10 out of 10 music fans agree: porta-potties are the worst part of any music festival experience. But what if relieving yourself at music festivals actually helped the environment?
Ask anyone what the worst part of a festival is, and the answer is usually the same. Disgusting, stinky, putrid porta-potties. Add long lines, soggy ground around the toilets, or an emergency number two, and the experience becomes horrifying.
I’ve even met someone who won’t go to music festivals because of the bathrooms. And I think we can all agree that no one actually enjoys the experience of relieving oneself between sets.
But what if going to the bathroom at a festival actually improved the environment?
So, instead of potentially contaminating nearby waterways, increasing septic waste, and making someone’s work life miserable, it actually helped the world? Enter French environmental firm Fournisser Energie, which is now pioneering a method for converting urine into electricity. And, potentially transforming music festivals and all large-scale events in the process.
Here’s how it works. Fournisser Energie uses actual, living microbes that consume everyday urine. It’s essentially like water for plants, with urine the growth vehicle. These microbial cells are housed within ‘bacteria batteries,’ which then capture electrical output as the microbes themselves grow.
That output equals a few electrical watts per cell, which collectively are enough to light signs, the toilets themselves, and even re-charge cellphones. It’s not a nuclear power plant, but it brings the carbon footprint back to zero. Or, even leaves a surplus for other things. “We call it urine, or pee energy,” researcher Loannis Leropoulos explains.
Numerous tests have already validated the technology. In fact, scientists have successfully heated showers using only the urine of its users. Leropoulos and Fournisser even kept an entire university of several hundred students lit for days — on peeing students alone.
Actually, this isn’t a new concept. The breakthrough was first discovered by researchers at the University of West of England in 2015. And a recent study published in Plos One showed that urinating on microbial cells not only minimizes human waste, it eliminates the diseases that accompany it. That includes everything from typhoid, polio, meningitis, Hepatitis A and E, and diarrhea. It also virtually eliminates wastewater, a problem in third-world countries and music festivals alike.
All of which makes it a perfect upgrade for mega-events like Coachella, Glastonbury, and Burning Man.
These events alone draw millions, each generating (on average) 1.5 liters of urine over the course the festival. All of which is enough to completely self-power an entire event, and then some.