How an Instagram Hashtag is Helping to Clean up the Environment


Starting a global movement using a photography app is no small task, but that’s what Jeff Kirschner has done this last year. Using the hashtag #litterati, he’s managed to start a world-wide Instagram campaign that is helping to stop pollution and clean up the environment one piece of trash at a time.

His inspiration for the project came while walking with his two kids through the woods. One stumbled on a discarded can on the ground and, with the kind of bluntness only a child can achieve, said simply, “that’s not supposed to be there.”


This reminded Kirschner of his days at camp when the leaders would ask every camper to pick up a couple of pieces of trash before their parents came to visit, and ultimately led to the Instagram account and hashtag Litterati.

Using the account, he would photograph each piece of trash he picked up over the course of the day, hashtagging the photos as he went. Pretty soon others caught on, until he found himself staring at a photo of a beef jerky wrapper being picked up from in front of the Great Wall of China — his little project had quite literally reached the other side of the world.

Now, Instagram users everywhere can join the movement by taking a photo of the couple of pieces of trash they pick up each day. It may not seem like you’re making much of a difference, but the over 10,000 photos from 22 countries uploaded under the #litterati hashtag last year illustrate just how powerful the collective impact can be.


As the project has continued to grow, Kirschner has stared a Litterati website complete with a “Digital Landfill” that aggregates all of the photos hashtagged #litterati, keeping statistics as it goes. Can you guess what the most commonly Instagrammed and disposed of item is? Of the 10,089 pieces of litter picked up by the litterati, 642 of them were cigarettes.

(via Mashable)

  • Alan Dove

    Those photos are trash.

  • Me

    ¿Do you think that our environment are our streets? This is false ecological awareness. Our affected environment with this kind of trash is the ocean. The trash islands floating between asia and america. Using hybrid cars, putting the garbage in the trash can and all the other things that the media tells us to do to clean the environment are just fake.

    The things that we should do to clean the environment are: stop using cars, instead use bicycle, stop purchasing industrialyzed food, cultivate your food, make compost, stop purchasing bootled water, stop using mobile phones (thay are killing fauna in congo, investigate why), and so on. But we don´t want todo any of this things because we are so lazy. Our lives are fake, that´s not the real life, are plastic syntetic life.

  • Opie

    I agree that this project seems rather superficial. I read it as more of an attempt to prove what a “righteous person” the photographer is than actually helping the environment in a major way. Maybe I’ve lost my youthful optimism.

    But you can’t realistically expect every person in the world to go back to living like we’re in the 19th century. It’s an incredible privilege to live in the modern world, and asking people to eschew all of the great things with which we’ve been endowed is like telling teenagers to be abstinent. Instead of espousing overzealous morality for the sake of your own superiority complex, maybe a better tack would be to teach people how to enjoy the gifts of the modern world in a sustainable, responsible way.

  • Gregor_Albrecht

    Picking up trash is certainly a very nice thing to do. But why do we need a twitter/instagram MOVEMENT for this?
    I’m gonna start a MOVEMENT and upload instagrams of every glass of water I drink. Maybe this will stop alcoholism.

  • nerdbomber

    Good message, but it’s a waste of time using instagram and hashtagging… simply put, just throw the trash away. It’ll save you time to shoot something more inspiring =]

  • SiriusPhotog

    Why do we need a movement? For the same reason we needed the Crying Indian PSA’s in the 70’s. It’s just a modern day version of the same thing. And in case you are too young to remember the 70’s….

  • SiriusPhotog

    I can remember as a kid, seeing people throw trash out their car window all the time. Times change and it’s not so common these days but it still happens. Especially smokers!