The Year Ahead for Litterati

The founder of the app, a platform for crowdsourcing the cleaning of litter, shares his goals for 2017 and the future of the organization.
(Image: TakePart)
Presented byPresented by Lenovo
Dec 27, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Jeff Kirschner is the Founder & CEO of Litterati – a mobile app that is helping “crowdsource-clean” the planet – one piece of litter at a time.

Litterati is about creating change. Change in our perception, our practices, and ultimately, our planet.

When it comes to long-term transformation, there’s no better place to start than with our young people. They’re often referred to as the “leaders of tomorrow,” but in actuality, they’re plowing the path today.

When it comes to litter, a global pandemic we’ve battled for decades, it’s critical we engage new ideas. Today’s youths think potential over plausible. Our job is to support them.

Looking ahead to 2017, we’re focused on building tools and technologies they’ll use to shape our world.

Education: Litterati has been adopted by a number of schools throughout the U.S. Introducing a hands-on, citizen-science approach has been well received by teachers and students alike, but there’s a desire for more: Specifically, a structured curriculum. Shared best practices. Group assignments and classroom discussion topics. We need to design programming that not only is easy to adopt but keeps students engaged.

Community: When battling large-scale problems, it’s easy to feel helpless. Traditionally, if you saw a plastic bottle lying on the street, it might feel pointless to pick it up. What difference would it possibly make? Obviously, it does, though perception suggests otherwise. Building a technology that connects the Litterati community helps that feeling of helplessness evolve into one of empowerment. If you saw that thousands of others were also picking up plastic bottles in their communities, you’d be more inclined to participate. Over the next year, we’ll introduce features that bring our community closer together, taking a traditionally isolated act and making it social and shareable. When it comes to schools, how can they learn from each other? If one school identifies that its primary source of litter comes from plastic straw wrappers, there’s a high likelihood that others are experiencing the same.

Data: There’s no point in collecting information unless you can do something with it. At Litterati we often show the following:

Data → Insight → Action → Change

For that equation to be effective, the data component is key. The litter problem is not only massive but complex. We’re dealing with everything from a variety of product types (a metal bottle cap versus a plastic bottle cap) to levels of decay (a pristine Snickers wrapper or one that’s been ripped and tattered). To make matters more complicated, some things are nearly impossible to identify. In 2017, we’ll start to design a flexible, scalable data architecture that not only allows for this complexity but adapts over time. There’s the promise of image recognition and machine learning, but what’s around the corner? What’s being worked on by some 16-year-old that the world isn’t yet aware of? By working with young entrepreneurs and engineers, we’ll continue to improve on how we collect and analyze data. Better data leads to greater insight, which drives more action and creates greater change.

2017. It’s time to make sense of the madness.