Is Peeing in Public Green?

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Peeing in Public Saves Water - But is it Gross?
I seem to be in the habit of sharing my bathroom habits with the world - whether it's the Selective Flush or the Navy Shower. (Perhaps worryingly) people seem to enjoy reading about what I get up to in the privacy of my own home - or at least it usually stirs up a vigorous debate. So here's another one I've been musing about lately - peeing in public is an environmentally responsible thing to do.
OK - so maybe I'm not really talking about peeing in public, but rather peeing outdoors. I mean, the folks that dirty our underpasses and stink out our phone booths are hardly paragons of treehugging virtue. But it seems to me that a discreet pee behind a bush is in many ways more sensible than spoiling perfectly good drinking water and then whisking it away for expensive, energy and water intensive 'treatment'.

So what can we do to remedy the situation? For those of us in the country, the at-home solution is easy enough. I regularly pee in my yard. Not only does this save water - but it has other uses too. A quick sprinkle of the compost heap helps start the decomposition process, and let's not forget that urine is an important source of phosphate. I also pee around the flower beds and chicken coop to keep deer and raccoons away. And if you want to do more, check out how to use urine as a fertilizer.

But what about townies? I actually know plenty of town folk who occasionally use a secluded corner of their yard as a temporary toilet. And I see nothing wrong with using our parks for relief when you are caught short - though you probably want to find some dense undergrowth to spare the social outrage (and any possible legal issues!). And in large crowds, it's probably best to stick to the toilets - eutrophication of waterways is a real problem at major events like music festivals etc.

Back in my home town of Bristol in the UK, and many other cities in Europe, where Friday night revelers are not always the best behaved bunch, they often set up temporary public urinals in the street, saving shopkeepers the unpleasant task of cleaning up after anti-social drunks. (I'll save readers the unpleasant sight - head over to LIFE if you really want to see what temporary urinals look like). But what if those urinals were not just glorified (and wall-less) chemical toilets, but rather a method for collecting a valuable resource that could be distributed to phosphate hungry farms in the region? After all, the New York Times has already identified "yellow as the new green" - arguing for urine separation in all of our toilets.

It looks like Umbra has been exploring some similar philosophical issues over at Grist - pondering whether it's polite to let it mellow when not at home, and putting her support behind peeing in public. It must be OK then...

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