Have you ever walked down the street and wondered where all the litter came from? I have always felt very frustrated when I see people litter. Even as a child, I would organize the neighborhood kids to clean up litter in our area.
However, the problem seems to keep growing. According to one survey, 75% of people admitted to littering in the past 5 years. That is a startling number! No wonder we spend $11.5 billion is each year just to clean up litter.
Even with that great expense, 1.9 billion tons of litter ends up in the ocean every year. The great garbage patch is continuing to grow, and it’s impacting our sea life. When our sea life is impacted, our food chain is impacted.
Litter affects us all, and we can all do something to change the future. Jeff Kirschner saw the need for someone to take the lead on cleaning up the litter, so he formed Litterati. Through Litterati, he has created The Digital Landfill, a photo gallery that showcases litter being picked up, and the overall impact of the movement.
Jeff has some pretty big plans for Litterati, and I was honored to be able to pick his brain in this interview.
What inspired you to found Litterati and where would you like to see it go?
I was hiking in the Oakland hills when my 4-year old daughter noticed someone had thrown a plastic tub of cat litter into a creek. “Daddeeeee, that doesn’t go there,” she said. That eye opening moment reminded me of when I was a kid at summer camp. On visiting day, before they’d let our parents in, our camp director would tell us to each pick up five pieces of litter. We had 100 kids each picking up five pieces, and within a few minutes, we had a much cleaner camp. So I thought, why not apply that same idea to the entire planet.
Your kids played a part in the founding of Litterati. How can parents get their children involved in this conversation?
Ask them questions. Point to a cigarette butt and ask how it ended up on the ground? Or why that plastic bag is stuck in the tree? By forming their own opinion, they’re more likely to come up with a potential solution. It doesn’t matter if their solution is off-base, oversimplified or unrealistic, you’re instilling a sense of stewardship.
What are the most frequent offenders you see in the Digital Landfill?
The Top 5 are Marlboro, McDonalds, Coke, Starbucks and Wrigleys.
What is the most exciting success you’ve had by sharing your data with cities or brands?
My favorite story is actually about a school. 4th & 5th graders of Fremont Open School in Modesto, CA picked up 1,247 pieces of litter. More importantly, they were able to identify their school’s most common type of litter – plastic straw wrappers from the cafeteria. Armed with this information, they approached the principal and asked why the school was still buying individually wrapped straws. So they made a change.They stopped using straws and started using reusable water bottles. Simple and effective.
If there was one message you could convey to Earth911 readers about the impact of litter on our planet, what would that be?
Litter is so prevalent that blends into the background of our lives. We don’t even see it anymore. We’ve become desensitized. But we can solve this problem. It’s within our reach.
What are the easiest steps someone can take to join the Litterati and make a difference?
- Photograph a piece of litter with Instagram.
- Add the hashtag #Litterati.
- Throw out or recycle the litter.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Individually you can make a difference. Together we create an impact. At time of publication, Litterati have properly disposed of over 163,000 pieces of litter.
Will you join the Litterati?
Images courtesy of Litterati