I was looking through my Instagram feed one day last week when I came across an account by GRABBITS. It was love at first sight. There were all these posts there about collecting trash on the beach and reducing one's waste footprint. What I loved most about it was that it was fun and playful but also purposeful, goal-oriented and driven. It was then that I decided to contact them (GRABBITS) to learn more about what they do and if it would be okay if I did a feature article about them for TEG. They replied quickly, with Toby J. Brown, the founder of GRABBITS.org contacting me with helpful information.
In Toby's own words, "#GRABBITS is a social media game that offers monthly sustainable prizes for people cleaning up their communities and reducing their waste footprint (think #IceBucketChallenge but for confronting plastic pollution). Its main function is to encourage, enable and inspire people to take action without prompting, anytime anywhere. We also have an image toolkit on our website for anyone to take on the challenges in their communities and get local businesses/organizations to offer their own local giveaways. We hope people will take our logos/images to make their own creative footprint on the project, it's very much built by the community for the community! We've only been operating for less than a year but have seen engagement in over 80 different countries around the world on Instagram and are trying to boost engagement across Facebook and Twitter!"
GRABBITS is on Instagram as @justgrabbits and their page already boasts of over 8500 followers. Their slogan, 'grab it, snap it, bin it, tag it', encourages followers to do their part in keeping the environment clean by picking up litter around their communities. Littering is a big problem in most parts of the world and not only does it affect us humans, but also all other animals. For instance, plastic has been found in the stomachs of birds, whales, turtles, camels, deer, fish and even zooplankton; a problem with fatal results. GRABBITS realizes that even though picking up trash is not the upstream solution, it is necessary and arguably the most effective way to mitigate the fallout of unsustainable packaging design harming our biosphere.
So what exactly is their modus operandi? Well, first off, there's the daily challenges. These run from Monday to Monday and are open to everyone (all their programs are). There's Scenic Bits Sunday where you grab it, snap it and bin it. Then there's Mirrored Monster Monday for trash monsters made out of rubbish. Next comes Trash Free Tuesday where you share your community cleaning with the organization. Then comes Catch of the Day Wednesday where the aim is to share catches from and around the waterways. After that there's Thoughtful Thursday where you have throwbacks that make you stop and think. Next up comes Four for Friday where you grab four bits and tag four friends and lastly, Selfless Selfie Day Saturday, in which you take a selfie while doing pick-up. Looking at these challenges, they are very youthful, which is probably why they've had big hits and are getting even bigger. Aside from the daily challenges, there's also the any day challenges called Helping handful where you pickup a handful of trash while you're on your way, any time, any day and Find it, fill it where you find a discarded bag/glove/helmet, generally something that be used to carry other things, and you fill it with bits that you collect.
Unlike other giveaways that lean heavily on competition, GRABBITS leans more towards cooperation. Sharing their message across social media platforms and getting others in your community to join in a pickup or getting local businesses involved for your own giveaways are the kind of things that will catch their attention most. Their challenges are by the community and for the community, as clearly stated on the website.
To Toby, GRABBITS has been a vehicle for him to personally connect individuals with non-profit organizations in their area, with the most notable example being in Southern California where when people started finding bio filters washing up, he reached out and connected them to the CoastKeepers in their area. The CoastKeepers conducted an inspection and as a result issued a Staff Enforcement Letter and are holding the facility accountable at $10,000 a day for every day they don't fix the discharges into the Pacific Ocean, which makes one less source of plastic pollution into the ocean!
A subset of GRABBITS is a Facebook group called W.A.S.T.E. Bytes works to connect community leaders around the world with information, discussions, videos, images, and anything that relates to waste and sustainability. As Toby put it, "I'm hoping we can start sharing successful policy measures and anything that can facilitate change around the globe. I created this because picking up will only ever be consumers mitigating the fallout of unsustainable design, blame and accountability is wrongly offset onto them. The real long term solutions come upstream from incentive schemes on all packaging materials to ensure their capture and reprocessing as well as extended producer responsibility of products that are not sustainably designed. Can you imagine if a cigarette butt was worth 10 cents? Do you think we'd find them everywhere if that were the case?"
I could tell from my exchange with Toby that he is very passionate about his cause. What's even more impressive is how far GRABBITS has come, given that it has been a lone whale project of his. He plans to have the game instruction manual translated into as many languages as possible and is very thankful to all those who've shown support and commitment to the cause. I encourage all of us to head on by to www.grabbits.org to learn more about the organisation and to take part the many different challenges. GRABBITS is also open to those who would like to drop some zero waste knowledge or to share their art made from recycled trash. Just tag #GRABBITS on your posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook posts.