As the spring thaw lays bare the discarded waste of winter, many Canadian fitness enthusiasts are trying to spread the word about plogging, an eco-friendly exercise mashup that combines the endorphin rush of jogging with the environmental benefits of picking up trash.
Plogging is a portmanteau of jogging and the Swedish phrase “plocka upp,” meaning pick up, and the premise is as simple as its name suggests.
Rather than racing past the rubbish strewn along their route, ploggers pick it up to be disposed of properly, and if they’re feeling ambitious, try to squeeze in a few exercises in between pieces of trash as they fill up their bags.
The Swedish-exported fitness craze has gained a small but zealous following in Canada as ploggers try to connect with one another by showing off their trash hauls on social media.
Melanie Knight in Vancouver has taken up a 30-day challenge to collect litter for 10 minutes every day, which she has documented on Instagram with the #10minutetidy hashtag.
She regularly posts selfies of her smiling brightly alongside some of the strange debris she has come across during her daily runs, including a leather belt, a children’s toy, and ironically, a dustpan.
Knight, 33, said she discovered the plogging phenomenon on social media, and as a marine biologist and longtime runner, the concept immediately appealed to both her environmental and athletic sensibilities.
“It just seemed like the perfect combination of kind of making a small change while doing something I’m already doing on a daily basis,” said Knight.
“These ocean issues that I face as I work every day as a marine biologist can be incredibly daunting, but feeling like there’s just 10 minutes of work to do … can make it fairly digestible and manageable to feel like you’re making a difference.”
Knight said she never fails to fill up the paper bag she totes as she runs along Vancouver’s seawall trying to picking up trash before it finds its way into the stomachs of marine animals.
She said it can be hard not to get dispirited by the seemingly Sisyphean task of cleaning up her normal route only to have the garbage reappear a few days later.
“It’s a little endless,” she said. “I could continue doing this forever. Everywhere I walk, I could be plogging, and that’s of course impossible.”
Daniel Fuller, a 32-year-old trainer from Stratford, Ont., said he launched the Plogging Canada Facebook group so Canadians could join in on the fitness movement that has been sweeping across the globe.
In a matter of weeks, the group has garnered around 300 members, and Fuller said he hopes that number will grow this spring as Canadians look for ways to get active in the great outdoors.
For those who dread the monotony of jogging, Fuller said plogging offers a more interactive cardio option that allows people to work different muscle groups as they bend, squat and lunge to pick up trash.
It can also be a group activity, he said, giving neighbours an opportunity to get to know each other while beautifying their community.
“Getting groups to come out, get a good workout in with me and clean up the community a little bit, might help other people just to come out and enjoy the fun,” he said. “It’s a win-win in my book.”
Heidi Sinclair, a 32-year-old day-home provider in Calgary, said she has a stable of little helpers in the form her two children and the tots she looks after as she tries to pick up litter in the city’s northwest end.
Sinclair said she’ll often turn it into a game for the youngsters, challenging them to race from one piece of trash to the next or search for items on a scavenger hunt.
She said plogging is a way to keep kids active while teaching them a valuable lesson about picking up after themselves.
“You need to set an example. It starts with our kids,” she said. “Getting fresh air, fitness and care for Mother Nature and their environment … I think it’s so important to teach your children these things.”
As she nears the finish line her for March challenge, Knight said she hopes fellow joggers join in on the plogging craze so they can work together to make a lasting dent in the litter that mars their community and puts their ocean life at risk.
“What I really would love to see is that this movement catches on and that everyone is doing it, and I think the more you see it, and the more you clean … there’s no way you’re going to put garbage back on the ground,” she said.
“If this picks up, maybe I’ll find other ploggers when I’m running and we’ll high five.”
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press