New Litter Campaign Creates a Real Purpose for the Overused Hashtag

Categories: Environment

We made it clear already how much we #fuckinghatehashtags last week when Facebook announced they'd let users hashtag any random dumb thought. But, there's a new and potentially helpful take on the pound sign.

An Oakland-based entrepreneur is using the hashtag #litterati on Instagram to inspire people to pick up after themselves -- and others.

Jeff Kirschner, the brains behind the new hashtag campaign, dreamed up the project after his daughter became disgusted by a discarded kitty litter box they passed while on a family walk.

"The vision of litterati," Kirschner says in a video on his website, "is a litter free world."

And we're not just talking about kitty litter.

It's a lofty goal, and Kirschner's taken some unusual steps to get there. With his encouragement, Instagram users are taking pictures of trash they find on the street, hashtagging the image with #litterati, and then (hopefully) picking it up and tossing it in the garbage.

Kirschner collects images with #litterati into a "digital landfill" on his website and mines the images for more revealing data. Using Instagram's geotagging feature that shows the location where the picture was taken (information your phone stores when you take a picture over WiFi or 3G), Kirschner is able to gather a little more insight about our trashy habits.

"If we can start to understand where litter is emerging and where greater amounts of it is emerging, than we could maybe do things like put additional compost or trash cans in those areas," Kirschner said. Or, he added, it might be possible to approach businesses whose trash appears on the street most often and ask them to consider a collaborative approach to cut down on litter.

Since it launched last year, more than 11,000 images have been posted on Instagram with #litterati. A map on Kirschner's website shows litter from around the world. Eventually, he says he'd like to see #litteri opened up to additional platforms and have its own application.

"People think that the problem is so massive," Kirschner said, "And they're so overwhelmed with the countless items they see that they think picking up one won't make a dent. But, it will."


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