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Sparking an Anti-Litter Revolution Through Data: Jeff Kirschner on PYP 452

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Jeff Kirschner was on a walk with his kids when his young daughter pointed to a cat litter container littering a stream bed. “Daddy,” she told him, “That doesn't belong there.”

As sparks go, that one could easily have been extinguished before it lit anything else. But that's not what happened. Instead, Jeff began thinking about that container. How it got there. Where it might be going next. And what kind of world were his kids going to inherit, filling up ever more quickly with things that “don't belong there.”

Jeff began cataloging litter on his Instagram account, taking photos of trash on streets, sidewalks, and fields, and hashtagging them by type and material and brand. When other people followed his lead, he realized that he had the beginning of a movement.

Soon, the amount and quality of the data started sparking bigger ideas. The fact that each bit of litter was geotagged, time-stamped, and categorized meant that a computer could begin to spot trends, and create data sets that could inform policy initiatives to combat this form of pollution.

And so was born.

Now, Litterati is in 185 countries, provides an open data set, and is helping municipalities and large corporations design and implement programs to reduce litter and its heavy costs.

Why do we care about plastic containers, fast food clamshells, and cigarette butts on the ground, other than esthetics?

Let's start with the Benjamins. Philadelphia spends almost $50 million a year on street cleanup – all of it remedial, none of it preventive. Multiply that by cities all across the world and pretty soon it begins to add up to real money.

Next, the environmental costs on other species are staggering. Birds, fish, and turtles are suffocating on plastic rings, dying from straws in their windpipes, and suffering birth defects due to their ingestion of endocrine-disrupting microplastics.

Then there's the killing of our ocean life, with garbage-laden dead zones growing to the size of small countries.

That, of course, messes with human health, since plastics accumulate as they move up the food chain. If you eat animal flesh, you're consuming about a teaspoon of plastic a week. Even vegans are not exempt, since the microplastics can move through soil into plant tissue. A recent study of produce from an Italian supermarket reported microplastics in carrots, lettuce, broccoli, potatoes, apples, and pears. The tree fruits were especially high in the stuff, possibly because of they're perennials and have more time to absorb it.

And not inconsequentially, litter makes us feel bad about where we live. It's hard to feel pride of place, or kinship with a living planet, if your street or neighborhood or city is awash in ugly, useless crap.

Jeff and I talked about how Litterati works. Why large data sets can change minds and set policy. The function of transparency in rationalizing systems to eliminate inefficiencies and externalities.

And why Litterati is about solutions rather than finger pointing, when finger pointing would be so easy (and to me, at least, really damn satisfying).

Give a listen, download the app, check out their data, and join Jeff and his citizen army of Litterati in becoming part of the solution.

Links (with links to their social media accounts and iOS and Android apps for download)

Jeff's TEDx talk

Other examples of crowdsourced environmental data collection initiatives



Looking for Transformational Change?

You know how when you discovered plant-based eating, you basically went, “Holy shit, how come the entire healthcare system isn't totally embracing this as one of the most powerful keys to disease prevention and reversal!”?

That's how I feel now about a psychological approach to transformational change called “Memory Reconsolidation.” Few psychologists have heard about it, and when they do hear the radical transformations it can bring about in a very short time, they're often skeptical to the point of disbelief.

But I've added Memory Reconsolidation work to my own coaching, and can attest to its amazing efficacy. So much so, my team and I are studying with the best clinicians and teachers in the world, with the goal of introducing it into our health coaching training.

If you're interested in experiencing the magic of memory reconsolidation coaching with me or a member of my team trained in the process, click the link below to open the form in a new browser tab. Someone will get back to you within 3 business days.

Yes, I'm interested in Memory Reconsolidation Coaching.

You CAN Change Other People!

Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.

What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.

Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.

Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight

Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.

It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂

Tip Jar

This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by clicking the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.


The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.


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