Those weird side-by-side toilets in Sochi aren’t the only convergence of bathroom news and winter sports to make headlines.
Recycling is important. Rather than fill garbage dumps, or float out to the ocean, plastic jugs can be recycled into more plastic jugs. Cardboard can be broken down into pulp and used to make other paper goods. Even the rubber from old shoes can be used to make playground equipment. But there’s one huge source of waste that’s a little bit more problematic to recycle, and that’s human waste. Specifically, urine.
Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona, is a ski resort, and the only ski resort in the world in which 100 percent of the snow used by its skiers and snowboarders was once human pee. It’s reasonable that Snowbowl would have to get creative with its snow sourcing; after all, there’s not much naturally occurring snow in Arizona. The other options were not particularly earth friendly, or affordable: chemically-derived synthetic snow, or real snow trucked in from far away. So, the resort teamed up with the city of Flagstaff to buy its wastewater—after it has been treated, of course.
But while everyone can agree that a mountain of made of frozen, treated urine is at least kind of gross, many Flagstaff groups and citizens are disgusted and outraged. Arizona Snowbowl sits amidst the San Francisco Peaks, sacred land for the Hopi tribe that once occupied the area. While the Hopi agreed long ago to the construction of Ski Bowl, leaders find it extremely disrespectful to cover holy land with human waste. The tribe is suing Snowbowl to end the urine-snow practice.
Other citizens object because they consider Snowbowl a public health menace. The urine is treated before its frozen to eliminate toxins…but it’s not a perfect science. Samples of the snow analyzed in a laboratory show that the snow still contains traces of all the bad stuff present in urine—stuff the human body rejects by peeing it out. Those things include traces of prescription drugs and antibiotic resistant organisms.
Ski at your own risk.