Co.Design

Almost Genius: A Watering Can That Uses Your Pee

Fertilizing plants with pee is the new hotness among organic gardeners. But how to sprinkle it discretely?

Green thumb, meet the golden shower. Golden shower, meet Guldkannan Towa, a plastic watering can designed explicitly to hold and pour pee.

The can addresses a curious, albeit patently gross, fact of the organic-gardening world: Pee makes for excellent fertilizer. It's got lots of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate -- all important nutrients for growing healthy plants. One study showed that tomato vines fertilized with a urine mixture bore more than four times as much fruit as plants grown using traditional fertilizer. Tell 'em that next time you get caught relieving yourself in the bushes.

The can -- equal parts chamber pot and watering pot -- is the idea of Åsa Lövberg, a Swedish designer who describes herself as someone with "a strong environmental consciousness" who lives in a 'charming turn of the century cottage' outside Stockholm, where she "maintains a garden designed from her own needs and to the rules of nature," which is to say, of course, she pees on it.

But sprinkling urine around the garden turned out to be pretty impractical, because she couldn't find a decent container to put the stuff in. Everything was either unhygienic or uncomfortable so, as she tells it, she decided to design something herself.

Guldkannan Towa looks like a standard watering can, with a few notable exceptions. It has a heart-shaped opening that roughly approximates the contours of a toilet seat, so it's comfortable to sit on, and the handle folds down so you don't soil something you later have to touch. A matching heart-shaped lid locks in liquid (and the attendant smell). And with an ultra-durable polypropylene body, the can withstands squatters up to 300 pounds. Translation: It's American-friendly.

The trouble is that Guldkannan Towa is perhaps too similar to a watering pot. More to the point: The spout is just a regular old spout. Think about what happens when you accidentally tip a watering can the wrong way. Liquid spills out the tip, right? That's obviously not a problem when you're just talking about water. It is when you're talking about pee.

We assumed Lövberg included some sort of spout-locking mechanism to prevent unwanted leakage. But in an email, she tells us there's only a cork that replaces the spout when the can's not in use. "The cork is just to avoid odour and [is] not waterproof so the liquid should not exceed the opening," she says.

Which means, if you've just relieved yourself of 10 Big Gulps worth of fertilizer, you'd better be damned careful carrying that thing from the bathroom to the garden.

[Images via Guldkannan Towa]

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7 Comments

  • pascoe

    To the reviewer.  Come on be reasonable.  No dimensions are given but to approximate a smallish toilet seat it needs to be about 35 cm wide and scaling up from the measured images on my screen it will be 17 cm front to back and about 30 cm tall.  Allowing for the lip, the rounded ends, the sloping walls and for the thickness of a sturdy container lets say the inside dimensions are equivalent to 25 x 28 x 10  = 7 litres.  Now, on a recent camping trip I used a 2.4 litre plastic bottle as a piss bottle and let me tell you that a big piss is about 0.7 litre so it will hardly come up to the top of the spout entrance.  You'd have to be careless enough to dangle it at 30 degrees off horizontal before you spilt anything.

  • Esther Wanning

    The book Liquid Gold doesn't answer the question of whether I can buy a Guldkannan Towa in the USA. I wish somebody would.

  • April Weingarth Chabot

    Go here to order: http://www.guldkannan.se/english.aspx#/Order/

    FYI it's not cheap and you'll pay shipping from Europe. Neat idea though but it's not practical to go water every time you pee and to ensure pathogen risk is lowered it's better to store it for 30 days before use. Separating toilets is probably the way to go with a hose access to the storage tank so you fill your watering can or bucket and dilute as needed.