If you thought navigating the various garbage dumps and litter during your morning and evening walks was a problem only in India, then think again. Littering is a global problem, and a serious one at that. Which is why the Swedes have come up with a simple, yet effective, way to deal with this issue, giving rise to the latest rage in an altruistic global health trend — ‘plogging’. And, it has now made its way to India.
It comes from the words “jogging,” and the Swedish “plocka upp” (which means — to pick up). Simply, it’s picking up trash as you jog yourself into shape. Said to have originated late last year in Sweden, the idea took over social media (especially Instagram) and was soon adopted in the UK, US, and now even India.
Meet musician Daniel Langthasa and his wife Avantika — entrepreneurs based in Haflong, Assam. The couple learnt about plogging two weeks ago after reading about it on the Internet. They had been procrastinating jogging plans for a while, and at the same time they had witnessed an increase in littering in their town — especially plastic waste like bottles, glasses, chips and toffee packets and wrappers. “We thought plogging would be a good motivation for us to work on our health and at the same time start cleaning the litter we had been seeing all around us,” says Langthasa.
They went out the very next day in the evening, armed with bags and collecting trash wherever they found it. In an hour, the medium-sized bag was nearly full with mostly plastic waste.
“We soon made a video of our plogging experience and shared it on YouTube and Facebook,” he said. Many of their friends loved the idea and wanted to participate. Now, they’re planning a plogging event soon for the community, while they continue their individual plogs. For the duo, it’s a change for life.
Though plogging – in its current form – might be a Scandinavian import, the idea is not new to India. Going one step ahead, the company Indiahikes has been cleaning mountains while trekking and hiking for many years now. Who knows, it could start a new trend named plekking now!
PLOGGING TO PLEKKING?
Lakshmi Selvakumaran, Indiahikes’ Green Trails coordinator, says the initiative began five years ago. “It started organically when we realised that with more trekkers coming to the mountains, the trails were getting increasingly polluted. Each trekker is given an eco bag which they tied around the waist. On the trek, the trekkers participate in cleaning the trail too. They pick inorganic waste throughout the trail which is collected at each campsite, segregated and is disposed through the right means,” she said. Just last year, they collected over 12,000 kg of waste.
The waste is segregated, and they also work with local villagers to develop a holistic waste management system as well.
Down south too, a stir of change is already in the air. Bangalore-based digital entrepreneur Jacob Cherian is all set to host a ‘Plogging Party’ in Kodaikanal for people interested in camping, eating gourmet food and picking up trash in the forest over Easter weekend (March 30 to April 1). Again, with Cherian, it started with a single Facebook post. “I shared a video on plogging. With it, I had jokingly said, ‘we should do this’, And the reaction from my friends was incredible.” Within 24 hours, he had an event in place.
Apparently, the idea fit in well with some of Cherian’s dormant plans from a year back. “Over a year ago I tried to launch a campaign to encourage holiday goers and locals to pick up trash…But that did not take off. I think it’s got a lot to do with the lack of name. Or maybe, it just needed its share of Western validation. But as soon as it had a name — plogging, and a video that said, ‘the Swedes do it’, suddenly everyone was in,” Cherian said, shedding light on how he could take quick action as soon as the trend grabbed attention all across the globe.
PLOGGING IT DIFFERENTLY
While Cherian’s initiative might not fit into the actual definition of plogging, they’re definitely variants. Much like what Goa-resident MC Mathew, who collaborates with people to save the environment, was part of a year ago. Even though it might not really classify as plogging, it shares the same thread of thought of cleaning the environment while strolling or having a good time with friends and family.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time actually, but the fact when I stopped and thought of making more people aware about it was last November. We decided to call in more people, and play music so that people could join in and clean up the beaches while having fun. It was rather small, as we started with friends… but for me, it was a huge initiative. One of the most interesting ways we did it was on a motorcycle ride towards an uphill. My friend decided to climb all the way up, and pick up the trash — which mostly included plastic boxes, packets of chips and bottles, and I carried a big bag to put it in. A few years down the line, I did the same thing on the beaches where I tried to tell people that you could do something about it on your own.”
HOW MORE PEOPLE CAN START DOING IT?
“Enforcing things on people does help – in a big way. Whether negative or positive, but it stirs something in their mind to take it up, perhaps, right then or later,” Mathew said, adding, “The only way we can educate people is by banning it, but it is way too difficult, and the second way could be imposing a fine or some kind of punishment.”
Plogging can be done while you stroll in the parks too, but if you run or jog, the benefits would only double up as a fitness regimen. What’s more, it can be a treasure hunt or a cool get together with friends too. A win-win game, it has the power to inspire many to join in, help pick up the trash and could perhaps make the ones littering the public places feel sorry for themselves too. Wouldn’t you like to lend your hand to make the Earth greener and cleaner while getting fit yourself?