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Have you tried plogging, the Instagram trend that might be the sustainable sport of the future?

Plogging is a portmanteau of jogging and the Swedish word for “pick up.”

Have you tried plogging, the Instagram trend that might be the sustainable sport of the future?
[Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images]

I was scrolling through Instagram last week when an ad suggesting I go “plogging” caught my eye. I decided not to look it up on Urban Dictionary, but assumed it would be there, and wouldn’t be pleasant. The next day an email in my inbox asked me to sign a petition to make “plogging” an Olympic sport. As an Oregonian, I figured it must have something to do with logging, because if there’s one thing I learned at field day in lumber country, it’s that log rolls are a good way to work up a sweat. But it turns out that plogging doesn’t involve logs. It involves garbage: It’s a fitness craze imported from Sweden, and it just might be the sustainable sport of the future.

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“Plogging, a verb, is the mashup of jogging and the Swedish ‘plocka upp’ or pick up,” explains Nathan Dopp, CEO of the North American branch of Swedish outdoor company Fjallraven, which has started hosting plogging events in the U.S. The term seems to have been started by a Swede named Erik Ahlström in 2016, who was looking for a catchy name for his favorite pasttime. The activity combines exercising in the great outdoors–hiking, jogging, or any sort of exercise will do–with picking up trash, like discarded bottles, plastic bags, leftover chip packets, or whatever other waste humans have left in their wake. It appeals to health enthusiasts who want to add some altruism to their workout. In other words, just bring a bag when you exercise outside, and pick up trash while you do it.

Plogging is becoming downright trendy, too, with Instagrammers snapping selfies with garbage and uploading the pic. To date, there are over 59,000 posts on Instagram with the hashtag “#plogging” and another 12,000 for #plog. There’s an energetic mom fitting some trash collection into her busy schedule, a self-professed “trash goblin,” an Oregonian, and a Londoner naming and shaming brands he finds littering the ground. Of course, one doesn’t have to be on social media to enjoy picking up the place a bit. Author David Sedaris is such a fan of trash collecting while walking, which is in fact plogging, that his town christened a garbage truck in his honor.

As with most trends, as plogging picked up and became fashionable, brands got interested. In addition to Fjallraven, who makes sustainable practices an ongoing corporate commitment, soy milk company Silk is also getting in on the trend, which they have been keeping an eye on since early 2018. “What resonated so much for us is that plogging is a simple thing,” explains Nancy Fishgold, senior manager for external communications for Danone North America, which owns Silk. “It combined two awesome things that people were already doing to create a small step of progress for the larger planet.” On Earth Day, Silk encouraged people to go outside and plog and share photos of the waste they collected on social media using the hashtag #PlogForProgress. (Only one person seems to have used the hashtag.)

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In addition to promoting plogging on its social feeds, Silk is working to make plogging an official event in the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The company created a Change.org petition encouraging the addition of the environmentally friendly activity to the roster of games, where it would exist alongside track and field and swimming, as well as new additions like skateboarding, surfing, and potentially break dancing. Plogging would be a good fit, as the committee has pledged to try and make the 2028 Olympics the most sustainable in modern history.

“Adding plogging as an official Olympic event would be a meaningful step toward making the world a better place,” says Fishgold. It’s not as odd of an addition to the Olympic roster as you might think, since painting and sculpture as well as tug-of-war, pistol dueling, one-armed weightlifting, and solo synchronized swimming were all considered Olympic material in the past. As to how to make plogging competitive, well, Fishgold wants to leave that up to the experts. “We could see it being anything from fastest time to most trash collected,” she says. For Silk, though, it’s more important to shine a spotlight on plogging than to create the rules of a new competitive sport. “We at Silk believe adding plogging as an official event would symbolize meaningful progress toward an important goal,” says David Robinson, senior brand manager for Silk, in a press release.

Plogging isn’t the only way that picking up trash has become trendy. The viral #TrashTag challenge has racked up 82,000 uses on Instagram as people and communities band together for litter patrol and share the results online. While organizations like Leave No Trace have been preaching this particular gospel for years, cleaning up the planet has suddenly become cool. It’s a bit like someone said, “Pick up litter, but make it fashionable,” and then actually pulled it off.

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About the author

Melissa Locker is a writer and world renowned fish telepathist.

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