Part of the joy of being at the cottage is being outside, enjoying nature—until a sandwich wrapper ruins your view. Or a plastic bag. Or someone’s carelessly tossed coffee cup.
According to the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a national conservation program that facilitates community clean-ups, the most commonly found pieces of litter in Canada are cigarette butts, tiny pieces of plastic or foam, and food wrappers. There’s a lot of litter out there—on beaches, along hiking trails, and at the side of the road.
Fortunately, there’s a solution—one that combines caring for the environment with being outside and getting fit.
It’s called plogging.
Originating in Sweden in 2016, “plogging” is a portmanteau of the Swedish plocka upp, meaning “pick up,” and jogging.
Literally, it means to pick up trash while you’re out for a run—but as it’s become popular around the world, plogging has progressed beyond simply jogging.
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Now, people plog as they walk, hike, kayak, and cycle, adding a little extra socially responsible activity to their fitness. There’s even a national group, Plogging Canada, on Facebook, where members share photos of their “finds” and create communities of ploggers across the country.
Being outside, taking care of the natural world, getting active—could there be a more perfect cottage activity?
Here are some tips for getting started:
This is a no-brainer, right? Gardening gloves are sturdy and can protect against sharp objects—and they’re washable, which means you won’t be creating more litter. These days, it’s a good idea to carry a small container of hand sanitizer as well.
Compostable trash bags are best, but they’re not always very sturdy on their own—and no one wants to deal with a messy broken bag mid-plog. The solution? Use a cloth laundry bag or a pillowcase, then line it with a compostable bag. When you’re finished plogging, toss the compostable bag, and wash the cloth one. For a smaller option, use a reusable lunch bag lined with a paper or a compostable green bin bag.
Be careful about what you pick up
It’s a good idea to avoid anything that looks like it might be biowaste, such as needles, plastic gloves, or disposable face masks. If you do choose to pick up discarded PPE (and there’s a lot more of it these days), consider using a “trash picker” stick and wash your hands often. Leave discarded needles alone completely—these require special handling and disposal.
Be mindful of your surroundings
If you’re plogging on the roadside, always walk facing traffic, and stay well back from vehicles. On hiking trails, stay aware of your surroundings to make sure that you’re not surprised by unfriendly wildlife or fast-moving cyclists.
Find different places to plog
Hop in your kayak and see if there’s litter along your lake’s shoreline that needs collecting. Head out on your favourite walking trail. Wander down the dirt road outside the cottage (facing traffic!). Check out the local beach. Litter is everywhere, unfortunately, so there’s always somewhere that needs cleaning up.
Make it fun
If you’re plogging with your kids, make it fun. How much trash can you pick up in five minutes? How many red pieces of trash did you pick up? Can you pitch your trash into a garbage bin or blue box from a metre away? (Pick it up if you miss, of course.) How about two metres? Keeping a graph of the trash you’ve collected can be a fun motivator, as can before-and-after pictures of the area you’ve cleaned.
Organize a group—in person or virtually
Once it’s safe to gather in groups again, make your plogging efforts go even further by organizing a group plog. Give out prizes for the most pieces of trash collected, the farthest travelled, or the heaviest bag. Don’t want to get together in person? Connect with your local cottagers group, and organize a virtual, socially distanced plog. Determine a time limit, then encourage participants to post pictures of their collections on social media.
Have you been plogging at the cottage? Tell us about it!