Our Work

February 25, 2016

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human.   PHLUSH believes that toilet availability is a human right and that well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.  Here’s how we have put our commitment into practice since 2005 in the areas of Public Toilet Design and Equity and Emergency Toilet Systems.

2017  Tracked sanitation disasters throughout the year: Twenty San Diegans died of Hepatitis A, with most deaths attributed to the lack of public toilets and hand washing facilities on city streets. Texans, Floridians and Puerto Ricans lost wastewater treatment facilities to hurricanes. Strengthened the governance with new policies and systems. Drafted new Disaster Sanitation Planning Guide. Carol McCreary represented PHLUSH at World Water Week in Stockholm. For World Toilet Day, Hayley Joyell Smith gave the keynote at the Jamaica Toilet Summit followed by the premiere of Karina Mangu-Ward’s film FLUSH. See Annual report 2017.

2016 Incorporated as a non-profit in and received 501(c)3 status from the IRS. Submitted business plan to Wayfind Legal and received pro bono legal services. Founding Directors Hayley Joyell Smith, Abigail Brown, and Poonam Sharma formally endorsed the Articles of Incorporation, adopted the Bylaws, and stepped in the roles of President, Vice President and Secretary, respectively. In October Angela Southwick brought expertise in nonprofit financial management to the position of Board Treasurer. World Toilet Day featured Hayley Joyell Smith’s week long visit to the Pacfic Northwest and recognition of nine individuals as Toilet Heroes. One of them, long time PHLUSH volunteer and sanitation entrepreneur Kyle Earlywine joined the Board in December. See Annual Report 2016.

2015  Assisted Portland City Commissioner in drafting resolution on All-User Restrooms, which passed unanimously on December 17th. Advised team redesigning Seattle Parks restroom to meet all-gender specifications. AnnaIssued the 65-page Public Toilet Advocacy Toolkit for World Toilet Day. Jeff Holiman co-authored with Helen Rowe et al. Integrating legacy soil phosphorus into sustainable nutrient management strategies for future food, bioenergy and water security, which appears in Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems. Abigail Brown presented at Enacting Awareness: Water Waste and Public Space, a seminar at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Media interviews resulted in PHLUSH segments on two NPR affiliates, quotes in a front page Wall Street Journal article and new recognition by journalists of the public toilet crisis in the United States.

2014  For Multnomah County, Oregon Department of Emergency Management organized a workshop in partnership with Recode and the PDNA Emergency Preparedness Committee.  For Jefferson County, Washington, Department of Emergency Management (DEM), convened a study group that proposed emergency sanitation policy, helped draft Twin Bucket system leaflets for households with sewered and onsite systems, and partnered with DEM and Local 20/20 on community outreach. Continued collaboration Sustainable Phosphorus Research Coordination Network and the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

RCN2013  Annual Report for 2012 is released.  Restorative Sanitation exhibit premiered at NVOAD conference and is visited by key FEMA and CDC staff.  Jeff Holiman represented PHLUSH at the Sustainable Phosphorus Research Coordination Network kick off in Washington, DC. Oxford University Press releases Phosphorus, Food and Our Future to which Carol McCreary is a contributor.

2012  City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Management endorsed Twin-Bucket Emergency Toilet. Developed public leaflet based on The Cloacina Project‘s Sewer Catastrophe Companion.  Spoke at 18 community eventsLaunched newsletter Pee, Poo and You! Participated in Reinventing the Toilet events at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Hosted 3-day visit to Portland of World Toilet Organization Founder Jack Sim. World Toilet Day observed with emergency sanitation campaign. Travel grant enabled Abby Brown to represent PHLUSH at the World Toilet Summit in Durban, South Africa. 

2011 Researched ecological sanitation for new section on website. Regularly replied  to inquiries from grassroots North American groups promoting public restrooms. Conducted Toilets for Emergencies fall campaign in collaboration with The Cloacina Project, Pacific Northwest College of Art, and compost toilet team of the New Zealand Permaculture Guild.  Paper on “Building Safe Toilet Design into Shared Urban Space.” presented at World Toilet Summit in China. Participated in Sustainable Phosphorus Summit and contributed to forthcoming book.

2010 New partnerships enabled us to broaden our mission to include research on ecological sanitation options suitable for adoption in urban areas. Participated on committee led by International Code Council to draft a Global Guideline for Practical Public Toilet Design.  Signage campaign entitled “Telling Visitors to Old Town Chinatown where to go” implemented with funding from the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.  Presented at the World Toilet Summit in Philadelphia on “Sanitation Policy Advocacy in Flush-and-Forget America.”  Celebrated World Toilet Day with Portland city officials opening a new Portland Loo.

2009 Local community fundraising enabled two PHLUSH Co-Founders to travel to Singapore following invitation from the World Toilet Organization to present the PHLUSH Public Restroom Design Principles. First PHLUSH Awards honored public restroom heros.  PHLUSH website and blog were launched.  Neighborhood Hospitality Campaign provided restroom locator cards and window signage to direct visitors to public restrooms. The Sustainable Sanitation Alliance admitted PHLUSH as its 128th partner.

2008 PHLUSH Public Restroom Design Principles adopted by neighborhood groups. PHLUSH supported the launch of The Portland Loo and served on design team for Ankeny Plaza restroom complex.

Spirit Image Catcher photo

2007 Appointed by Portland Mayor Tom Potter to the Restroom Implementation Team which opened 7 new toilets in downtown Portland and put contemporary signage on historic comfort stations.   In collaboration with Central City Concern and with the Village Building Convergence 7 of City Repair, PHLUSH hosted community toilet design workshops.

2006 PHLUSH presented Public Restrooms for Old Town Chinatown: A Report to the Community for adoption by the Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association and other local groups. Advises Relief Works, a graduate team at Portland State University School of Urban Studies, on publication of Going Public: Strategies for Meeting Public Restroom Need in Portland’s Central City. Collaborated with City Repair to participate in Village Building Convergence 6.

2005 Formed as an informal work group to study public restroom options for Old Town Chinatown.

Media coverage of PHLUSH is here.

How PHLUSH Began

For decades the lack of public restrooms had been a problem for business owners, employees, residents, and visitors in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown district.  Located at the heart of the city, this is the place where Portland began. It was home to the historic skid road of a timber-dominated economy driven by workers from Oregon and around the world.  By the late 20th century it would have two National Historic Districts and a dozen social service agencies serving Portland’s poorest citizens.

In early 2005, the Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association invited newly-elected Portland Mayor Tom Potter to visit the neighborhood.  As a result of the ensuing dialogue, the neighborhood took on the challenges of engaging the issue of public toilets as a part of a collaborative process with the city.  The PHLUSH initiative originated in mid 2005 when a small group of residents, business owners and staff of human services organizations stepped up to study the restroom problem and recommend ways to address it.

PHLUSH meets with Mayor Tom Potter

Following the PHLUSH report to the community in February 2006, Relief Works, a group of graduate students from Portland State University’s School of Urban Affairs and Planning joined PHLUSH efforts.  They partnered with the Office of the Mayor to recommend formal policy and practice in their June 2006 report “Going Public! Strategies for Meeting Public Restroom Need in Portland’s Central City.”

Restroom sign

In late 2006, City Council allocated funds to increase public restroom availability in Portland’s downtown core and Mayor Tom Potter appointed three PHLUSH co-founders to the Restroom Implementation Team. Working alongside specialists from Portland Parks and Recreation, Portland Office of Transportation, Portland Police Bureau, the Portland Business Alliance and others, we had the opportunity to follow through on several key recommendations.

bike rack

The Restroom Implementation Team reopened a number of stalls and negotiated a 20-year city lease to open public facilities in a privately-owned parking structure.   Toilet opening hours were standardized, new restroom signage put up and distinctive bicycle racks designed and installed.  Finally, the Team launched a community based design process which involved local community members, artists and planners. Community attitudes and preferences regarding facility design, safety and siting informed planning for the Portland Loo when additional funding became available.

PHLUSH restroom design work has continued, while we’ve pursued the new directions of ecological and emergency sanitation.

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.

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.

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