Exercising for the Environment

January 23, 2020, Department, by Lindsay Collins

2020 February Park Bench Exercising for the Environment 410

If you are an eco-conscious runner, jogger or walker who has made an effort to clean up your favorite trails by picking up litter along your route, you may be part of a fitness movement that is bringing health not only to our bodies, but also to our planet. The activity, called “plogging,” originates from the term “jogging” and the Swedish term plocka upp, meaning “to pick up.” As the name indicates, the activity combines jogging with picking up litter to clean up trails, waterways and more. For participants, benefits of plogging include an additional sense of accomplishment from incorporating community service into a typically individualized workout. For communities, the benefits are cleaner pathways and public spaces, and engaged citizens who contribute to the health of their neighborhoods.

While it began in Sweden and its popularity grew through social media, the trend now is making its way to communities — often through park and recreation agencies — across the country. Park and rec professionals from Maine to Tennessee have begun organizing group plogging outings to bring these benefits to their communities. In 2018, the Washington, D.C. Parks and Recreation Department celebrated Earth Day with a plogging event that “[gave] residents a unique way to clean their neighborhoods." In Johnson City, Tennessee, community members were invited to “join a friendly [eight-week] challenge aimed at improving personal health while beautifying Johnson City." And, on the South Portland, Maine, Facebook event page, its plogging outing is advertised as “a great way to break up your normal exercise routine by combining squats, lunges and weighted arms to your jog.”

Are you thinking about organizing a plogging event for your community? A new app, called Litterati, may be able to help. Users of the app photograph the litter they collect to track and document the impact they are making in their cleanup efforts. The app also provides a local challenge feature, where groups can create community-wide challenges to make the activity a shared experience. Within a “challenge,” the app tracks the progress of not only each individual, but also of the larger group. You can host a plogging event or create a plogging challenge in your community to get people outside, exercising and contributing to the health of their community.

Lindsay Collins is the Associate Editor for Parks & Recreation magazine.