The fitness craze that’s improving health and the environment
A fitness craze that saves the planet, brings communities together and improves your overall health? Welcome to “plogging”.
Originating in Sweden, the phenomenon simply involves jogging while picking up rubbish along the route. While some conscientious runners have adopted this habit as a solo endeavour to clean up their neighbourhood, the plogging trend has made it a sociable, communal affair.
“No matter what level of fitness you have, plogging will be the perfect activity for you.”Credit:Stocksy
The idea picked up speed in 2018 as more and more plogging groups from places as diverse as Iceland, Britain, Italy, Canada, the US, India and Venezuela shared their experiences on social media.
As opposed to most fitness crazes, which require expensive memberships, an arsenal of equipment and an exceptional baseline of fitness (CrossFit anyone?), plogging is a simple affair. All that’s needed are sneakers for jogging, sunscreen, comfortable clothing and gloves for picking up rubbish.
Melbourne-based Karin Traeger (also known as the Plastic Runner) says her plogging adventures began in 2018, when she was training for her first 100-kilometre running event.
“I noticed the big amount of rubbish in my local training grounds, Yarra Bend Park,” the 31-year-old says. “I started picking up litter until my pockets were full, when I decided I need to take some action and organise an event.”
She held her first plogging action in April 2018. “I encouraged friends from my running community to come to help. The event was a success, so I decided it would be a monthly habit to say thank you to the parks I use for my training and enjoyment.”
Although Traeger is a highly experienced runner who also snowboards, climbs rock faces and hikes, she is adamant that plogging is accessible to everyone. With experience as a volunteer working with vision-impaired people, she knows the importance of inclusive sports.
“No matter what level of fitness you have, plogging will be the perfect activity for you. It’s more a jog than a fast run. The slower you go, the more you find. That is why we also organise walking groups apart from our running one.”
Traeger has run more than 20 events. These have mostly been held at Studley Park in Melbourne’s Fairfield, but also at Warburton, Torquay, Princess Park and now in Sydney.
“Sharing this whole experience creates awareness and demolishes this misconception that picking up rubbish is someone else’s job,” Traeger says. “We are all in this together, and we should look after our home no matter if that lolly wrapper isn’t yours.”
Even those who don’t have a high base rate of fitness can join in. An ideal entry point in Victoria is Beach Patrol, which is an organised network of beach-cleaning groups, each of which is defined by its suburb and named according to the relevant postcode. So far this year, Beach Patrol has collected 12,281 kilograms of rubbish spread across 5344 volunteer hours.
Another group similar to Beach Patrol, which has 3500 volunteers, is Love Our Street, made up of people who pick up and weigh the litter they find on their local streets. For a decade now, Love Our Street members have dedicated at least an hour each month to collecting litter with others in their community.
While these groups are not, strictly speaking, involved in plogging activities, their clean-ups do involve an hour of walking and picking up rubbish, so to all intents and purposes they are plogging without the faster pace of jogging or running. “We wrote a phone app, called Litter Stopper, for anyone to record litter,” says Ross Headifen of Beach Patrol 3207. “The results are online at litterstopper.com/emaildata for all to see.”
Adds Traeger, “Environmental education is something that needs to be addressed and improved, especially around the topics of pollution and the impact of plastics. What plogging groups provide is a fun and inclusive concept that brings communities together to give a hand to the natural places we love and enjoy.”
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale August 25.
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