OKC Beautiful coordinates hundreds of litter cleanups each year, with a network of several thousand volunteers. In 2020, outdoor adventure organization Riversport OKC approached them about focusing efforts on waterways, and in a collaborative partnership, the River Protectors program was created.
The idea for River Protectors came from Brent Allen, who upon taking a position as the Lifestyle Director at Riversport OKC, came to realize how much trash was accumulating along the banks of the Oklahoma River.
“There is nothing we can’t solve with the collaborative good of our community invested in changing things for the better,” said Brent Allen, Lifestyle Director at Riversport OKC. “What we are invested in is absolutely not optional in protecting our waters in Oklahoma. I want to personally thank Todd Vinson from EOTE coffee and Lowe’s Home Improvement for providing clean up supplies from the start in 2020. And, I want to express gratitude to my friend Jeff Kirschner who created the app we use to collect data, Litterati.”
The program is two-fold. In addition to picking up litter, data is collected on the types and amount of litter being collected. Using the Litterati app, volunteers track the location of each piece of litter, its type of material and object, and if there is a brand associated.
Seeing the effectiveness of this data collection process, this methodology has now been applied to all OKC Beautiful clean up events. The goal is to use the data to better understand litter sources, educate about the types of materials being collected, and share results with businesses, policymakers, and organizations to encourage more systematic change.
“The collaboration with Riversport and our volunteers is leading the way to make real difference in our community,” said Lisa Synar, Executive Director of OKC Beautiful. “We are honored to receive this recognition from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful who shares our mission to educate and inspire behavioral change for the next generation.”
In 2021, 213 people have been trained on how to use the app to collect data, and have created over 17,000 data points.
“We are so fortunate to have an incredible network of volunteers in Oklahoma City,” said Natalie Evans, Program & Marketing Director for OKC Beautiful. “We work with people who are passionate about making a difference in the community, improving our City, and being part of something bigger than themselves. Programs such as River Protectors are only able to have this reach and impact because of our community volunteers. The great news is that everyone can be part of making a difference.”