Plogging: The Win/Win Craze That’s Taking the World by Storm

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Plogging: The win/win craze that's taking the world by storm. Plogging: The Win/Win Craze That’s Taking the World by Storm

Imagine a world where running benefits not only runners but also neighborhoods, cities and the environment as a whole. Far-fetched? Don’t be too sure. A Swedish trend that’s slowly but surely spreading across the globe may just be ticking all of those boxes. Enter plogging: The win/win fitness craze that’s taking the world by storm.

What is plogging?

But what exactly is plogging? It simply is a blend between two words: “jogging” and “plocka upp”, the Swedish term for picking something up. The actual term plogging is exactly that: picking up litter on the run.

The initiative was started by environmentalist Erik Ahlström in 2016 after moving from a ski resort in central Sweden to the capital of Stockholm. His first impression of the city was that it “looked like a dump”, causing him to take immediate action. He gathered together groups of joggers, equipped them with garbage bags and gloves, and took to the streets.

Photo by Karien Potgieter.

And the best part? Plogging is for absolutely everyone. You don’t need any fancy gear or equipment; just a bag, a pair of gloves and a willingness to make a difference. “There’s no wrong way to do it,” confirms Laura Lindberg, who’s been plogging since February. Pick up every piece of litter you see, or just pick up what you feel comfortable with. Every bit makes a difference. 

Good for the environment and good for you too

And if you think that the environment is the only beneficiary of this initiative, think again. In addition to the feel-good factor of making a positive contribution to your neighborhood, plogging also offers an increased fitness benefit when compared to running alone. Lifesum, a Swedish-based fitness app that makes it possible to track plogging activity, indicates that the average runner burns around 235 calories while jogging for half an hour. But, when the same runner collects litter on a half-hour run, the number of calories expended jumps to 288. Hello, mid-run squatting and bending!

A time and place for everything

And while picking up litter on the run seems like a no-brainer to some, others may be put off by the logistical implications. Questions like “how will it impact my training pace?”, or “where will I stash all that trash while doing my long run?” may, for instance, spring to mind. The solution? According to Mike Rosen, spokesperson of the environmental organization Keep America Beautiful, plogging should not necessarily replace everyday running. “If you turn your jog into a plog once a week or once a month, or turn your walk into a palk or your hike into [a] pike, you’ll get personal satisfaction. You’ll have an endorphin high from running, and you’ll know you’re helping your community,” Rosen says.

It might, therefore, be more realistic to stick to your normal training schedule for the bulk of the week and save your plogs for easy or recovery run days. Or why not turn it into a monthly event? Gather up all your running friends, set a date, and spend one Saturday morning each month plogging while catching up.

Tips and tricks

And if you’re still worried about the logistics, here are some tried-and-tested tips for setting you off on the right foot:

  • Heap it up. If you live in an area with lots of litter, or you don’t want to carry a big bag of junk while you run, you might want to consider gathering litter into small heaps along your route as you head out. Then, upon reaching your turnaround point, pluck out your bag and make a few strategic stops to gather and bag each heap as you head home.
  • Choose your container carefully. A strong, reusable bag that can be emptied and cleaned after each plog is ideal. Plastic or paper bags may rip if your stash gets too heavy or you brush against bushes and trees on the run. Also keep in mind that smaller bags or containers are easier to handle on windy days. Wrestling with a giant bag that’s about to take flight is no one’s idea of fun on a run!

  • Use what you have. Remember that the idea of plogging is to minimize our collective environmental footprint. So try not to go out and buy a big bunch of plastic bags or a box of disposable gloves specifically for plogging. A reusable shopping bag and an old pair of gardening gloves will do the trick. Use what you have!
  • Properly dispose of your junk. Be sure to always properly dispose of or recycle your trash upon turning home. You don’t want it to end up in the wrong place after all your effort.
Give your runs more meaning

So if you want to give your runs more meaning and leave your neighborhood in a better state than you’d found it, give plogging a try. The general consensus is that you’ll never look back!