Thanks to the lovely people of Sweden, this new eco trend is sweeping the country clean.
Plogging, the fusion of the Swedish words ‘plocka’ – pick up and ‘jogga’ – jogging, is the activity of litter-picking while jogging. Said to be founded by Erik Ahlström as an organised activity in Sweden in 2016 plogging quickly spread worldwide and over the last year it has rapidly gained enthusiasts.
But it is not just runners who are getting involved, these three women have found ways of incorporating the community spirited pursuit with their regular activities.
The dog walker and cyclist.
Rachel, ‘mum’ to two miniature schnauzers can be found plogging while she’s walking her dogs in and around Hampshire. Often battling with some painful experiences, Rachel tells me “there’s never a day where I don’t find litter, and you forget how much stinging nettles hurt” But she is on a mission to keep her neighbourhood clean and picks where ever she goes.
“I do feel good when I clean up a site and can see the before and after” she says.
But she does not stop there, Rachel plogs when she’s away on holiday. This year, so far, Fort William, Lands End and parts of London have all had a clean up thanks to Rachel.
Her enthusiasm for plogging is such that she has even converted her husband. “He thought I was going crazy for a bit, but he’s fully on board now.”
With over 7000 followers on instagram, Rachel – to be found as @makelitterpickingcool is spreading the word, encouraging others to join in and even organises online make litter picking cool bingo games.
Rachel’s dog walking routes pass close by to two colleges and a school where she regularly finds large amounts of energy drink rubbish. “It infuriates me that these kids are drinking absolute rubbish that they don’t need and then throw it down.”
Cycling to work everyday Rachel says “litter picking on the way to work is a recipe for arriving late” so tends to avoid it until she’s on her way home. But, she laughs “it’s also very hard to gracefully stop, dismount, bend over to get the litter while holding your bike.”
The cyclist and Nordic roller-skier
Theresa is a technical author with a passion for environmental causes and every day plogger in and around Nottingham. On work days she can be found plogging on her regular cycle commute and at weekends she cycles with her family, she says “they know we will be stopping to pick up any litter we see. A pannier is invariably full by the time we return home.”
She explains the biggest hazard for her when plogging and cycling is “jumping off my bike whilst cycling along a busy road” but that hasn’t stopped the environmental enthusiast. Theresa, who completed a PhD in environmental Awareness in 1996 and known on Instagram and Twitter as @itsonlytree recently organised and led a Big Spring Beach Clean along a stretch of the River Leen. She is also a keen participant in #2minutebeachcleans whenever she has the chance.
And of plogging when out Nordic roller-skiing, Theresa laughs “its great to have an excuse for a breather!”
The runner, walker and cyclist
Claire, a nutritional therapist and co-owner of This Mug Life lives near Bristol and has been a picker upper of litter for as long as she can remember.
But it is only recently that Claire realised, when a friend pointed it out to her, that she is a plogger. “I’m trying to increase my fitness by running more and it just made sense to combine the two activities.”
Working from home Claire walks or cycles whenever she can, combining plogging with the school run and trips to the post office to dispatch her mugs.
Trying not to think too much about the frustrations of why or how litter appears in the environment, she says “By clearing the rubbish locally and from our streams, it stops it going into the rivers and in turn to the sea.” She explains that she is “doing it for the greater good of future generations.”
Known in her local area for litter picking Claire regularly gets waves of thanks from the dog walkers who see her with her bags of collected litter. She has even organised community pick ups, which Claire explains are surprisingly easy to arrange, with support from the local council who provide of grabbers, bags and waste collection.
This new year Claire made a resolution and since has been on a mission to pick up at least 20 pieces of litter a day for a year. Now nearly at the end of her year’s challenge she has easily exceeded her daily goal. On Instagram as @thismug.life Claire posts pictures of herself and her latest #365daysoflitter pickings from her runs and walks and hopes that she can encourage others to do the same.
The health benefits
It is easy to appreciate the benefits of plogging to the environment and our local communities but what of the health benefits to those taking part. Luke Bowman of Reform Physio near Cambridge explains.
Running, walking, cycling and nordic skiing are all great ways of improving cardiovascular fitness, improving strength, reducing stress and helping with weight management.
“But unlike these activities alone, to include the action of picking litter up will make use of more of the available range of movement our muscles have to offer.
Not only are you working your hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteals and calf muscles, you are also encouraging movement of the entirety of your back musculature as you bend and twist.
Movements from a large number of joints of the body, ankle, knee, hip, shoulders, elbows and hands are also encouraged. As a result it means you get to use both gross and fine motor control muscles which not only improves strength but also coordination and balance.
Making use of our muscles and joints through full range will potentially help us fend off strains and sprains as our soft tissues become more compliant and better able to tolerate changes in range of movement and position.”