Reflections from the PHLUSH Board President

April 8, 2017
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The other day in a rest stop there was a classic motivational poster with the word S.E.R.V.I.C.E. No doubt this was aimed to demonstrate their commitment to keeping things tidy, but for me it resonated with my current service on the PHLUSH Board of Directors. The affirmation-like description below the bolded lettering was poignant.

“Extraordinary service is the result of anticipating the need and providing the solution before the customer requires it.”

That, my friends, is exactly what PHLUSH has done for ten years and aims to do in the future. PHLUSH grew from creatively solving the need for public toilets in Portland, Oregon. Volunteers developed design guidelines, education materials, and outreach programs that addressed public toilets. This engaged the public on the topic of toilets and influenced the creation of the Portland Loo. The problem-solving process for this one challenge was the catalyst for anticipating a multitude of challenges around toilet availability.

We anticipate that all people will always need safe and hygienic places to answer nature’s call. We anticipate that people will need an alternative system to their flush toilet during disasters, such as a seismic event, that disables sewer lines. We anticipate reduced freshwater resources will pressure populations to reconsider bathroom water usage amidst climate change and increased consumption. Through civic engagement, education and advocacy materials, and sharing new findings and technologies from around the world, PHLUSH is dedicated to finding solutions.

Perhaps now more than ever we need to reflect on how we can build toilet systems that serve all people, including the 2.5 billion lacking restrooms globally. Perhaps now more than ever we need to take the initiative to anticipate being more self-sufficient. Perhaps more than ever, we need to take the initiative to anticipate being more self-sufficient.

Some folks focus on being more self-sufficient by growing their own food. Others might make an effort to buy local or wash and reuse instead of disposing of household items, such as diapers or napkins. I often question the efficacy of these practices. Considering the costs of water use, money, and time; do they really contribute to self-sufficiently or sustainability? My conclusion, yes. Yes, these efforts do contribute to self-sufficiency— in more ways than the breakdown of environmental costs.

The effort of to be more self-sufficient is a practice of awareness of our impact on the world. The practice of making mindful choices about how our needs and wants influences others raises our general awareness of ourselves, our immediate community, and the broader environment around us. Why not incorporate a function of our basic hygiene as an avenue to become more self-sufficient? Why not extend our efforts to be a contributing member of the community by working for equitable and intelligent design of a crucial part of our everyday lives? Why not focus on toilets?

For a decade now members of PHLUSH have turned the ‘why not?’ into an affirmation to focus on what we as individuals and communities can do to advocate for that which will contribute to the quality of our life. I admire those who find ways to contribute to society and highlight the aspects of our life that we often take for granted. In turn, presenting an opportunity to further our awareness of basic human needs.

In this reflection, I realize it is such an honor to serve as president of PHLUSH. To be on the board of an organization that has taken a leadership role in this vital issue in the United States and abroad. For those who have served and continue to serve your communities, perhaps by working with PHLUSH, thank you. Thank you for your time, energy, and passion. Thank you for your S.E.R.V.I.C.E.

Hayley Joyell Smith – PHLUSH Board President

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    Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

    PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

    Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

    Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

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