Have you seen unusual groups of joggers and runners breaking stride to pick up litter from the ground?
They’re “ploggers,” part of a fitness trend that migrated to the United States from Sweden. “Plogging” combines the Swedish term “plocka upp” – meaning to pick up – with jogging. Ploggers are an increasingly common sight in Scandinavia and Europe.
Here in the United States, plogging is now catching on among runners, joggers and fitness walkers who are tired of seeing their favorite parks, preserves and beaches marred by litter. Ploggers carry trash bags and scoop up items carelessly discarded by others.
Timothy Chew of Hoboken learned about plogging earlier this year from a friend’s social media post and was immediately taken with the idea. “I thought to myself, “You know what, I’m going to do that,’ ” he said.
Chew organized plogging runs in Hoboken parks on May 26 and June 9 and posted them on the Meetup website. He also recruited members of Free & Fit, a physical and spiritual fitness group he leads.
The first plogging event immediately improved the appearance of the Hoboken waterfront. “We picked up 12 bags of trash between the four of us,” Chew reported. Among the common items they found were plastic straws, coffee cups, cigarette butts, candy wrappers, diapers, snack packaging and old sheets of yellowed newspaper.
“It’s exciting to be doing it, and I think others will follow suit,” said Chew said, adding that the plogging runs were well received by onlookers. “Some parts of the park looked like they had not been cleaned up in a long time.”
The second Hoboken plogging event yielded another 10 bags of litter, and the next is planned for Saturday, July 7, at 10 a.m., meeting at the Jefferson Coffee Shop on Washington Street.
“It’s always an incredible opportunity to serve the community we love and live in,” said Jenn Santiago, another plogger in the Hoboken group. “Plogging has many great benefits that include an intense workout, the opportunity to create community with others, and beautify the place we call home.”
Chew also led a plogging walk for a youth group in Harrington Park. He said the kids alternated between picking up litter and having fun in the park’s playgrounds. “I think they really did appreciate the need to do this and got a good feeling from it,” he said.
Depending on how much trash is on the ground, plogging can be fast or slow.
A colleague at New Jersey Conservation Foundation plogged at a Jersey shore beach on a recent weekend and found herself stopping every few steps: “The wind was coming off the ocean and it blew in a lot of trash, mostly small pieces of plastic – straws, bottle caps, deflated balloons, tangled fishing line, cellophane wrappers, bits of nylon rope and tiny, unrecognizable plastic fragments.”
While plogging causes joggers to slow down, all the bending, squatting, lunging and lifting burns calories and works different muscle groups.
In fact, the Swedish-based fitness app Lifesum, which helps users track plogging activity, claims that a half-hour of picking up trash while jogging burns 288 calories for the average person, compared with the 235 burned by jogging alone.
If you like to run, jog or walk outdoors, you know how discouraging it is to see trash littering a beautiful landscape. Don’t get mad … do like the Swedes do and plog!
Plogging is new enough in this country that there’s no website devoted to the activity. But if you want to find out more, check social media outlets – especially Instagram – and search the hashtag #plogging.
And for information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at email@example.com.
Michele S. Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in Morristown.