With warmer weather finally arriving, pathways, cyclist trails, and boardwalks across Canada will soon be busy with locals who are eager to get a socially-distanced cardio workout in. Due to the current COVID-19 safety measures, your local indoor fitness facilities may be closed, which means Mother Nature is currently operating as one big gym. With the great outdoors receiving more foot traffic than usual, some of the city’s waste bins have been sighted at their full capacity, and unfortunately, sometimes this means that garbage ends up on the ground.
April is Earth Month, and one of the easiest ways to help the planet is by safely picking up trash on your walk or jog, whether it takes you to the beach, in a park, or around the city. One such trend, known as plogging, is growing in popularity across Canada due to the powerful impact it can make on communities at a grassroots level.
What is plogging?
Plogging is an environmentally-friendly trend that began in Sweden and has made its way around the world. Combining the words “plocka upp,” which is Swedish for “pick up,” and “jogging,” essentially, plogging is collecting garbage on your daily run, walk, or jog, an activity that many good-natured people have been doing for decades.
Some sources say that plogging was invented in 2016 by Swedish skier and trail runner, Erik Ahlström. Since then, thanks to the rise in social media, the plogging movement has become incredibly popular with people of all ages. In fact, #plogging now has 173,000 photos and videos on Instagram, and #ploggingrun has more than 10,000! Various accounts devoted to celebrating the act of plogging can also be found on most social media platforms, as people are encouraged to share their trash collections.
Why should you plog?
Plogging comes with many benefits. Here is why plogging should be the next outdoor fitness trend you try:
It’s good exercise
Exercise has been linked to a spike in endorphin levels within the body, which can increase overall happiness. As it turns out, random acts of kindness, like picking up trash, can too. Plogging can also burn even more calories than your average run, walk, or jog, because you’re incorporating different movements throughout your workout, and you might even alter your route in search of plog-worthy finds. Plogging also involves more interaction, a “rewards system” if you will, which can be stimulating for those who find the constant linear pace of a jog or a run boring.
Plogging might save wildlife
We’ve all seen our share of heartbreaking images of animals affected by plastic waste. Every year, Canadians discard three million tonnes of plastic waste, and only an alarming nine per cent of that is actually recycled. This means that the majority of it ends up overflowing in landfills, and another 29,000 tonnes end up in places it shouldn’t. Spring in Canada means that many animals are nesting, including Canada geese, squirrels, raccoons and other birds, who are prone to picking up waste by accident when sourcing nesting materials, or ingesting garbage while feeding. Plogging, especially in conservation areas, wooded trails, or parks, will help to make these habitats safer for the animals who live there.
Plogging helps the community
Strong communities start with the people who live in them. Taking care of your city and keeping it clean shows that you care about the place you live, work, and play in. Plogging is happening in communities across Canada, big and small, as more and more people recognize the importance of keeping cities clean. According to the CBC, a trainer from Stratford, Ont., Daniel Fuller, even started a Facebook group called Plogging Canada. The group currently has more than 300 members, and it’s public, so anybody can join and share plogging-related content.
How to stay safe and sanitary while plogging
With the majority of Canada still under lockdown restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety should remain top of mind while plogging. Here are a few tips to keep the experience sanitary:
- Wear latex gloves, or bring a pair with you to put on while you collect garbage.
- Bring your own reusable, empty plogging bag to collect trash in.
- Don’t pick up any broken glass or sharp objects bare-handed—consider bringing along a pair of sturdy work gloves for potentially hazardous trash.
- Bring your phone: sometimes, spotting a piece of garbage means you’ll divert from your planned running route. Bring your phone just in case you need to pull up a map, call a friend, or provide updates on your location.
- Pack sanitizer to use once you’ve dropped off your waste in a local bin.
- If you manage to pick up a lot of litter during your plogging route, check your local municipality for a waste or drop-off centre to discard your collected garbage.
Are you ready to plog?
Despite the Government of Canada recently pledging to become plastic-free by 2030, plastic pollution is on the rise. In Canada, 15 billion plastic bags are used every year, and shockingly, 57 million plastic straws are used every single day. While the statistics are alarming, Canada’s plastic problem can be reduced. Simple, everyday activities like plogging are the perfect example of how every individual can make a difference for the planet, while also enjoying a host of health benefits, including increased physical activity, a spike in endorphins, and getting outside to enjoy nature.
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