Skagit County has spent years trying to keep fecal pollution getting out of local waterways including the Samish River.
The county’s Clean Water Program took its efforts online in March 2018, unveiling a website detailing the problems and how community members can help. That website, poopsmart.org, has won a national award.
The City-County Communications & Marketing Association, also referred to as 3CMA, recently recognized Skagit County’s Poop Smart campaign with a Diamond Award, an honor given in government communications.
Out of about 700 entries, three Diamond Awards were given out this year, according to a news release. The Poop Smart campaign also received the organization’s Savvy Award for Best Use of Humor in the Marketing and Tools category.
“We are so pleased to be recognized on a national stage for our Poop Smart campaign,” Skagit County Pollution Identification and Correction Coordinator Karen DuBose said in the release. “It seems that bathroom humor is a great way to make No. 2 the No. 1 concern when it comes to keeping Skagit County water clean.”
The Poop Smart website explains that fecal material is a pollutant, and details ways it can be kept out of the water by managing septic tanks, livestock, pets and the need to go to the bathroom while outdoors.
If feces from any of those sources isn’t managed properly, it can get carried into area streams, rivers and bays and make water unsafe for swimming, drinking and the harvesting of shellfish.
The cartoon-rich website sprinkled with puns and quotes is meant to make the issue relatable and fun.
“If you do something unexpected people will pay more attention to you, and people don’t expect government to make poop jokes,” DuBose told the Skagit Valley Herald with a laugh.
The website was developed using funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with PRR, a communications and marketing company in Seattle.
PRR’s Diana Steeble said in the release that the key to the project was to avoid lectures and lean on humor to draw attention and encourage change.
“Thankfully, Skagit County recognizes the value of poop jokes to get folks’ attention and make learning fun,” she said.
DuBose said not only has Skagit County seen success in using the Poop Smart campaign to reach homeowners, farmers and others in the community, but the Clark Conservation District is preparing to use the website and related social media posts as a template for its local issues.
“It’s a successful project that is actually making a difference,” DuBose said. “We’ve had more septic system inspections (since the website went up).”
In fact, septic system inspections increased 48% in parts of the county during the year after the website went live.