Spring Clean-Up with Litterati and Google Maps

It’s finally March, and that means the official start of the seasonal cycle in the Omushkego culture. In the Omushkego Cycle of Life (Ininiwi Pimatisiwin), there are six seasons, beginning with Spring, or Sikwan. Next comes the Blooming of the Earth (Miloskamin), then Summer (Nipin), Autumn (Takwakin), Freezing Up (Mikishaw) and finally, Winter (Pipon).

The Omushkego Cycle of Life model was illustrated by the renowned artist Richard Kamalatisit (1959-2008), image from the Omushkego Education – Mushkegowuk Council Cycle of Life document, Moose Factory, ON

Spring means warmer weather and longer periods of daylight, and the arrival of spring provided much excitement for the Omushkegowuk, according to the Omushkego Cycle of Life document (Omushkego Education Dept). And in the beginning of the Blooming of the Earth season (this begins in May), this was the time to clean up, store winter tools and equipment, and begin preparations for summer.

As we all know and experience in northern Ontario, Spring also reveals the debris hidden beneath the snow from our long winter season – from the coffee cups that once held that delicious dark roast to get us through the work day to the cigarette butts that drivers flick out of their windows. These are obviously examples of some of the negative impacts of human interactions with natural habitats and communities, but whatever types of trash we find, each piece can effectively be turned into data in order to analyze these impacts.

Enter the Litterati app, available on iOS and Android. Litterati started out as an Instagram account dedicated to taking pictures of trash (uploaded with #Litterati), and then taking those already geotagged, time-stamped images and plotting them onto a Google map to visualize this data. Then, others around the world started taking and tagging pictures of trash, until eventually, Litterati became a movement – a way to crowd-source cleaning the planet:

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22nd. A common school activity for the Friday before or Monday after this day will be to supervise students in beautifying their schoolyard or neighborhood as they pick up litter and either recycle or toss it. Why not take it a step further and use technology to record the number and types of trash? Litterati not only allows you to track the quantity of litter, but it also allows you to tag each piece of litter with what it is and even the brand, thereby collecting qualitative data too. And with this data comes questions, which leads to further research, and finally action – a process known as geo-inquiry:

 Geo_Inquiry_Poster White

Keep in mind that students need to create their own accounts, and therefore the age rating is 13+, and if under 18, they need to have a parent or guardian’s permission. See the Terms of Service “For Humans” here. One word of caution is that students should not be posting pictures of themselves, as the photos are taken directly through the app and then will be uploaded into the “digital landfill” for use on the interactive map, seen below. Photos should only be of litter, and each photo counts as one piece!


Photos are held in your Litterati gallery until you tag them appropriately and Upload into the Digital Landfill. Maps are updated hourly! Tagging is important because this information is then used to place litter into pollution categories – for example, if you come across a Dasani plastic water bottle, you might tag it using the brand name #Dasani and then #plasticwaterbottle. See below for suggested hashtags.

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The Delta Conservatory, Sacramento Area Creeks Council and the Franklin High School Plastics Club has put together a great guide to use in your own trash mapping efforts – here is a list of hashtags found in their guide:

Packaging: #plasticbag #straw #styrofoamcontainer #ziplocbag #plasticlid
#plasticplate #paperbag #plasticbevbottle #paperplate #otherbag
#glassbevbottle #plasticsilverware #foodwrapper #plasticcap #6packrings
#plasticcup #metalcap #cleanerbottle #styrofoamcup #bevcan
#petroleumbottle #stirrer #plasticcontainer
Smoking Related Debris: #cigarettes #cigar #cigarettelighter #tobaccopacking
Other Litter: #pen/pencil #rope #fishingline #toy #styrafoam #fishinghook
#balloon #carpart #otherfishinggear #ball #smallelectronics #miscplastic
#shoe #plasticnetting #battery #clothing #fishinghook
Large Debris: #largeelectronic #furniture #tire #appliance
#buildingmaterial #foamcushion
Small Debris (less than 2 cm): #styrofoampieces #plasticpieces #glasspieces

ALTERNATIVE: This activity can also be done by making your own classroom collaborative map using photos you take with your phone/tablet (with Location services turned on so that said photos are geotagged) and Google My Maps. The image below shows a geotagged photo taken by a phone, and imported into My Maps:


If your photos are backed up by Google Photos (How-To here), you can easily import photos (briefly illustrated here):


You can then easily share your class map on school-approved social media, and even start your own trash mapping hashtag.

NB: If you have multiple photos to upload, you can import them using a CSV file, spreadsheet or KML. More info on this method in a subsequent post!




One thought on “Spring Clean-Up with Litterati and Google Maps

  1. This is so interesting and informative. What a great learning tool that has a positive and productive impact on our environment globally!


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