Why Public Restrooms Are a Human Right (And How City Officials Can Deliver on This Promise)

You’ll commonly hear people say “Public restrooms are a human right!” to draw attention to the stark lack of public restrooms in the United States and to highlight the necessity of these essential amenities. But, that’s way more than just a rallying cry or catchy slogan.

Why the toilet is a basic human right.

What does it really mean to say restrooms are a fundamental human right? In the simplest terms, it means that all people deserve access to a clean, accessible, and reliable place to “go”.

As with many other basic rights, we the people have entrusted the government to meet those basic needs through a little something called the social contract theory. Unlike legal rights which are dependent upon the presence of a government, fundamental rights (also known as universal or inalienable rights) are argued to be part of natural law. In other words, it’s just a natural part of how humans deserve to be treated.

The more specific legal justifications for positioning toilets as a basic human right point to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which recognizes “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family.” It goes on to say that countries need to “take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right.” The United States signed the document along with nearly every other country in the world.

The public restroom as a basic human right is further outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 6 focuses on “clean water and sanitation for all.” The stated goal is to meet this standard by 2030. No small feat, huh?

Why do cities struggle to meet this guarantee?

While that all sounds great in practice, many cities struggle to provide this basic human right to their citizens. In fact, the availability of public restrooms in the US only rivals that of Botswana – around 8 toilets for every 100,000 people.

It’s not like city officials don’t agree toilets are a basic human right, so why do so many struggle to provide them? Budget restrictions, operational costs, energy and space requirements, and other unavoidable limitations are the usual culprits.

The solution? A cost-effective, minimalist, and long-lasting public toilet. For decades, the standard model for restrooms has been a massive brick building that costs way too much and breaks down way too quickly. The priorities of traditional public restrooms are all out of whack. The key is finding a toilet that actually works for the city and its citizens. 

The Portland Loo is the Answer

The city of Portland set out to design, manufacture, and produce a revolutionary toilet that could solve all the issues of standard restrooms to protect the sanitation rights of all citizens. Now, over a dozen cities across the US and Canada have adopted the Loo. Here’s how a simple toilet can help city officials deliver on their promise:

Saves money

The Portland Loo utilizes fewer materials and demands less energy than the standard public restroom which means cities have more money to commit to other pressing demands. This way, cities are fulfilling a basic human right while seeing a positive return on their investment.

Easier to maintain

The upkeep of public restrooms doesn’t have to be a nightmare. The Loo’s highly durable stainless steel materials don’t require much maintenance at all. In the rare chance something needs to be replaced, the modular design makes it quick, easy, and cost-effective.

Less crime

Criminal behavior isn’t a natural byproduct of a public restroom, and the Loo proves it! Graffiti-resistant and durable stainless steel walls protect against physical damage while an angled louver design balances privacy and public safety.

Longer lasting

Public restrooms are a human right cities have to provide for decades to come. That’s why the Portland Loo is designed to last through frequent use and even misuse. In fact, the Loo is capable of lasting 100 years!

The Loo starts with you!

What started out as a city-focused project in Portland has now spread to over a dozen cities in the US and Canada. And it’s all thanks to activists, community leaders, grassroots organizations, and concerned citizens. The Loo is helping cities keep their promise of providing the basic human right of a public restroom to their citizens. If you’re interested in bringing a Loo to your city, feel free to contact us for more information.