‘Plogging’ craze: Pick up litter and get fitter


If you have yet to hear about “plogging,” I am about to let you in on this rising trend.

Originating in 2016, plogging is the act of exercising outdoors while simultaneously picking up litter in your neighborhood. Talk about a two-for-one, feel-good activity!

The term plogging is a portmanteau of “plocka upp,” which means “to pick up” in Swedish and the word “jogging.” It is also referred to as “plogga.”

The movement, started by Erik Ahlström in Sweden, has since “picked up” traction on a global scale. Author David Sedaris has led the way in England, and plogging parties have taken place in France, Germany, Japan, Thailand, South Africa and Nigeria.

The “Keep America Beautiful” organization is pioneering a variety of plogging-inspired programs across the United States, including “Trashercize” in Tennessee, “Plogging NYC” in New York and “Summer of Plogging” in Indiana.

“Litter impacts our quality of life and economic development and often ends up as marine debris, polluting our waterways and oceans and harming wildlife and the environment,” the organization’s spokesperson Mike Rosen said. “Plogging is brilliant because it is simple and fun, while empowering everyone to help create cleaner, greener and more beautiful communities.”

To date, there are about 53,000 posts on Instagram attributed to the hashtag “#plogging.” In our wellness-driven and selfie-centric society, millennials especially are eager to show off this fun, fitness-focused and altruistic activity. The word has certainly spread, with Google searches for “plogging” reaching an all-time peak in February 2019.

People love how plogging adds a sense of adventure and accomplishment to any average workout. While on the lookout for trash, you may feel like an undercover, local hero. Not to mention, the addition of squats and stretches towards the ground will bring new movement to your muscles. Not only will you improve your balance and burn calories, but you will help save the planet!

For those of us who are results-driven, the Lifesum app has made plogging a tech-based, trackable activity. According to the company, the average user burns 288 calories for every 30 minutes spent plogging, whereas jogging on its own would burn a lower rate of 235 calories. Ahlström explains that plogging becomes a “treasure hunt” and teams can get competitive.

When it comes to Minneapolis, our environment is quite clean thanks to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the city’s solid waste and recycling services. Our lakes are lined with trash receptacles for efficient and effortless disposal and our city streets are as well.

Yet, with warm weather comes more barbecues and picnics happening by the lakes, especially along the Bde Maka Ska beaches and the Lake Harriet Bandshell. In time, we are bound to come across the occasional wrapper, pop can or piece of cutlery. According to the MPRB, volunteers collected nearly 5,000 pounds of garbage last Earth Day. There is plenty of work to do!

Locals like 70-year-old Tom Cousins have been plogging for years. “I use the lake every day, so I figure it’s a little way I can give back,” he told Runner’s World.

Which areas have you noticed litter in? In parks? Near rivers? Whether you are on a walk or training for a run, consider exercising in the areas that need a trash tune-up. If you find yourself running and spot a little something, toss it! Why not help keep our nature neat?

I get it, touching trash can be a bit gross. Bring garden gloves or wear a plastic bag over your hands to pick up trash, à la dog waste disposal. And by all means, please do not pick up anything suspicious looking.

Though the original plogging technique involves filling and carrying trash bags, this is not a particularly practical or healthy way to jog, as it can lead to straining one side of your body. I suggest picking up no more than five pieces at a time and tossing them in the nearest bin as you go, instead of waiting until you reach the end of your route.

Onlookers might wonder what you’re doing, so don’t hesitate to educate them on this clever clean-up trend. At most they’ll jump in to join you, at the least you will leave them inspired. Whether going solo, or as part of a team, plogging is accessible to anyone, at any age.

As Ahlström told BuzzFeed earlier this year, “We try to encourage kids — they don’t expect it to be so fun.”

With Earth Day approaching, I encourage you to try plogging. Founded on exercise, the environment and ethics, it is a great way to clean up our community. So next time you are on a jog and notice a tiny, shiny wrapper staring up at you, I hope you get your plog on!

Carly Ettinger is a trend forecaster and writer from Minneapolis. Her experiences living and learning in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and most recently New York, have shaped her fascination with studying cultural trends in health, fitness and lifestyle.