All he is saying, is give pee a chance
By By Joost Team On January 30, 2012
From The Sunday Age, January 29, 2012
by Garry Tippet
How the waste was won – a new pop-up restaurant for the Melbourne Food and Wine festival, which combines art, food and ecology, is about creating a sustainable world.
NO DOUBT there’s a more polite, even more technically accurate, way of phrasing this, but it doesn’t get the message across half as well. And Joost Bakker is very much about sending the world a message.
So when the celebrated artist/gardener/environmental designer/eco-entrepreneur pops up his Greenhouse restaurant concept for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March, he will be well and truly taking the piss. Literally.
No disrespect to the great chefs who’ll be cooking there — including arguably the world’s No. 1, Denmark’s Rene Redzepi — but here’s what Bakker is most looking forward to: “The world-first thing, and the most exciting thing for me, is that we’re harvesting urine.”
Bakker, 38, is almost beaming as he explains the plan. He is working with Dr Steve Cumming, who invented the dual-flush toilet for Caroma, to build and install eight urine-diverting toilets, including waterless female urinals.
The 5000 litres — no piddling amount — he expects to be collected will be trucked to a farm at Daylesford and drilled into the soil as fertiliser for a crop of mustard seed.
And, completing the circle, pure mustard seed oil will be used to fuel the cutting-edge generators that will provide the restaurant’s electricity. A signature hanging garden of strawberries, cress and herbs festoon the walls and roofs of Bakker’s Monbulk home, and the restaurants he designs and builds, and his imagination, are similarly fertile. He bursts with ideas and enthusiasms, and at the moment the bright prospects for the world’s pee is among those.
“Urine is incredible for nitrogen,” he says. “In Melbourne’s waste water, 70 per cent of the nitrogen content, which is problematic in treating it, comes from urine — which only accounts for 1 per cent of the volume. It’s so valuable, you only need 25 people to provide fertiliser for a hectare of crop.
“So think about Australia’s 20 million people providing fertiliser — think about the world’s 7 billion!”
Bakker says he has always seen possibilities in what most of us consider waste. When he was a child in Holland his parents grew sick of him collecting “crap” and bringing it home to make something. As an installation artist he mixed found objects and flowers into unexpected combinations — a Christmas tree he designed for Melbourne’s GPO Centre featured 500 olive oil cans, each filled with a blue spruce stem.
He built the concept into a home built almost entirely of eco-savvy or recycled — and recyclable — materials, such as hay bale walls, and he is constantly refining his ideas with his restaurants, the first of which was a pop-up in Federation Square in 2008.
Others have followed in Sydney and Perth, and there are plans for permanent restaurants in both cities.
He has used conveyor belting for floors and irrigation pipes as chairs; jam jars as glasses and mulchable wooden cutlery. There are no rubbish bins, and all waste is composted.
At the Melbourne pop-up, at Queensbridge Square, all wall cladding and structural bracing will be all-natural, formaldehyde-free plywood, using glue made entirely from soybeans.
The philosophy extends to the food. The only fish on offer will be South Australian mullet — “it’s the only UNESCO-certified sustainably harvested fish in Australia”. Except for a champagne, there will be no bottled drinks. Biodynamic wine will come in kegs and beers, ciders and even mineral water will be on tap. Bread, pizzas and pastas will be made from wheat ground each day in the restaurant.
“My philosophy is everything is related, it’s holistic,” says Bakker. “You can’t be passionate about doing one thing a certain way and not worry about the rest of the things in your life.
“That’s why the restaurant is so good, because I can nail every single component and put my philosophy on it.
“I believe it is possible to have a completely zero-waste world. It’s not far-fetched. I don’t think we’re far away from it at all. People will change very quickly when they see it can work.”
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival chief executive Natalie O’Brien says this is one of the most ambitious Greenhouse projects yet by Bakker: “The Greenhouse’s philosophy of sustainability is particularly exciting, as it represents where our industry at large is currently heading.”
More info and image gallery here: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/all-he-is-saying-is-give-pee-a-chance