As a dog owner, you get to walk quite a lot. And these dog walks are great for getting to know a new place of living: you get a feel of what’s around you, get to know other dog owners (well, okay, their dogs mostly), but you also get some impressions of the local peculiarities. One thing I noticed quickly while doing the regular walks with B in our new country, is that Germans like to litter. A lot. I was very surprised to find, in a country where every household has four containers for waste disposal, so much trash in the streets and forests. It’s appalling.
Now, I was thinking of how I could do something about it. I mean, just noticing all sorts of trash in all sorts of places is one thing, but noticing doesn’t change anything. I remembered the Liela Talka, or ‘Big Cleanup’ that is so popular in Latvia: one day on which the whole country goes out and cleans up. Now, there is an event like that in Germany. Actually: there are several. Düsseldorf has one, and Ratingen another. Both on different dates. Unfortunately, on the date the big cleanup in Ratingen took place, we were not at home. Then I realised it’s not about focusing the attention on one day. It’s about changing attitudes in every day life. So it’s about focussing on the everyday.
A mobile app would be a good idea, I thought. One in which people could take a picture with their mobile phone, add a geo-tag, and maybe some comments. With some aggregated data, you could go and talk to cities and municipalities to see what can be done about the littering: extra trash collection, more surveillance, education, more trashcans. All sorts of things. I even learned how to code Ruby for this end. I was hoping to be able to create that app then.
So, when I came across Litterati today, it was one of those things that the internet has enabled us to do for so long already: I connected with like-minded people from a completely different geographical location. And fortunately one who had taken a similar idea, and made an even better implementation of it. In a mashup of Instagram and Google Maps, he has created a digital landfill, and a map to show the impact of littering. But he has gone even further: he created a movement. Members of the Litterati movement not only take pictures of discarded items they see to share them on instagram (which reminded me of the Dutch Trashlog project from way back), they also pick it up and dispose of it properly. On the digital home of the movement, you can see all these photos (as long as they’re tagged in Instagram with the #Litterati hashtag), but also a map and other statistics. Great data to start a conversation with local governments and brands.
Needless to say, I’ve joined the movement.