By Cathriona Fey
BAPA Community Outreach
Community-Wide Litter Pick-Up Challenge Inspired by Local Resident and Powered by Technology
Communities across the country are testing ways to prevent littering and keep their hometowns clean. Signage, more trash cans, catchy marketing campaigns, fines, and street cleaning teams have all been explored. However, according to Beverly/Morgan Park resident and Behavioral Scientist Natalie Hallinger, the best answer may be all around us.
“Research shows that the condition of the place you’re at is one of the strongest predictors of littering,” Hallinger said. “If that place is in disrepair, looks uncared for, doesn’t have accessible trash bins, or seems unimportant, then more people are likely to litter. However, if that same group of people visits a place that is aesthetically pleasing, looks well cared-for, has enough reachable trash bins, or seems like people there have a sense of ownership, then those people are much less likely to litter there.”
Hallinger works with Litterati, a software application company that’s building a global community to collect litter data and driving toward eradicating litter from the planet. A psychologist who initially trained to be a therapist, Hallinger was able to transition into the startup world with Litterati, thanks to the Innovative Postdoctoral Entrepreneurial Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation grant that helps tech startups hire researchers with PhDs. She uses research to improve user engagement strategies, and engaging her own South Side community is important.
When it comes to litter, Hallinger said, “The negative impacts we all recognize include making spaces dirty and ugly. What might come as a surprise is that litter is also unhygienic, leaks chemicals into the soil and water, traps or gets eaten by wildlife and pets, provides breeding grounds for mosquitos and bacteria, triggers flooding by clogging storm drains, and degrades community cohesion.” The economic impacts of litter include lowered property values and reduced interest in business development.
“The positive impacts of litter cleanups or the lack of litter include a greater sense of ownership, increased mental wellness seeing green spaces and wildlife, higher property values and community investments, healthier spaces for children and pets, and resources freed up for other municipal needs,” Hallinger said. Most interesting may be the mental wellness impacts. “People actually feel calmer, more relaxed, satisfied, and happier when they look at green spaces and orderly areas. Seeing litter keeps that from happening.”
What is Litterati?
Litterati was started by Jeff Kirschner. While out on walks with his kids, Kirschner began taking pictures of the litter they picked up and uploading them to Instagram. People began to join in the effort and Kirschner was inspired to create an app. Today, Litterati app data about the litter, including the type and material of objects, the brand or company associated with the item, and the date, time and location it was picked up. Hallinger said that by tracking litter through the app, people can see their impact and help to create a record that can be used to demand change.
Litterati has over 200,000 downloads by members who have recorded over 9.5 million pieces of litter they’ve cleaned up in 165 countries. The app has sparked multiple Stories of Impact, big and small. A couple from the Netherlands used Litterati data to convince a popular throat drop manufacturer to change from plastic packaging. Fifth grade students in Modesto, Calif., used Litterati data they collected around campus to inspire school leaders to stop buying plastic straws and single use plastics.
“Big change, small change, change is change. And change is inspiring,” Hallinger said. To learn more about Litterati, visit www.litterati.org.
5K By May
BAPA has partnered with the 19th Ward and Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association to launch 5K By May, a one-month community-wide litter pick-up challenge powered by Litterati. The goal is to inspire residents to work together to pick up 5,000 pieces of litter between Apr. 1 and 30.
Neighbors interested in participating can download the free Litterati app to their phone with the Apple or Google Play stores. Once downloaded, join the Beverly/Morgan Park litter pick-up by going to Join A Challenge With A Code and entering the code 5KBYMAY. Use the camera on your phone to snap pictures of the litter you pick up and tag the items using app–generated suggestions. Wear gloves or use a litter grabber to make pick-ups more sanitary. Check to see if items can be recycled and dispose of them accordingly.
Top contributors who create the highest impact will be eligible to win prizes to local businesses.
Turn your walk into a “green” workout by picking up litter along the way. Team-up with neighbors to host a pick-up on your block or at a nearby park. Swing by your local school or favorite business to check for litter. Share your impact by tagging BAPA, the 19th Ward and MPBHBA with the hashtag #5kbymay. Let’s pick it up and keep our neighborhood beautiful!