Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tagging Litter - Part 1


I started writing this back in March of 2011, building upon a few thoughts I captured in a 2009 post I wrote about picking up litter in a nearby park.

At the time, we were entering the spring, the time of natural (and perhaps spiritual) renewal.  I found myself increasingly annoyed with litter, to the point of finally doing something more than picking up what I could.  The seasonal revelation of what's been cast aside carelessly in public spaces over the past winter as the snow melts was becoming too much to handle.

This is what I was thinking back then...

Over the past few months I've thought about a project to leverage the power of social media to encourage "cleaning up" and also to help us hold the brands that we all use accountable for their products throughout their lifecycles.

The Social Media Litter Project (it did not go...anywhere)

So far, there are two components of this project, twitter and Facebook. I figured that with the number of people on Facebook combined with the microblogosphere of twitter and the geo-location/image capability of mobile devices, we might have something interesting to work on together.

By connecting with old and new friends on Facebook and twitter along with the immense growth of mobile technology adoption, I've become aware of the potential for mobile technology to help us track litter to determine where it came from and how we might prevent it from becoming litter in the first place. When I see people dabbling in Farmville and MafiaWars (are these still relevant?) , I think to myself, is there something as fun and habit forming that makes a difference in our world - that serves a higher purpose - that we could do together?

So, I created a twitter handle @litterproject and started taking photos of litter I've collected in various places and posting it with geo-location enabled. I've been posting using the @litterproject account, and would like to get people to post to @litterproject to participate in this "litter tracking" adventure and see what we can accomplish. Here's a sample post:
@litterproject #mcdonalds in the mix always @dunkindonuts some #polandspring
various #styrofoam & #plastic  http://tweetphoto.com/19560433
With the help of friends from BGI (as well as anyone else that might be interested) we'll create a continuously updated map of the litter people pick up, and thanks to photos and what people post, we'll also know what brands are getting left for others to pick up.

In my brief experience around the Beaver Brook Reservation on the border of Waltham and Belmont I've noticed a high level of Dunkin' Donuts paraphrenalia. I've started a special collection of items with the Dunkin' Donuts logo on it (2013 update - it's since been sent to a landfill). They have a store located in Waverley Square not far from where I live. For those of you in the Northeast, you know what I'm talking about. Seems that there is an inordinate amount of litter around this area comprised of DandD stuff. What I'm curious about is how we as a culture assign responsibility for the "disposal" of something at the end of its useful life - is it the user's or the producer's?  Maybe a bit of both?

What if we created a map with brand identifying characteristics to make people aware of just how much "stuff" is out there and to start bringing in the providers of said "stuff" into the conversation so we might prevent the "stuff" from getting there in the first place.

I'm curious to find out what will emerge from this effort (2013 update - for me, not much). Perhaps the folks at Terracycle or Save that Stuff will note this little experiment and have an idea about extending the useful life of the products recorded here or some other ideas about what to do with them that do not add to our injection of post consumer waste in to the biosphere.

In Part 2, jumping ahead to the present day, there is inspired action by Litterati

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