogen" with milk jugs.

Besides being used in the compost pile, it is possible to fertilize plants with diluted. While most websites touted the benefits of adding urine's nitrogen, one article I found by Kirchmann and Petterson at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science suggested that phosphorus was absorbed by plants from human urine faster than from regular fertilizer. My favorite site on the topic featured a book by Carol Steinfeld, Liquid Gold, the Lore and Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plants. On it, I learned that "Pee on the Earth Day" is June 21! I will definitely be ordering that for Elon's library.

To sum up, if I collect rather than flush my own urine, I will spend less money on my fertilizer, waste less water, and have healthier soil for the fruits and vegetables in our home garden. Milk jugs FTW!!!


  1. Loving this post and videos! Gotta get you into the book!

  2. anarchocapitalistApril 1, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    Please explain how watering a garden is a waste of water. Also, why is there such anguish over water. The amount of water on the planet NEVER changes. The state of the water and the location might change, but the amount does not.