Litterati at Recology Environmental Learning Center

Litterati: Using Technology to Clean the Planet

Exhibition – March 26 to May 9 (gallery hours: Tuesdays 1-3pm, and by appointment)
Reception – Friday, April 25, 5-8pm (with talk by Beth Terry at 7pm

Environmental Learning Center, 401 Tunnel Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Admission is free and open to the public, all ages welcome, wheelchair accessible.

From March 26 to May 9, Litterati: Using Technology to Clean the Planet, will be on view at the Recology Environmental Learning Center. Sponsored by the Recology Artist in Residence Program, this exhibition features photographs from Litterati, a movement that encourages the public to document litter using the photo-sharing service Instagram, and then properly dispose of the trash. Since its inception in 2012, more than 40,000 pieces of litter have been photographed, cataloged, and properly discarded. The exhibition will feature photographs from locations around the world, demonstrating this innovative use of social media to address environmental issues and initiate positive change.

litterati2Litterati was created by Jeff Kirschner, after his family went for a walk in the Oakland hills and encountered a plastic tub of kitty litter dumped in a stream. His 4-year-old daughter—baffled by what she saw—exclaimed, “Daddy, that doesn’t go there!” which prompted Kirschner to think more deeply about what he could do to leave a more environmentally stable planet for his children. Drawing on his background in start-up technology, Kirschner envisioned a way to engage and inspire individuals to take action whenever they could, wherever they were. The instructions are simple: photograph litter using Instagram, add the hashtag #litterati, and recycle, compost, or throw away the litter. Says Kirschner, “individually, one can make a difference. Together, we can create an impact.”

The idea is also to stop litter before it starts, and images of cigarette butts and fast food containers are a stark reminder of the need for new strategies for reaching the public who still casually discard such items. Outreach to manufacturers is also part of the plan. Through keyword tags, the project documents the products and brands that generate the most litter, enabling Litterati to work with producers on sustainable solutions.

Images in the exhibition reflect both the range of what has been discarded and the diverse locations materials were found. Photographs were taken across the United States, as well as around the world, including in Austria, Thailand, and the US Virgin Islands. The photographers have been invited to add their own thoughts about the photos they took, and responses will accompany images in the exhibition.

A public exhibition will be held on Friday, April 25, from 5 to 8pm, coinciding with Earth Week. Gallery hours are Tuesdays, 1-3pm and by appointment. In conjunction with the exhibition reception, author Beth Terry will speak at 7pm. Terry is the author of Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too and the blog, My Plastic Free Life. Begun in 2007, after Terry read about the crisis of plastics in the ocean and committing to eliminate plastics from her life, the blog is now a widely read and respected resource. Terry combines useful information about plastic-free alternatives with personal stories, and has become a leader in the crusade against the overconsumption of plastics. Copies of her book will be available for sale/signing.

About the Recology Artist in Residence Program Since 1990, the Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco has encouraged the conservation of natural resources while instilling a greater appreciation for art and the environment in children and adults. This one-of-a-kind program enables artists to work in studio space on site for four months, use materials recovered from the Public Disposal and Recycling Area, and speak to students and the general public about reuse and their residency experiences. Over one-hundred professional Bay Area artists have completed residencies. Applications are accepted annually in August.

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