The global running community is well-known for its love of the outdoors.
After all, running for kilometers on end staring at your elapsed time on a treadmill just won’t compare to the sights and sounds of running your usual neighbourhood route or getting out on the trails. Running outdoors enables us to form close connections with where we live, and where we love to run. Watching the sun come up (or go down, depending on when you like to get your runs in), hearing the birds chirp, appreciating the subtlety of seasonal change – it’s these and so many other types of sensory connections that can build into a greater appreciation for the environment, and motivate us to initiate action to do what we can to protect it.
Queue the intro for the mighty running trend of plogging.
The term plogging was first used in Stockholm, Sweden in 2016 by Erik Ahlström. It is a verb combining the words “jogging” and “plocka” – the Swedish word for “to pick”.
Plogging is picking up litter while running. Since 2016, plogging has grown in popularity – spreading globally with many runners plogging independently and socially – keeping local running routes and trails litter free.
Environmental Benefits of Plogging
One of the biggest environmental benefits to plogging is that it prevents wildlife from chancing upon it. Litter can pose a dangerous threat to local wildlife, especially for animals that end up ingesting it.
Moreover, litter can also find its way into local streams, lakes, and ponds. Properly disposing of litter found while plogging can help ensure that it does not wind up in our oceans, mitigating it from posing further risk to marine wildlife.
Mental Benefits of Plogging
Plogging offers mental benefits in addition to the environmental.
I often find it difficult to take it easy on runs – even when I set out to have a casual run. Going out on a run with the intention of plogging puts you in the mindset that you are going to be starting and stopping frequently to pick up litter. Having an unstructured running routine centered around plogging is the perfect opportunity to truly have a leisurely run – one where you stop and appreciate your running route, while also doing what you can to make it a better place.
How to Plog: Plogging and Safely and Disposing of Litter Properly
Plogging is fairly simple. All you’ll need is your typical run kit, gloves to protect your hands and a bag or container to keep the litter you collect in. Consider also bringing hand sanitiser or a small grabber tool to collect litter with as well.
Remember to take your time, be safe (do not pick up dangerous materials such as glass, barbed wire, syringes/medical waste, etc. – here is a good resource for how to collect litter safely), and stick to areas that you are familiar with.
Finally, proper disposal of the litter you collect after you plog is also important to reducing environmental impact. Be sure to separate recyclables and general litter, as well as follow municipal litter disposal guidelines and rules.
Plogging Independently and Socially
Whether you’re looking for a way to take action on Earth Day or World Clean Up Day, one of the best things about plogging is that you can do it whenever and with whomever (obviously we are in a pandemic, so do consider local COVID restrictions/guidelines if you choose to plog socially).
Plogging is a great way to take you out of your running comfort zone while simultaneously offering a small but actionable way to minimize environmental impact beginning in your local environment.
Final Thoughts on the Plog
It’s no wonder that plogging has taken the global running community by storm. Many runners have a deep appreciation and connection to the outdoors, as many of us run the same outdoor routes and trails week in and week out.
Making the effort to go plogging allows us to leave these places a little better than when we found it – which is something that is always worth doing.
If you’re looking to get in on the action and are looking for inspiration check out the hashtag #goplogging on IG as well as the Instagram @goplogging to learn more.