The City of Lodi has thrown down the gauntlet when it comes to trash. Lodi residents are being challenged to work together and pick up at least 2,020 pieces of litter before Dec. 31.
In partnership with Litterati, a data science company created with the goal of motivating individuals to clean up the planet, the city is hosting its first virtual Lodi Clean Challenge.
To participate in the challenge, Lodians can download the free Litterati app through the Apple App Store or Google Play for Android.
Once the app is downloaded, new users can select “enter code” and enter the code LODI2020. Existing users who already have the app can select the “Challenges” screen, click “Join A Challenge With A Code,” and enter the same code.
From there, residents will be able to join the challenge and start picking up litter. A step-by-step guide for using the app is available at www.litterati.org/how-it-works.
Whenever residents upload photos of litter they pick up, the location will be geotagged and documented and that data will be shared with the city.
Kathy Grant, the City of Lodi’s watershed program coordinator, said the city was eager to partner with Litterati after local organized community cleanup events — including the twice yearly Coastal Cleanup at Lodi Lake — had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re mandated to host cleanups,” Grant said. “We have to pick up the trash and we have to tell people they need to help us pick up the trash.”
The cleanup events are crucial to prevent trash from flowing into local waterways, especially Lodi Lake and the Mokelumne River, she said.
“Nowadays, our drinking water is mostly coming out of rivers and creeks. It’s coming out of the Mokelumne River,” Grant said. “In Lodi, almost half of what we drink in town is coming out of there.”
The idea to partner with Litterati came to Grant after she spent the summer evaluating the city’s options for hosting cleanups in a safe manner, she said.
“The requirements to clean didn’t go away with the pandemic,” Grant said. “We used to be able to host a Coastal Cleanup, but we couldn’t do that this year since we’re not able to meet in person.”
In the COVID-19 era, Litterati is the city’s best bet, Grant said. The app allows residents to do their part in making the city a cleaner, safer place while adhering to social distancing guidelines. The app also has the power to reach young people, putting a trendy twist on picking up trash.
Grant chose teachers to serve as administrators alongside her on the app and help create challenges, because of their influence on their students.
“That’s who we’re trying to tap into,” Grant said. “These are the kids who are already tech-savvy. They’re the next generation.”
The partnership with Litterati may also boost community morale, she said.
“We’re retraining people to think about garbage one piece at a time and as a community effort, because what we’re doing is crowdsourcing trash,” Grant said. “We’re going at it as a city, not just as an individual. That’s a really cool concept, especially in Lodi.”
The City of Lodi has been hosting Coastal Cleanups for more than 20 years, along with other cleanup events. As time has gone by, Grant said, she’s seen a culture change.
“When we first started hosting clean-ups, trash was everywhere and it was always a problem,” she said. “Now I see people with their own buckets and grabbers, and they’re going out to pick up trash because they like doing it.”
City of Lodi staff hope the challenge will keep the city moving in a positive direction, and document cleanup data that shows the city’s progress.
“We’re calling on the public to take some personal responsibility and in a way, self-govern themselves, where you take part in it because it’s fun and you do it with your friends because that’s more fun, but you’re also helping to keep our water and our streets clean,” Grant said.
The City of Lodi has paid for a 12-month contract with Litterati, which can be extended if the first year of the partnership is successful.