The Rich Earth Institute is people-powered in more ways than one. Most of our staff members have been biking to our research center this summer. We are not the only ones biking more and driving less. The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked newfound enthusiasm across the country for biking as an alternative to driving in cars and riding on buses.
In Brattleboro, VT, as bike sales surged, so did urine collection. In the midst of the pandemic, many of our urine donors are staying home and collecting more pee than ever before. Through Rich Earth’s community-scale urine nutrient collection program (the first in the nation), these dedicated urine donors will enable us to fertilize more hay on local farms next spring and contribute to cleaner downstream watersheds.
Bikes make it easy and affordable for people to reduce their dependence on carbon-heavy cars. Likewise, urine nutrient recycling can be an accessible pathway for gaining independence from wastewater nutrient pollution-,and reclaiming interdependence with our watersheds. While initially designed to treat pathogens and reduce disease, our current wastewater systems pollute downstream water bodies with excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and pharmaceuticals, resulting in harmful algal blooms, mass fish kills, and damaged shellfish populations–not to mention the wide-ranging consequences for public health, coastal economies, and livelihoods.
With biking, we return to relations of reciprocity, breathing in the sharp scent of autumn leaves and breathing out a human amount of carbon dioxide to return to the trees. We find reciprocity in eating nutrients grown from the land and returning our nutrients to the soil that sustains us. In this way, our bikes are powered by the land and the land is powered by us!
How we move in the world changes how we relate to it–how we transport ourselves as well as what we do with our vital nutrients once they leave our bodies. Together, we can cumulate our power into collective action; whether reclaiming the streets through critical mass bike rides or reclaiming our bodily nutrients through community scale urine collection. Even as looming political crises seem beyond our control, simple, human-scaled actions can remind us that we can pee the change we want to see in the world.
Julia Cavicchi is the Director of Outreach & Engagement at Rich Earth Institute (richearthinstitute.org) where they are reclaiming bodily nutrients as a resource.
Caption: (Photo coming)
The whole Rich Earth team biked to work on a beautiful, foggy morning this fall. Courtesy photo.