Klas Molin, Sweden’s Ambassador to India, plogging. Photo: Jennifer Ehrenström.
It’s healthy and eco-friendly. Plogging – picking up litter while jogging – is a craze that’s made tidying up outdoors trendy – and not just in Sweden. In the past year, plogging has spread around the world.
There are currently plogging groups in more than 40 countries, and the Swedish word plogga has made its way into other languages, including English (plog), German (ploggen) and Italian (ploggare).
We can only speculate how the plogging movement will develop in 2019, but it started with Swedish multisport athlete Erik Ahlström.
After 20 years in Åre, a small skiing community in northern Sweden, he returned to the capital of Stockholm and was shocked by the amount of litter around the city. It was at that moment he decided to make a difference.
“For several years I’d been wondering how to change a behaviour that I see as a sign of a dysfunctional society that has no respect for each other or the Earth – namely littering. The same trash could remain in the same place for several weeks without anyone picking it up, so I started picking it up. It warmed my heart to start cleaning up, even though it was a small area,” says Erik Ahlström.
To spread the trend, he started the plogging initiative – groups of joggers picking up trash while exercising together. The hope was that more people would see the need and start making a difference for the environment while also getting exercise. Just how your exercise is less important, according to Erik.
“Plogga is a blend of the Swedish words plocka upp skräp (pick up litter) and jogga (jog), but you don’t actually have to run or jog. You can plog along the street, the golf course, while biking, paddling or swimming, or just while out walking,” he says.
Two years after the craze was born, it’s now clear that Erik Ahlström’s desire to inspire others to plog has been achieved. Several Swedish missions abroad, including the Embassy of Sweden to India, are among those who have jumped on the plogging bandwagon.
“As soon as we saw that plogging had started to spread in India, too, we wanted to do something to benefit from this new Swedish concept. After an inspiring meeting with the founder of ‘Ploggers of India’, we had found an obvious partner,” says Klas Molin, Sweden’s Ambassador to India.
Ploggers of India’s Ripu Daman explains how they had an idea of building a network across India to spread the message about how citizens could take responsibility for litter.
“The network has gradually grown and now we have ploggers throughout India, in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and New Delhi”.
Which city in the world will be next to fill up with ploggers remains to be seen.