‘One Man’s Trash’ Awakens A Social Entrepreneur’s Mission

What started out as a casual walk in the neighborhood with his children has since become the driving force for an ambitious environmental quest.

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A writer by trade, Jeff Kirschner led an exciting career in advertising. However, in 2002, his idyllic career path suffered a devastating blow. Jeff, like many others, was laid off.

After being unceremoniously released from his job, Jeff managed to launch a couple of startups. With two projects under his belt, Jeff’s next business idea came to him unexpectedly. One day, while walking with his children in the Oakland Hills of California, his daughter noticed a tub of cat litter floating into a nearby creek. She quickly and unabashedly said, “Daddy, that doesn’t go there!”

Agreeing with his daughter that the waste did not belong in the creek, Jeff’s eyes were opened to the irony. He thought, “Here I am living in the Bay Area, a place known for being environmentally conscious and eco-friendly, and yet everywhere you look there’s trash.”

“A recent World Bank report projected that the amount of solid waste generated globally will nearly double by 2025, going from 3.5 million tons to 6 million tons — per day. (Washington Post).”

Jeff, like many others, had become desensitized to the litter all around us. But he quickly took action by combining technology, social awareness and art to tackle the ever-escalating problem one piece of litter at a time. Founded in September of 2012, Litterati was born – a startup looking to make a profound social impact by building the world’s largest database of litter.

Through the use of social media and the data collected from individuals picking up litter, they aim to find ways to work with brands, cities and government organizations to prevent litter from ever reaching the ground.


Stumbling Upon Social Impact

With the creation of Litterati, Jeff aimed to fulfill a lofty vision to live in a litter-free world. As he thought about how to solve the world’s litter problem, Jeff was reminded of his camping trips in upstate New York as a young child. Essentially, the campsite, with the aid of “crowdsourced” campers, would get the grounds clean in preparation for the arrival of parents. For Jeff, he didn’t see why we, as a society, couldn’t apply that same principle to cleaning up the planet.


Photo: Literatti; Source: Instagram
Photo: Literatti; Source: Instagram

Today, Literati uses social media platforms like Instagram to log the what, when, and where of litter picked up by community members. By creating a litter trail on Instagram, Jeff has been able to produce a digital landfill, which is a key component to the effectiveness of Litterati.

According to Jeff, “a digital landfill is a photo gallery showcasing the different pieces of litter being picked up, and the overall impact of the movement. With geo-tagging, we’re able to provide insight into problem areas and highlight the most active Litterati communities. Keyword tags on the photos help identify those brands and products that generate the most litter.”

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