Plocka Upp + Jogging = Plogging: A new way of running that is sweeping the nation

Plogging: A New Way of Running that is Sweeping the Nation

One of the best things about Maine is the diversity of landscapes. Whether it’s outside your front door or an hour or so drive to the mountains, the coast or a pristine lake, we get to enjoy a run or walk on beautiful roads, trails and beaches. It doesn’t get any better than this.

But it seems that just about wherever you go these days you find yourself running or walking by trash. More so on the roads but occasionally you’ll see trash on trails, too. A water bottle here, a beer can there. Plastic bags, paper cups, cardboard, Styrofoam. Even used diapers.

Many who run or walk by the trash will shake their heads. But the problem with the righteous-indignation response is the trash is still there on the side of the road. It takes about a millennium or longer for a plastic bottle to degrade in a landfill. Disposable diapers take up to 500 years.

So, here’s a novel idea that a crazy Swede came up with a few years ago: pick up the trash while you are running or walking.

No doubt you’ve heard of plogging by now. It’s a mashup of the Swedish word for picking up—plocka upp—and jogging, and it’s a global “thing.” Not only is plogging good for the planet, but also good for your health. That’s because you use different muscles to bend or squat to pick up trash. Consider it a form of CrossFit minus the type-A trainer screaming in your face.

I confess, I’m a plogger. It helps with my physical conditioning and it makes me feel good to do something positive for the planet. New Year’s Day 2019 was sunny and mild so I decided to go for a five mile plog. Unfortunately I only managed two miles because I hit plogger’s pay dirt. (See photo.) In all, I collected 32 pounds of trash consisting of 54 redeemable bottles and cans, some Styrofoam, two windshield wipers, and a lot of paper, cardboard, and plastic, and a frozen disposable diaper. Yes, I was wearing gloves.

Anyone can plog, you don’t need fancy shoes or moisture-wicking clothing. Just stuff a couple bags in your pocket (reusables are best) head out the door and start walking or running. You don’t know what you’ll discover.

— Text & Photo: Bruce Rayner. Bruce lives and plogs in Cape Elizabeth. He’s Chief Green Officer of Athletes for a Fit Planet and a member of the Maine Track Club. On March 11, the Town of Cape Elizabeth voted to make two weeks a year official Plogging Weeks – the week of Earth Day, April 21-28, and the week of Indigenous People’s Day, October 14-21.

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