What do you think when we say Miami? Clean pristine beaches, bikinis, piña coladas….right? Well, Miami is not free of plastic pollution. Being a busy touristic destination, Miami could give the false feeling of cleanliness and perfection, but Kaiti got realised of how much help her beloved places needed, and decided to take action to make Miami, and the planet, a cleaner place!
Kaiti is the Founder of @we.snapback, a local initiative to keep Miami clean and spread the word about environmental awareness. She comes from a small town at the tip of New Jersey, called Cape May. However, she spent most of her childhood and college years moving interstate, ending up in Miami when she was 23. With a degree in Marketing, and having worked in hospitality her whole life, she had the opportunity to work opening a few venues in South Beach. Part of her job was related to managing social media, having studied its influence on our generation. Mixing all this, she decided to start WeSnapBack, to help spread awareness about the growing issues related to pollution and the environment.
How long have you been running this initiative?
I can actually put an exact time frame to this because my social media movement hit me like a ton of bricks one day. It started in May 2016 and has been a passion of mine that has grown by the day ever since. I never littered, but I also never really picked up after other people until WeSnapBack started.
And how did you come out with the idea?
I am not a very athletic person, so I can't say that I have ever plogged, but I do walk a lot and pick up trash by hand. This was something that called me from within when I had experienced how badly Miami Beach was littered by inconsiderate/drunken tourists. It wasn't until after I started my social media accounts for WeSnapBack and searched hashtags until I discovered there is a whole, beautiful community of people all over the world trying to spread awareness and inspire people to join our efforts.
Do you usually do it solo? Where do you typically clean?
I do clean up alone. The whole idea of WeSnapBack is for every person to pick up 1 piece of trash per day during their daily routine. I have also joined and hosted many group cleanups in efforts to spread awareness of my movement with like-minded people. However, I was only disappointed to find out how difficult it is to plan the right time coordination between different schedules, the right location that is close enough to where everyone lives, the right time of day for ideal weather, etc. This struggle made me focus more on sharing how easy it is for us all to grab 1 piece of litter per day doing...whatever it is we do throughout our day. Whether you're walking to the store, walking back to your car in a parking lot, or leaving the beach from your day in the sun. There is always an opportunity to grab a piece of trash at least once per day.
Why do you do it?
Oddly enough, although it is ultimately my goal to clean up the planet, pollution issues were not my initial motivation. I was actually frustrated with my colleagues and the fact that none of them was doing their jobs properly and me always having to pick up the slack. I would constantly say to myself, "If I want something done, I have to do it myself." I would then walk to get my lunch or to the bank every day and see a ton of trash littering the streets, day after day the same trash would be there. Frustrated with the fact that if someone wants to buy a Gatorade and drink it, they should be responsible enough to dispose of it properly, I then began to think "whose job is it to clean it up now? The city, the business who is behind the littered sidewalk?" As I passed the trash every day, I realised that whoever's job it is, they are not doing it. Then my motto returned to my head about "if I want something done (which I did) I would have to do it myself." Every day I would grab a few things here and there, but after a few days, I started to think of how great it would be if everyone else in the world grabbed a few things. One day, our planet would be clean if everyone joined me. Once I started to think about how to spread my efforts, social media and the movie "Pay it Forward" came to mind, and the rest is history. Good deeds are contagious, and it works!
How has been the response from your community and followers?
Amazing! With my goal being to get a WeSnapBack movement in every country, I have reached 50 countries and over 300 cities and states in those countries. Check out my map here.
What do you think is your biggest problem?
Time. My movement is about doing as much as you can everyday, but with my busy schedule, I wish I had more time to clean up the planet and work on building my network and awareness. Slowly but surely, I will make as much progress as possible until Ellen DeGeneres finally answers my fan mail! :)
Were you active before starting WeSnapBack?
No, not really. I do not have a car, so I walk a lot, but nothing else physical.
What is your best advice for cleanup newbies?
Start small. Don't feel pressured to the point that cleaning up the planet feels like a chore. Doing what you can here and there will turn an every day activity into a good deed, and you will crave it more and more. You will become more aware of your impact on the environment and start making other lifestyle choices; once you pick up 50+ plastic bags you will buy a reusable, you won’t ever use a straw again, you’ll inspire your friends to join you, and so on. Starting slow leading to making a significant impact by it becoming something your passionate about opposed to an obligation.
And do you have any personal reasons that motivate you in this mission?
If I’m honest, I love to see people influenced or doing good because of me. I have many friends and other accounts that have started by tagging WeSnapBack and have never posted about cleaning up the planet. It is great to see their efforts in helping the planet, but feels great to know that it’s because of me :)