According to estimates, this year, on the 24th of April, at 4:21 PM, the world population surpassed the 7.5 billion people mark and until May 10th, more than 7.52 million tons of wastage had been produced only this year. These are mind-blowing numbers when you realize that each one of us has approximately produced more than 1,000 kg of wastage in only 5 months and that a significant portion of this number is litter, this is, wastage disposed improperly, without consent, at an inappropriate location.
Needless to say, this misplacement of large quantities of trash has profound consequences in the fauna and flora of these locations and we are so used to this kind of behaviour, in our day-to-day lives, that some even consider this to be a normal practice and that trying to prevent it is a hopeless cause. However, have you ever stopped to think about how serious the problem really is in your local town and how you may be contributing to it?
As NOVA SBE students, you know that the first approach to any problem should be to gather the most data you can, so you can tackle it in the most objectively informed way possible, and with litter, it should be no different. Knowing this, Jeff Kirschner developed a simple but brilliant idea that makes both you and I feel as responsible for these behaviours as the people who perform them.
Jeff created a smartphone app named Litterati that allows you to take pictures of litter you collect in the streets and share it in a community. However, what makes this initiative so significant is that these photos say who picked up what, when and where, since these are shared, geotagged and time stamped, making this a credible database for litter in every city in the world. This allows us to determine the litter footprint of the streets of a city in Japan, in Madrid or even in your home town.
To whom is this helpful, you may ask? In truth, it may be useful to companies and cities and, in the end, every one of us benefits. Take the example of San Francisco, which wanted to know which percentage of litter is from cigarettes, so that they could implement a tax. For that use, they put their employees to the task of collecting data but big producers of tobacco discredited their methods since people with clipboards and pens were not accurate sources of data. This said, the city turned to Litterati and then used their data in court to collect annual recurring revenues of 4 million dollars to help cleaning their streets.
From a company’s point of view, we can find this useful as it may help to align both their environmental as well as their economic interests. For example, when you go to fast food restaurants, do you always use the sauces that usually come with your orders? This same question was also raised in Oakland, where thousands of unopened sauce packages were being found improperly disposed in the streets. This simple information may lead a brand to only give these packages upon request or to charge for them, helping both the environment and saving thousands of dollars in these products.
As this shows, in our daily lives, we can also have a positive direct and significant impact in the environment, at a click of a button, using a tool that works no different than some that we already use every day. The same happens with Ecosia, for example, a search engine company that uses 80% of its revenues to plant trees and has until this day, planted more than 7,753,000 trees.
In truth, possibilities to contribute to these impactful causes are endless and require increasingly less effort from us, the population. There may be hundreds of seemingly meaningless daily tasks that you and I perform that can make all the difference and rely solely on us to contribute. Who knows, maybe the next brilliant ecofriendly idea will come from a NOVA SBE student. I leave the business tip on the table and what will you do, will you be indifferent?
Rodrigo is a third-year Management Undergraduate student at NOVA School of Business & Economics. He is 20 years old and comes from Azores, therefore, having seen more cows than other humans. He’s a member of GreenNova since 2016.
Last modified: 01/10/2017