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Sierra Sumner headshot

Plogging: The Hot (and Environmentally-Friendly) Fitness Trend

By Sierra Sumner

Seeking a new way to inspire your employees and clean up the local environment? Consider “plogging.”

Picture this: you’re running beside the river, music pumping, sunlight coming down and there’s a slight breeze. Everything is beautiful, the grass is green and flowers blooming, but then you see all the empty soda bottles, the gum wrappers, and tiny bits of Styrofoam littering the ground. This is not a rare sight. Plastic waste affects communities around the world as it piles up and damages ecosystems. In today’s times of microplastics and ever-increasing trash, it can be difficult to see how individuals or communities can contribute to the larger good and make a difference. But one way has been “plogging,” which has gained notoriety on social media platforms, including Instagram, to promote how a person can do their part to clean up their communities.

You may have plogged before without even knowing it; or you’re about to start now.

“Plogging,” a term that combines the Swedish phrase plocka upp (to “pick up”) and “jogging,” was coined by the Swedish in 2016 and has only recently scored more attention in the U.S. So how can you get started?

All you need is a jogging outfit (running shoes and comfortable athletic clothes) and a trash bag (maybe some gloves too!). It is a cost-efficient way to propel environmental activism and this is something that you can do today. Plogging focuses on picking up garbage that you see on a run, thus incorporating squats into your workout and environmental benefits.

Plogging also has physical benefits, since it adds variation to a run and actually burns more calories. As noted in the Washington Post, “the Swedish-based fitness app Lifesum, which earlier this month made it possible for users to track plogging activity, a half-hour of jogging plus picking up trash will burn 288 calories for the average person, compared with the 235 burned by jogging alone.” Plogging can help bring a new routine to a daily workout and gives runners (especially novices) the opportunity to take breaks while running.

The environmental nonprofit Keep America Beautiful has recognized the growing trend of plogging and its affiliates have hosted plogging events, during which volunteers plog and pick up pounds of garbage. As Mike Rosen, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Keep America Beautiful wrote in a blog last year:

“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. Plogging is brilliant because it is simple and fun, while empowering everyone to help create cleaner, greener and more beautiful communities.”

Keep America Beautiful offers on its website some suggestions for how you can start plogging:

  • Plogging routes - Choose a route heavily littered, but also safe.
  • Materials – Be prepared and make sure you are equipped with gloves, bags, water, and a litter picker, if desired.
  • Safety – Your plogging route most likely will require crossing streets. Always look both ways when crossing and wear gloves when picking up litter. Stay away from picking up sharp objects.
  • Disposable – When your plog is finished, properly dispose of products in the correct recycling or trash bins.
  • Show off – Show off the hard work you have done and post about it! The organization recommends using the #KABPlogging hashtag, as well as following it on Instagram to be connected to the plogging community and stay informed. The #plogging hashtag across Twitter and Instagram can also help you stay posted about what’s going on in the world of plogging.

Plogging is not only an individual activity, but can actually be implemented into company practices, as part of a volunteer initiative or a partnership with a local affiliate. Plogging can help build a community of people, both local and online, who are interested in working together to make a difference. It only costs the price of some trash bags, gloves, and your spare time.

It’s a hands-on experience that creates change in places that you frequent -- such as near work or around the community in general, allowing for like-minded individuals to meet and work together to clean up the area.

Plogging connects to people on a larger scale because of its trendiness on Instagram. Through promoting plogging, this tactic could engage younger audiences on Instagram who care about sustainability and environmental preservation, as well as healthy living. This can promote a positive company image online.  

More journalists, including Allison Klein of the Post, have covered how Keep America Beautiful continues to showcase plogging as a way to encourage trash-free communities. Keep America Beautiful’s Rosen told Klein when the nonprofit distributed its #plogging message to its approximate 600 affiliates, the answers they heard were astonishing. “People started saying ‘we do things like this already,’” Rosen said in the Post interview. “In Tennessee they do an event called ‘Trashercize’ that combines exercising with cleaning up community.”

Lizzie Carr, an environmentalist who helped set up Plastic Patrol, a nationwide campaign to rid our inland waterways of plastic pollution, stated that "anything that's getting people out in nature and connecting positively with their environment is a good thing," in an interview with the Telegraph. "There's been a real shift in the public mindset around plastics, helped by things like Blue Planet highlighting how catastrophic the crisis is," she says. "We need to keep momentum high and the pressure up and empower people through initiatives like plogging and Plastic Patrol."

Plogging has also caught the eye of environmentally-friendly companies. Fjällräven, the Swedish outdoor apparel and equipment company, has recently started to hold plogging events in the U.S. In addition, the soy beverage brand Silk has also promoted plogging,  encouraging citizens to share and promote their plogging experiences on social media. In fact, Silk created a petition to add plogging to the 2028 Olympics. Nancy Fishgold, senior manager for external communications for Danone North America, which owns Silk, stated that “adding plogging as an official Olympic event would be a meaningful step toward making the world a better place,” as reported by Melissa Locker on Fast Company.

While trash pick-up days are not a new concept, plogging can encourage a healthy lifestyle while decreasing the amount of litter in our public spaces. And we will have to wait and see if it could be the newest addition to a more sustainable Olympics!

Image credits: Keep America Beautiful; Fjällräven San Francisco/Facebook

Sierra Sumner headshot

Sierra Sumner is a senior at University of Massachusetts Amherst studying English and Legal Studies. She is a writer with interests spanning numerous topics, including sustainability and travel, consumer impacts, and legal policy. She is also a mentor and editor for other writers at the UMass Writing Center. Sierra is from Massachusetts, California, and Hawaii. 

Read more stories by Sierra Sumner