Climate Champ–Naza Alakija, Can Pee Help Feed the World? Cornell’s Clean Energy Ecosystem Incubator, Listeners’ Call to Action!

by | Jun 24, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Climate champion, Naza Alakija, plus can pee help feed the world? Cornell’s clean energy ecosystem incubator, and listeners’ call to action!



Engineer Fabien Esculier is using human pee to help fertilize plants in France. Esculier runs the OCAPI research program in France looking at food systems and human waste management. According to him, plants need nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – the same nutrients we ingest through food, before excreting them, mostly through urine.

Conventional, modern, petroleum-based fertilizers use synthetic nitrogen, and their use pollutes waterways. It also promotes the growth algae blooms  that starve the water of O2, suffocating fish and other aquatic life. Finding a more natural fertilizer solution has two benefits—stopping water pollution and stopping the loss of aquatic biodiversity from the algal blooms. 

So, how to do it, and why does this matter to us? How is a total rethink of toilets and sewage systems. From the toilet side, a Swiss company called Laufen and Eawag — could solve it with a design that funnels urine into a separate container.

Clichy-Batignolles is a neighborhood in Paris’ 17th arrondissement. It’s been designated an ecodistrict. And now plan in Paris is underway in Clichy-Batignolles to pilot a program 600 housing units, and some local stores where urine collection devices will be deployed. And then, that urine will be used to fertilize green spaces throughout the arrondissement.

Ultimately, rethinking urine matters to us because as Julia Cavicchi, of the United States Rich Earth Institute says, “Modern-day sanitation practices represent one of the primary sources of nutrient pollution.” Urine is responsible for around 80 percent of the nitrogen found in wastewater and more than half of the phosphorus.

DEEPER DIVE: FRANCE24, Clichy-Batignolles,



Meet Naza ALLA KEYJAH. She’s founder & CEO of Sage Foundation, an NGO deeply committed to three areas of impact: education, empowerment of women & girls, and sustainability. ALLA KEYJAH is a champion for girls’ access to education, and is dedicated to finding and funding creative, grassroots ideas that lead communities towards an environmentally resilient future.

 According to its website, the SAGE foundation focuses on three areas of emphasis. First, it develops creative, grassroots ideas that offer local solutions that keep women, girls and the planet from thriving. Second, Sage connects those change-making ideas and the people who lead them to global organizations that possess the resources to multiply their impact. Third, the foundation accelerates progress through campaigns that influence global leaders to create a better tomorrow.

Sage collaborates with several NGOs, including Green Ivory, an Ivory Coast organization founded in 2017. In 2018, Sage partnered with Green Ivory to establish its eco project. It provided gardening tools, seeds and saplings. Three years later, off the success of that program, Sage helped pilot a new Green Ivory youth program, called Green Paths. Part one included a youth-led conference. Part two included a nature camp.

The camp introduces fifty youth a year to the forests of the Ivory Coast.  And this is why the work of Naza Alla Keyjah matters to us. She helps amplify the voices of BIPOC climate champions around the world. In 2021, Sage produced a film short called, Hope Dies Last, amplifying the voices of the Amazon. Click on the links in the Deeper Dive section of this story at to check out the film and to find out more. 

Naza Alla Keyjah is also a Senior Advisor for UNICEF.

DEEPER DIVE:, I’m Overheated!, Sage Foundation, Green Ivory, Hope Dies Last



Cornell University’s​​ clean energy ecosystem incubator is helping launch companies that at Cornell that could accelerate our energy transition. 

Dimensional Energy, co-founded by two Cornell faculty members and alumni, won $3.1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) earlier this year. Dimensional Energy uses its innovative reactor, based on Cornell research, to harness sunlight and hydrogen produced through electrolysis to transform captured carbon dioxide into energy-dense synthetic gas. This “syngas” can be converted into products typically reliant on fossil fuels. The startup’s first offering is a low-carbon and high-performing jet fuel.

Its $3.1M is part of $7 million in federal grants awarded to Cornell researchers and startups “to advance novel clean energy research.”  The program provides funding designed to support entrepreneurs working toward climate solutions.

 Kristina Hugar, PhD and her business partner, Gabriel Rodriguez-Calero also benefitted from Cornell’s commitment to a clean energy ecosystem incubator. They co-founded Ecolectro to create a cleaner, cheaper and more scalable green hydrogen – a crucial step in achieving a decarbonized economy.

Says Hugar, “I care very deeply about the environment and climate change, and I wanted to figure out a way to focus my career and life on addressing the defining crisis of our time.” In an interview with Cornell News, Rodríguez-Calero said, “Hydrogen is a $150 billion market. Most people don’t realize that it’s used in the production of everything from fertilizer to peanut butter.”

Why does Cornell’s ecosystem incubator matter to us? Top tier R-1 research universities like Cornell have the talent, resources and access to funding to help drive rapid change. Plus Cornell could inspire competition amongst its Ivy League counterparts, further amplifying rapid change out of the fossil fuel era.

DEEPER DIVE: News.Cornell, Sustainable Campus, Ecolectro, Dimensional Energy



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