The story of LitterButt is simple but the firestorm of it's launch is where the real magic began.
Senseless littering has always been a pet peeve of mine and while I was on a trip to Baltimore's Inner Harbor in 2003 I was amazed at the amount of litter not only in the water but I stood there and watched as people discarded their cigarette butts all over the place -- despite having a trash can a few feet from them. I spurred the conversation with my friend Jamie and she, a former smoker, told me that they need to "make ashtrays more accessible." More accessible.. at Inner Harbor? There are trash cans every few feet and storefronts with them as well! Our discussion (a.k.a argument) lasted for a while as our spouses stayed as far away from us as they could.
As a quick out, Jamie stated, "You're just one person -- you can't change them all." That's all I needed -- a challenge to change the world.
I pondered for a few months, "What can I do to solve this problem?" ... and it finally hit me. I'm a web developer by trade so why not leverage what I do for a living by creating a web site for cigarette litterers. Who cares, right? The next idea was to send a letter to each Senator when a report was entered -- but I researched and found out that it's the Department of Transportation that is responsible for the roads and the boss is the Governor. The site was quickly created and put online and somehow someone found it... and called me!
Apparently Pennsylvania has a Litter Hotline which allows commuters to call and report litterers from their cell phone -- who knew? Within days the manager of the project called me to join forces and Pennsylvania was receiving electronic reports of all PA litterers entered into the site. Texas had a similar program and they joined on as well. Within a month or so North Carolina contacted me and they now participate!
During this time the Philadelphia Inquirer contacted me for an interview and they were very curious about this cause, even accompanying me to the one intersection of my commute where there were literally thousands of cigarette butts piled high. I had no idea when the article would appear but it happened over Memorial Weekend 2003, one of their largest circulations ... and the firestorm has not ended!