The next new ‘cool’ word is here! Plogging it is!

Move over the Danish concept of hygge and its equally cool follow-on, the Swedish lifestyle goal of ‘lagom’. Welcome 2018’s bang-on-trend new word and new activity: plogging. As in, running and picking up litter.

‘Plocka upp’ is Swedish for ‘pick up’. Combine this with that universal word ‘jogging’, and the result is plogging. This laudable concept has caught the imagination of the world, as runners happily pitch in to do their bit to clean up the litter they see on their daily jogs.

When a word goes viral, makes it to Wikipedia and gets its own app, all in a matter of days, you know that this is something big. Plogging is really nothing more than going for a run and picking up trash, but if a cool word and Instagram feeds help encourage more people to ‘plog’, then so be it.

The Swedes have been plogging since 2016, but it was only in the early days of 2018 that the concept went truly global. Within no time at all, plogging groups and plogging Instagram feeds sprung up all over the world, including here in India.

Fit and clean The ploggers of Delhi Special arrangement

Fit and clean The ploggers of Delhi Special arrangement  

For more years than I can remember, I’ve always picked up rubbish. It has always seemed pointless to go for a walk, or a run, or take the dogs out for exercise, and passively accept the rubbish that blights so much of our world. Instead of averting one’s eyes to the litter, to the plastic bags, to the soft drinks cans and the chips packets — just pick the wretched things up, and dispose of them properly.

From here, it was an easy step to connect with like-minded friends in the Delhi running community, and — we’re very proud of this — long before the word ‘plogging’ burst onto the trend-scene, we were cleaning up after our training runs.

So seriously, what does it take to plog? A bag or a box to dispose of the trash. Gloves, if you feel the need. And a few minutes out of your day — often the most difficult thing to find.

Midweek, it’s normal that people have to rush off to get ready for work and the school run, but even just five minutes can make a visible difference. Whether we are just two people or many more, we try and do a quick-fire clean-up of the park where we train. Sadly, the amount of rubbish we pick up is astounding, but what is the option? Ignore it? Run through it, past it, side-step it? Pretend it’s okay?

That has been the approach the world over for far too long, but perhaps the sudden, bordering-on-viral popularity of plogging, is what is needed to help change the mindset of “it’s not my job to pick up other people’s rubbish”.

Ripu Daman, a Delhi-based marathon runner and cyclist, decided that if Instagram and Facebook can help advance a noble cause such as plogging, then we should use technology to the full. So, jumping on the plogging bandwagon, our pre-existing Instagram & Facebook accounts ‘My city my responsibility’, were rebranded as @ploggers_of_india and Ploggers of India.

Our philosophy? Whatever it takes to catch people’s attention and motivate them to pick up and clean up.

The next stage, of course, will be to try and educate people not to litter in the first place, but for the moment, our approach is to do our bit, day after day, one run at a time. And yes, of course, we have a hashtag #runnersforchange!

For all of us, the best moment of any plogging session is when a stranger joins us and helps out. Usually what happens is that someone walking in the park slows down to see what on earth this group of sweaty people is doing, and when we tell them and they volunteer to pick up garbage with us — well, that’s another convert.

For runners, you can rationalise the bending over, squatting down, lunging and stretching to pick up trash as exercise. For slower runners, stopping to clean up gives you a welcome — and legitimate — respite. Or as we do, you can run, check out the lie of the land, and then ‘plog’ afterwards as you cool down.

The thing about plogging is that while it is definitely motivating to do it with other people, as we do in our running group, you can still go out there, all alone, and clean up, and know that you are making a difference.

Take Delhi-based cyclist, Rakesh Bhalla. For over 20 years, Rakesh has picked up, cleaned up, never once losing the faith. He is a keen cyclist and says that cycling around Delhi allows him to see things that need fixing or cleaning. Day after day, without fail, he cleans up a Delhi park, and remains cheerfully optimistic that things will improve.

So, lace up those running shoes, and turn your jogs into plogs.

The writer is a full-time Delhi resident; writer, blogger and runner, who ran her first full marathon at 62, but still can’t get her hair to stay in place

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 9:20:38 AM |

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