How to Start Plogging (or Eco Running) to Help Reduce Litter

How to Start Plogging (or Eco Running) to Help Reduce Litter

Recently a few friends have passed on articles about the latest craze called “plogging.” Plogging is apparently the latest fitness craze in Sweden. Where you run (jogging) and pick up trash (taken from the Swedish term “plocka up”).


Yes, when Sam started eco running in 2007, it was essentially the exact same thing. He was featured in magazines and on the news, worked with several campaigns and partnered with the Carlsbad marathon to help them make their runs more eco-friendly. At the time, it seemed like a novel idea but as he freely admits, he couldn’t believe no one had given the act of running and picking up trash a name before, because he was sure he wasn’t the first guy to come up with it.

Thankfully there are plenty of eco runners and ploggers out there, like author David Sedaris and this Minnesota man featured in Runner’s World. For good reason too–plogging (or eco running, whatever you call it) is an incredible workout.You’re bending down, doing squats, running off road and on trails…plus you’re helping the planet! What’s not to love?!

So, whether you prefer the term, eco running or plogging, the important part is getting started! (Note: we personally prefer eco running of course, but we also love all thing Swedish, so the plogging idea could stick!)

Here’s how to start plogging (a.k.a. eco running) today!

1. Remember to bring a bag

When you’re picking up trash, you’ll need somewhere to put it. BioBags, compostable waste bags are an option because they’re biodegradable. What we’ve found however, is that they’re a little less-than sturdy and having a bag that breaks open mid run defies the purpose of picking up trash in the first place. It’s a good idea to use a cloth “ditty bag” or simply a bag made from a tee-shirt and line it with the biobag. You can wash the cloth bag regularly.

Another options is to use a paper bag. Lunch sacks are thin enough not to weigh you down, but help you avoid putting more plastic in the trash. Experiment with different bags to find what works best for you. A cloth bag with a biobag liner seems to be the lightest, easiest to carry option we’ve found. Hook it to your belt loop or a waist pack.

2. Be prepared to get a little dirty

Of course, when you pick up trash, you’re going to get a little dirty. Avoid touching anything that looks bio-hazardous (like needles, yikes!). Most trash is paper-based–food containers, wrappers, etc. There will also be plastic, which is the worst because it never goes away. Most plastic bottles can be recycled, and honestly, touching the isn’t so gross.

If you’re super squeamish about touching garbage, a simple pair of yard gloves or stretch knit gloves (like the little ones you wear in the winter) will protect your hands while you run. Another options is to carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer in your waist bag or pocket, just in case. Wash your hands when you get home. It will be okay–I promise.

3. Wear good shoes

Part of the fun of plogging is that you get to use it as an adventure. You’re going off road, exploring the trail. Plus, you really get familiar with the surrounding terrain. When I go for a “regular” run, I usually zone out to the sound of music or podcasts coming from my headphones. I barely notice my surroundings. When you eco run or plog, however, you become aware of your surroundings.

You also become very aware of just how much trash people throw out. It’s pretty horrifying. Even if you run in a suburban neighborhood, wear shoes that are sturdy and go “off road.” You’ll occasionally need to wade through some puddles or dirt to pick up garbage and litter. Be prepared.

4. Mix up your Plogging route

If you run in the suburbs or city, you may find your usually route starts to get really clean! First, when this happens, pat yourself on the back! You’re making a difference! One of the most satisfying parts of eco running is that you can see the results of your hard work. In fact, it really doesn’t take much effort to make a big impact.

When you start to notice your regular plogging route is looking clean, it’s time to move to the next area. Use MapMyRun or another app to plot out various routes and new patterns. It’s pretty exciting to see just how much ground one runner can cover when they’re taking personal responsibility for the environment.

5. Don’t limit yourself to running

Here’s the deal with the terms “eco running” and the term “plogging” they both imply you can only do them while running/jogging. But surprise (duh) you can pick up trash all the time–you don’t need to limit your clean up to your runs.

Even my mom, who’s not a runner but a regular walker, takes a bag with her and picks up garbage along her route. The aforementioned, David Sedaris has covered 60,000 steps a day, walking and plogging in West Sussex, which is a HUGE amount of walking. Both Sam and I organized eco walks with the elementary schools we’ve worked at. Kids love it and it’s a great way to clean up the campus. You don’t need to be a runner to clean up your environment.

6. Promote it to others

At the heart of Ecology Runner is the idea that we want to help others live a healthier lifestyle, both for themselves and for the planet. We started blogging (plog-blogging?) with the plan to inspire our readers to make easy, simple changes that have a big impact on their world. If each of us takes just a small amount of responsibility–picks up a few pieces of trash on our daily travels, for example–we can cause real change to happen.

Don’t keep your plogging a secret. Let others know you do it and enjoy it. Personally, we’ve been so touched by the many people who have proudly told us they’ve started eco running, organized a recycle drive, cut back on meat in their diet or started to live more sustainable lives because of reading our blog. Keep the momentum going!

If plogging is the latest fitness trend, let’s make it a trend that sticks! Think of the difference it would make if each of us did a little to clean up our world! Together we CAN make an impact.


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