Coming back to campus in the fall amid a pandemic was scary. I will be the first to admit I was uncertain how the school year would look or if it would be as fun or rewarding as my previous semesters. One thing I knew for sure was that to get through these difficult times, I would need to stay mentally fit. For me, this involves getting plenty of physical activity, and I especially enjoy running outside. Sometimes, after having been cooped up in my room all day, I can forget how amazing it feels to breathe fresh air, but it’s so restorative!
One day in the fall semester, I was on my usual running route, and I started to think about all of the trash littering the streets and sidewalks. I ran past this garbage almost daily without actually doing something about it, and that bothered me. But on this run, I decided to start picking it up and depositing it at the next trash can or recycling bin I encountered. It actually felt pretty good working out and picking up trash! It was almost like I was having a double adrenaline rush. In retrospect, I guess this makes sense since I’m both a sustainability geek and a workout junkie.
When I arrived at home that day after my run, I went online to see if anyone else enjoyed this idea of picking up trash while exercising. What did I find? There were dozens of articles and news headlines with this activity that they referred to as “plogging.” I found out plogging was simply defined as spending time walking or jogging, enjoying the fresh air in your neighborhood, and picking up littered trash along the way. It occurred to me that no matter where you are, whether on campus or at home, plogging is something almost all of us can take part in to create a more sustainable community — even during a pandemic.
Benefits of Plogging
- Mental and Physical Wellbeing: Plogging is a great way to monitor your mental and physical health. As you plog, you get the opportunity to walk, jog, bend, squat, and stretch all in one activity. You also get a chance to put aside other stressors and let your mind enter a sort of meditative state. You’d be hard pressed to find a more productive form of exercise!
- Environmental Care: It’s important to keep our natural spaces just that — natural. Litter can take hundreds to thousands of years to break down, and can be harmful to wildlife and waterways. In Ann Arbor as in many other towns, the litter that enters the storm drain isn’t filtered out before it reaches local rivers and streams.
- Building Community: Picking up trash helps create a sense of community on campus (or wherever you reside). When you see others picking up litter while you are out, be sure to share a shout out of encouragement! I certainly hope to see plenty of ploggers on my running route this term!
How You Can Get Involved
When it came time to start planning for this year’s Campus Race to Zero Waste, I thought back to my plogging days before the bitter cold of winter struck and thought, “Why not try and start a plogging initiative at U-M and get others to start doing this too?” So, I reached out to some other sustainability geeks, and we planned an event during the 6th week of the Campus Race, from March 7th to March 13th.
I’m now writing to you requesting we link arms (figuratively of course because of social distancing) and join in on the plogging efforts! Whether you signed up for the Campus Race to Zero Waste or not, pick a day during the week of March 7th and take a lap around the block or around the whole town and pick up the litter you see while you are outside. And, if you want to have a little social media fun while you are at it try out the #UMPlogger hashtag and share about your experience!