ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – The people of Rockingham will soon have the opportunity to reclaim their bodily nutrients to support clean rivers and fertile farms. The Rich Earth Institute is launching a new urine-recycling hub in the Rockingham area. This expansion of our work into Rockingham will be the first time that Rich Earth’s unique community scale model has been replicated in a new location outside of our operations in Brattleboro. This expansion will enable the region to divert thousands of additional gallons of urine. Additionally, this initiative will create opportunities for a new community to participate in the development of technologies, relationships, and educational tools for urine nutrient reclamation.
Urine nutrient reclamation represents a paradigm shift in wastewater treatment, in which our bodily nutrients are not a source of pollution but rather a vital resource in a life-sustaining cycle. Rich Earth’s urine recycling efforts are primarily focused on communities within the Connecticut River watershed, where excess nutrients from wastewater accumulate in the Long Island Sound. This results in harmful algal blooms that pose a significant risk to environmental and human health. Yet, these same nutrients can be reclaimed as a sustainable fertilizer source, replacing synthetic fertilizer production, which is energy-intensive and emits greenhouse gases. Collecting urine also saves up to 80% of the clean water used for flushing toilets.
Since its inception in 2012, the Rich Earth Institute has fostered a devoted community of urine donors and farm partners who participate in the effort. Participants collect their urine in stand-alone “Cubie and Funnel” urinals that Rich Earth has designed and perfected over the past eight years. These urine collection devices are available on a donation basis and are built to suit a diversity of ages, abilities, and genders. The Cubie and Funnel system is watertight and sealable for safe, easy transport to the urine depot, where donors deposit their nutrients. Rich Earth is also beginning to install permanent urine diverting toilets and urinals in the Brattleboro area, which will also be available for installation in Rockingham. Rich Earth pasteurizes the urine at its treatment center and gives the product to local farms as a fertilizer for hay fields. The entire process of collecting, transporting, treating, and applying the urine is permitted by the state of Vermont.
The replication of this program will help demonstrate how community adoption of this ecological sanitation practice can continue to expand across the country. Ultimately, this effort could enable every community to reclaim enough nutrients to grow the food needed to feed and sustain themselves. Having forged a regulatory pathway here in Vermont, Rich Earth is now promoting comprehensive pathways nationwide through a Gold Ribbon Commission.
Rich Earth has received grant funding from both the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Long Island Sound Futures Fund and the Vermont Community Foundation High Meadows Fund to build the new depot and urine donor network in Rockingham. This funding also provides support for educational programming on the topic. Early support from the community, including the Rockingham Library, the Rockingham Conservation Commission, and a passionate group of citizens have helped get the program’s launch off to a strong start.
The first step is to find a site for the new urine depot in the Rockingham area. Rich Earth is looking for a place with minimum features including electricity, nearby space for parking, at least 8-by-16 feet, the ability to be frequently accessed by donors, and, preferably, a roof and walls. The space does not need to be heated. Rich Earth Institute will pay for rent and utilities for the site. If you know of a site that sounds like a possibility, contact Rich Earth at email@example.com for more information.
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