On March 27, 2019, Data For Good held a DataNight at the offices of our host, Integrate.ai.
The goal was to explore data from A Greener Future and look at ways to analyze and visualize the impact that AGF has made through their amazing work.

Who is A Greener Future?

A Greener Future works hand-in-hand with local communities to promote environmental preservation through organized litter cleanups, educational programs, and events. Our expanding family of volunteers are committed to creating a clean, healthy environment that can be sustained for generations.

Rochelle Byrne founded A Greener Future in 2014. Since then, they have run cleanup programs all across Canada.

Some recent highlights:

  • In 2018, A Greener Future picked up their 1,000,000 pieces of litter!!
  • The 2018 Butt Blitz picked up 239,339 cigarette butts off the ground. This was accomplished by 171 volunteers in 20 locations across Canada.
  • Cleanups have been run in 105 unique cities at 276 different locations
  • There are 61 different sponsors

You can learn more about A Greener Future here: https://www.agreenerfuture.ca/

From Rochelle, “By picking up all that litter, I see what I’m picking up, things that people use on a daily basis that people don’t consider litter. Bandaids, Q-tips. It has changed me and how I live my life. I live almost a waste free lifestyle now. By changing one thing at a time I don’t feel like I’m missing out.”

What data are we talking about?? What is it’s lifecycle.

AGF volunteers collect data to document what kinds of litter are collected at each event.

“We still use a data sheets and binders. That works better than an iPad/Otterbox. They’re too much work. Volunteers that are regulars can use data sheets really quickly. After the events, the data sheets are transferred by hand to Google sheets. This allows realtime updates for whole team. Afterwards the Google sheets are transferred to a main database. It’s useful because so many events close are together. Nice to be able to look at data and see if we’re picking up more or less, same stuff as last year.”

Here’s an example of data collected from a 2018 event.

Date May 28, 2018
Latitude 43.816643
Longitude -79.03187
Location Rotary Park
City Ajax
Province Ontario
Country Canada
Event Love Your Lake
Coordinator Rochelle Byrne
Volunteers 17
Strange items Peppa Pig loot bag, tiny doll, hookah tweezers
Cigarette Butts 1056
Tobacco Packaging 16
Lighters 2
Plastic Grocery Bags 7
Other Plastic Bags 10
Paper Bags 3
Food Wrappers 339
Plastic Beverage Bottles 3
Plastic Bottle Caps 40
Plastic Lids 16
Paper Cups/Plates 4
Metal Bottle Caps 5
Glass Bottles 5
Straws 21
Utensils 13
Personal Hygiene 25
Clothing 14
Construction 16
Fishing 7
Plastic Pieces 158
Paper 92
Glass 62
Foam 703
Syringes 2

“…that’s what I want our data to show other people, that small changes in your daily life make big changes over time.”

AGF separates data about the litter they clean up into 30 different types.

Analyzing Litter Types Over Time

Looking at Volunteers

Audience Questions, Ideas and Discussion

Do smaller towns have different types of litter than larger towns/cities?
Prince Edward County has a lot garbage that travels on Lake Ontario currents. It is not litter from local litter bugs.

Does AGF have desire to get into policy changes?
We do work with municipalities in any area they work. They help promote events.
Volunteers leave feeling inspired. They know they can reduce their own waste and educate others, find local solutions, start petitions etc… We don’t need to wait for municipalities.

Are there ‘glory’ shots of all litter cleaned up at an event? Can that be used as a motivator for volunteers as well as a data viz of impact?Yes, However, litter is collected, sorted and recycled or reused so not actually that much garbage.
Still powerful to show total amount collected.

Comment: You can use data to prove a point or predict but you’ll need a lot more data. You can’t draw conclusions with current amount of data. Too many variables, geography, weather, seasonality, etc…

Is it possible to use app during a litter clean up to facilitate data collection?
We still use a data sheets and binders. That works better than an iPad/Otterbox. They’re too much work.

Idea: Imagine AGF has an app already. What kind of data could it collect?

Idea: Can you partner with Uber to detect street level trash. Train their models to perceive more than just cars and people?

Discussion: Could access to infrastructure (trash cans) be an issue rather than just a behavioural issue of throwing garbage on the ground?

Do you know how do your volunteers hear about you?
Lots of cleanups aren’t public. Rochelle works directly with schools.
Twenty people is a good number for teaching a cleanup group. Highschools with kids in Ecoclub or Environmental Program in the school.

What portion of waste is recyclable/reusable?
We try to recycle as much as possible. The tricky part is plastics. If its too dirty then it can’t be put into the recycling stream. AGF has overloaded Terracycle with more plastics than they can use. Part of the issue is to find places that will use collected plastics.

Suggestions of organizations to work with:
Cycling clubs, rock climbing clubs, hiking organizations, sailing clubs, etc….


A big thank you to our sponsor for this DataNight!

We want to send a big thank you to Integrate.ai for their space and hospitality. They have been very generous with the use of their space.