Monday, July 29, 2013

Tagging Litter - Part 2

Do you litterati?
I recently learned about a project leveraging the popularity and power of Instagram called #litterati.  The purpose? Engaging people in the un-glamorous activity of litter clean-up by digitally capturing, tagging, and sharing what they find with artsy photos. I've become a fan with the handle litterang (yeah, the logo's a take on the Nerf Boomerang - get it - litter + boomerang = litterang, because there is no "away"? Thought so.) and can only see good things coming from it.

Take a look at this video from the Litterati founder about what it is and what they're seeking to accomplish.  The piece that spoke to me was his comments about walking around with his two-year-old and wondering about how to make the world a better place for her.  I now have a two-year-old, and find myself pondering the same question.  The action he's's...shall I say...inspiring.

So, the idea, in a nutshell, is that people take photos of litter, glamming them up with the cool features of Instagram, and tag them by what the item is along with as much brand and company identifying information as possible.  The bonus is sharing them with their followers in the social media universe connected to their Instagram account.  For example, here's a photo I took last weekend and posted (before I opened the litterang acount):

The text reads #litterati #polandspring #plastic #water #bottle which, assuming I have a clue about the coding that goes into this, flows through to the Digital Landfill and Impact Map on Litterati's site:

Maybe I'm a super-geek (no - it's not a maybe), but I think this is way cool.  Why?
  1. Map litter.  Bring the power of location tagging to gather information on hotspots of litter - helping cities and towns plan their garbage collection and recycling placements
  2. Product Stewardship. Bring brands and their owners into the conversation about what happens to the packaging their products come in.  Packaging is the delivery mechanism for the consumer (you want a bottle of water for the water, not the bottle right?) and producer - oh - and a marketing tool as well.
  3. Build a "cool" factor for tagging litter.  Maybe this is a stretch, but if all your friends are #humblebragging about the litter they're tagging because they're such "good people", you might want to as well - think endorsements on LinkedIn
  4. Energy analysis.  If you could tie embodied energy for the items listed, you might generate interesting data that would be useful to conscious consumers, policy wonks, and energy-minded folks.
  5. Brand reconnaissance.  Brands and their owners could start to see patterns of use - where their products are used and end up.  It might help them understand their customers' habits, where they might place another outlet, perhaps engage with their customers to encourage recycling and proper disposal to strengthen brand loyalty and identification?
Is there a danger that this could make litter "sexy", that people would stage their litter photos to make themselves look good and to earn more hearts?  Wow.  That would be lame, and sure, there is always that possibility - but jeez...super lame.

What about people that are not interested in sharing location data associated with their photography?  This is something I have to say that I struggle with.  I am new to Instagram, and the only activity I am using it for at this moment is #litterati - that is my choice.  For others, it may not be so easy, or desired. 

What else could we learn from this? If you don't have an Instagram account, does some social good activity like this make you want to open one?

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