A mishmash between exercise and environmental activism, plogging is a Scandinavian-inspired activity that can help you and the environment. Learn more about plogging, and see how enthusiast Paul Waye practices it in daily life.
Going for a run on a bright, sunny day makes for a great time, but that outdoor jaunt can be easily spoiled by the sight of discarded garbage. Sometimes there may even be a creeping feeling of guilt for not picking up said litter, but is there an outlet for this moral quandary? Luckily there is, and it’s called plogging, a lifestyle movement from Scandinavia that mixes running and garbage. Find out more about this extremely trashy way to get fit.
What is plogging?
The name “plogging” is reported to have originated in Sweden, but more specifically, it comes from blending the Swedish word for picking up trash—plocka upp—with jogging. Voilà: plogging.
Rather than wasting all that energy on a treadmill, this environmentally-conscious activity encourages runners to pick up trash while they’re out for a jog. You can pick up as much or as little trash as you like—most people aim to fill up at least one plastic bag—and there’s no need to sign up to get started.
Litter breeds litter, and the more garbage that piles up in a particular area, the more likely people are to dispose of their trash there. That’s why plogging—which is essentially jogging with an environmental conscience—could be a brilliant way to contribute to greener, healthier communities.
How to help the environment? Be the change you want picked up.
To understand how a passionate plogger operates, we reached out to Paul Waye, pictured, a 54-year-old British man and 10-year plogging veteran who prides himself on picking up 100 kilos of litter every month in his current homebase in the Netherlands.
Waye says that you don’t have to show silent righteousness while plogging, and in fact, “Let people see what you are doing – the more obvious you make it, the more impact you can make by inspiring others, and that’s why I post so much on social media. Plus, don’t think you need to do as much as I do. Having one person pick up 1000 bits of trash is awesome, but I would rather have 1000 people picking up 1 piece of trash each.” If the amount of miles and trash Waye logs seems daunting, he’s got a solution for getting started, saying, “Start small, and just pick up a single piece of trash on the run at the start, and then enjoy the run!”
Plogging will make you healthier
There are tons of health benefits associated with plogging, one being that it imitates interval training, or shifting back and forth between fast and slow speeds while walking and running. Interval training has been shown to help burn more calories, be more efficient, and improve aerobic capacity versus regular running. Waye can confirm that plogging works, and with 4,000 kilometers of running a year logged, he says, “Plogging helps keep my speed in check, and it may sound weird to say this, but I am actually a faster runner because of plogging!”
Plogging may also be great for your mental health. You’ve heard the phrase “runner’s high,” right? Well, that’s a real thing. Running leads to an increased level of endorphins, otherwise known as nature’s opiates. They surge in your brain’s prefrontal and limbic regions, producing that euphoric feeling many runners report after a particularly tough session.
Waye adds that with plogging, there’s an added sense of mental fulfillment through helping the community, “Often I hear people shout ‘Well done!’ and ‘Thank you!’ Receiving those wishes is so wonderful, so I immediately smile and feel a nice glow. Plus there is a chance that my plogging will cause a positive ripple effect.”
Things to be aware of when plogging
Although plogging has many health benefits, running with a weight can pose several risks. Plogging can create an imbalance if you run with a weight on one side. This can lead to neck pain and trigger your risk of injury when you perform movements that require strength from both sides of your body, like a push-up. To stay on the safe side, switch hands while you carry litter, carrying your bag for an equal amount of time on both sides.
Waye also has important advice about being aware of your surroundings. “Always think about traffic. Sometimes you can get carried away if you spot some trash and rush to pick it up, but always look around first for traffic, and definitely wear gloves for obvious safety considerations.”
Try group plogging for more fun while jogging
If you want to make an even bigger visual effect in your community, try plogging together with your friends and family. In the event of not having any interested takers from your own social circle, consider creating a plogging event where you can enjoy the company of strangers while being unified under one mission. Finding a local plogging group is as easy as typing “Plogging groups near me” on your preferred search browser. For example, if you find yourself in the state of Massahcusetts, you can find local plogging groups, or you can search on Meetup and other social communities.
There are several tips Waye suggests for enhanced public plogging:
Split into groups and see who gets the most trash
If you are part of a regular running group, consider plogging the first half and then the second half devote to running
Turn up the vibe and try DiscoPlogging. Bring a portable loudspeaker on plog group events, and play club music. Have fun, dance, and enjoy the great conversations with passerbys inquiring about plogging.
Whether you decide to plog solo or together, taking time to pick up trash while out and about is a public statement in support of living in cleaner communities and a healthier world. And many thanks to Paul Waye for his service, and for taking the time to tell us more about plogging.