I regularly jog to the beach with my dog. Awareness of plastic and thermocol litter slowly turned into paranoia. The small ice-cream cart always parked at its regular spot seems a nuisance than a necessity. Articles as strange as school bags to voodoo dolls wash up along the water’s edge. While some may be too icky, I always pick up at least one strange item and many PET bottles to bring back to the corporation waste bin on the main ECR road (about 1KM). I like to hunt for thermocol and am always rewarded with one large piece of it. I just discovered that this quirky activity is called “plogging”! It started in Sweden in 2016 as a combination of jogging and litter picking. Plocka upp has now become the next big craze, as it appeals to people who care about physical fitness and the environment.
As far as a workout goes, it is being touted as better than jogging as other body movements like bending, squatting and stretching are added to the regular jog routine. The gaining popularity of this trend has found its enthusiasts even in Indian cities. There are some fitness apps (Check out Lifesum) that tracks plogging as well! Running groups are meeting in places of natural beauty to specifically ‘plog’ their way through parks and beaches. They promote discovery of new meanings to exercising outdoors, feel connected to nature with some environmental action thrown in as well.
Could there be a more feel good group activity out there?! An interesting rationale to this behaviour is that plogging is primordial by nature, and stems from the belief that civilized man evolved from the paleo age as a hunter-gatherer. Our prehistoric ancestors walked long distances, and from time to time, would bend over to pick up fruits, nuts, roots and bugs from the ground to eat! The theory therefore infers that plogging naturally emulates human body mechanics.
To some, this may seem like a no good fad, or too small an action to really be making an impact; but every small effort adds up to tackle the massive problem of climate change. The first thing in any of the citizen led movements is the showing of initiative. When there is a visible activity such as plogging on a crowded beach, people will start to notice and at least think twice before carelessly dropping litter on the shores.
Most beaches are littered with food and beverage packing - bags, cups, PET bottles and the likes. Thermocol from fishing boats are also found in plenty. In fact much of the litter on our beaches is of stuff that people don’t really think of as litter. Remains of puja offerings and balloons which were part of some celebration come back later to settle on the shores as non biodegradable waste!
Fads becomes trends for reasons that are compelling and relevant over time. An excellent example would be the versatile handbag — there is one for everyone or purpose. Whether you are in it for the environment or health, take a garbage bag with a pair of gloves for the next jog or walk. Plog away — this is one trend I am proud to be part of!
The writer is an architect, urban designer, dancer and chief designer at Shilpa Architects