A West Seattle woman has launched what she hopes will be a solution to the acrimony that is so often set off by the subject of dog waste – and ultimately a solution to its environmental effects. Lori Kothe has hatched the plan for Poogooder. After she mentioned it on Twitter, we invited her to email us so we could share the concept with you. Here’s her story:
My daughter Annika is a 3rd grader at Alki Elementary. Back when she started kindergarten, I was shocked to discover the massive “wayward” dog-poo issue around Alki Elementary and the beach. Dog poo was everywhere, and we were always at risk of stepping in some. So I started recording how many instances I’d find when I’d walk to the beach from the school and back to my car each morning. I talked to people with and without dogs about their poo stories. And EVERYONE had a poo story. I did research. Dog=poo wars are no joke — they cause crazy levels of neighborhood angst, pollute waterways and soil, spread disease, and ruin a person’s day if they step in some. But it’s still a persistent issue.
So I decided to do something about it with the hope of at least creating greater awareness and empathy so people might care more about their (often unintended) impact on each other, the shared community, and planet (that’s truly my bigger purpose and goal here, which is why the tagline is “Let’s do some good today.”).
On a grander scale, unfortunately right now in Seattle, “properly disposed of” tons of dog poo goes to the landfill, so if we can get people to start paying more attention to how and where they are disposing of dog poo, my hope is Poogooder becomes a catalyst for local governments to start implementing dog-poo composting capabilities (or other landfill-diverting solutions), ultimately making dog poo go from being a bane to a boon for society.
Big ideas, I know. But we’re talking TONS of wasted waste and community uproar. So back to the story, literally: My original intent was just to write a picture book for kids and work with educators, local governments, shelters/rescues where people adopt dogs, and orgs to create a program around it to help instill empathy and raise awareness and inspire action and behavior change. So I wrote and illustrated “Oh Poo! A Cautionary Tale,” which I self-published in June, and I thought that would be it. But then I figured I had to walk the walk, so to speak, and the Poogooder movement was born. First I put up 2 community dog poo bag dispensers near my home (49th Ave SW & Juneau in Seaview), and that was nice. People started using them. But then I realized I would truly have to commit to the cause and remove all barriers to proper dog-poo disposal, so in July I set up a community dog-poo bin in my front yard. I’d seen 2 others in West Seattle, which really impressed me. It’s funny to think how excited I was when I started getting poo in my bin! (This is 2020 after all, so everything is weird).
That’s when I decided to see if I could get others to steward nice-looking dog-poo bins & bag dispensers in their yards or nearby areas like Little Free Libraries, with the goal of recruiting 30 West Seattle volunteer Poogooders to steward bins the month of October for the first pilot program and collect learnings and see how things go. Ideally we then scale and partner with cities, orgs, schools, and shelters for a complete solution, including the city providing a voucher or free extra garbage can to offset Poogooder personal costs/garbage space for collecting poo in their bins. And of course, I’m hoping all shelters and rescues encourage a “Poogooder Pledge” as part of the adoption process to reframe the dog-poo conversation from a punitive action to a positive purpose. I’m not sure yet what kind of business model this will turn into or how it will be funded; my goal right now is proof of concept and inspiring a movement.
The Poogooder Approach:
Empathize > Engage > Educate > Enlighten > Enable
I’m just getting started. I’ve recruited about a dozen West Seattleites, with 5 confirming they will steward bins for the pilot so far, and interest is growing. I’m paying for everything out-of-pocket right now (and I’m woefully unemployed), which is why I set up the GoFundMe page, but I want there to be as little barrier to entry as possible at first so we can prove that people will actually willingly accept other people’s dog poo for the sake of the greater good.
I’m seeking volunteers, partners, sponsors, stewards, advisors, and connections to help bring this to fruition.