Clean Fairfax Council would like to welcome its newest team member, Sam Raasch! Sam is a northern Virginian, born and raised, and a graduate of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University. He is passionate about science communication and engaging the public in conservation efforts. Before landing at Clean Fairfax, Sam worked in various natural resource conservation roles at Virginia Tech, New York University, World Resources Institute and the US Forest Service.
But more importantly, Sam is an associate of the infamous Litterati. What’s the Litterati, you may ask? Why, it’s a mobile app that uses crowdsourcing to identify, map, and collect the litter we pick up as a community. It’s a simple but formidable concept that can change the way litter reduction is researched and resolved.
Any time Sam sees a piece of trash, he opens the Litterati app, snaps a quick photo, and the app applies a GPS coordinate, classifies the type of trash and uploads it to a map. Why is this useful? First and foremost, Sam finally has an easy, effective way to alert authorities about local litter hotspots, and consequently, local authorities better understand their municipality’s waste management needs. Furthermore, the data can be used to put pressure on businesses that are not focused on sustainability! Perhaps Sam’s favorite taco shop gives far too many hot sauce packets per order and the packets are ending up in the local stream. Sam’s a nice guy but he might be forced to use his finely tuned Litterati skills of persuasion to show them, using the app, that their sauce packets are ending up in the wrong places!
Litterati is one of the most recent efforts to crowd-source data collection for science, but we’ve seen several other great examples of technology that inspires conservation. The app iNaturalist, essentially a real-life version of Pokemon Go, allows citizens to take photos of local flora and fauna and share the data with scientists. In 2012, 150 tons of plastic pellets spilled from a container ship directly off the shores of Hong Kong during a severe typhoon. A citizen then created a geo-tagging app to track the various locations of the spill, and residents used the app to begin the cleanup effort.
If you’re interested in being part of litter reduction in Fairfax County but don’t have the time to organize a stream cleanup, download Litterati (https://www.litterati.org/)! Help our county clean itself, one photo at a time.
P.S. — Litterati is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to continue improving the app.