BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — “We’re all potty-trained,” Kim Nace reminded a small gathering of adults at the Rich Earth Institute in Brattleboro earlier this fall.

Abraham Noe-Hays ’00Abraham Noe-Hays ’00But, the nonprofit’s director added, humans can and should up their game. Hundreds of urine donors in the area are making an effort.

Rich Earth Institute, which Nace co-founded with Abraham Noe-Hays in 2012, studies community-scale “pee-cycling” as a viable — even attractive — alternative to what we have come to accept as our waste stream. It’s the nation’s first such pilot program.

Is urine diversion far-fetched?

No more than our separation of aluminum, glass and paper from landfill-bound trash, said Noe-Hays, 39, the institute’s research director.

In the case of urine, the harvested resources are phosphorus and nitrogen.

Both of these elements are critical to healthy plant growth, and figure prominently in garden and crop fertilizers.

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