Litterati: The Digital Landfill

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I came across something called Litterati a few weeks ago. It moved me. I had this eye opening experience that made me think “wow, I've missed something so important. I see it and think about it on a daily basis, acknowledge that it is important, yet I've missed it”. It was an even bigger surprise when I found out that its creator went through a similar experience.

Good ideas often come from the simplest, most basic black and white moments. An “Aha moment” that sticks with you and makes you wonder how on Earth you hadn't seen it before. For Jeff Kirschner, it was on a walk with his daughter through the woods in Oakland, California. She noticed a tub of cat litter in a creek and told her dad that, “it did not belong there”. This triggered an eye opening experience for Jeff, and led to the creation of Litterati.

So, what is Litterati? It is a vision of a litter free world. It combines technology, social awareness and art to tackle the escalating problem of litter, one piece at a time. Using Instagram, users upload photographs of litter in their community. These photographs are put into a collection called the “Digital Landfill”. This landfill has been filling up since Litterati launched 8 months ago.

Users are asked to photograph a piece of litter, upload the picture, and properly dispose the piece of litter. There are things that are not in their right place and need to be moved. They are physically moved and properly disposed of, and virtually moved into a growing digital landfill. Can you imagine looking at litter in this way? Yes, in fact it is very simple to do so. And that is the beauty of Litterati.

I often worry that people are becoming too desensitized to the garbage around them. You see it all the time. Cigarette butts and cans are 'just there' in any city. We just walk around and pass by garbage and keep going. By creating a sense of awareness, Litterati may be a little change in our consciousness.

Today, you take a photo, tag it with “Litterati”, and throw away or recycle a piece of litter. This is a step in the right direction. It creates a level of awareness. It is the potential of Litterati that has me excited. Imagine if, for every piece of litter you throw away you get a notification that thanks you for throwing it away. A simple thank you goes a long way. It feels good. Or, how about a monthly report of the positive impact you've had on your planet? By the way, here is 1000 points from Starbucks as a further thanks.

Litterati gives corporations, like Starbucks and Tim Hortons, an opportunity to help the environment. In this case, they are not the ones polluting, but their products do end up in the wrong place. Seeing thousands of Starbucks cups is not good for the environment, and not good for the company. So, because my materials litter the Earth, if you dispose of them accordingly, I will give you a reward. The bad guy becomes the good guy.

The digital landfill is growing by the day. It is an artistic expression of quantified data that can show corporations, governments and concerned citizens how much they are polluting, and where. It is an example of how making a difference starts with one. A challenge like litter is enormous, making a difference is difficult, but it really only takes one.

Tom Wiercioch