Cleveland has a litter problem. Can plogging be the solution?

Heads up, Merriam-Webster: there’s a new word on the block. It’s called “plogging,” and it’s happening right here in Collinwood.

 

Stephen LoveA hybrid concept combining the Swedish phrase plocka upp (to pick up) and jogging, plogging is the act of picking up trash while jogging. The idea originated in Sweden back in 2016 and is picking up momentum around the world—with races taking place in Malaysia and Canada, and Oprah’s magazine posing the question, “Is plogging the new jogging?’” in its April 2019 issue.

 

Stephen Love and Allison Lukacsy-Love want to bring plogging to their Collinwood neighborhood—and eventually all of Cleveland. That’s exactly why they’ve started Cleveland Plogs, a new monthly jogging meetup and street cleanup.

 

“We want to seed this idea across the city,” says Love. “Whether you’re on your own or part of a group of folks that do a weekly run, you can work this into your routine. Plogging becomes an ethos, a culture shift—where [picking up trash] is just something you do when you run.”

 

The Loves are hosting the first Cleveland Plogs meetup next Wednesday, March 27. The jog will start in the Waterloo Arts District and wind its way through a two-mile stretch down E. 156thSt. and Lakeshore Blvd.

To add an extra element of fun, they convened a group this week to build a decorative rolling trashcan with a basketball hoop attached, and Lukacsy-Love says they plan to wear bright T-shirts and fanny packs for maximum eye-catching impact.

 

“It adds some fun and spectacle to it, and raises awareness of what we’re doing,” says Lukacsy-Love. “Hopefully there will be some people out on the streets or sitting on their porches who notice us and want to get involved. It’s a fun way to get a mix of exercise and earth-friendly tasks into your routine.”

 

Love is no stranger to mobilizing the community around cleanup efforts—having started the Euclid Beach Adopt-a-Beach campaign (affiliated with the Alliance for the Great Lakes) a decade ago.

 

“Back when the state park managed the park, there was a significant need in terms of cleanup and maintenance, but when the Metroparks took over, the narrative and need shifted a bit,” says Love. “It became apparent that the volunteer impact could be even greater if we took that work into the streets, where trash is accumulating. Plus, we’re still essentially doing beach cleanups—because we’re cutting off the trash before it gets into our waterways.”

 

Along with the first Cleveland Plogs meetup, the Loves are also helping to spearhead the third annual Big Clean event on April 6—which pits residents of Euclid and Collinwood against each other in an effort to see which community can collect the most trash. Last year, more than 200 people participated to pick up over 300 bags of trash.

 

Looking forward, Love hopes that the practice of finding creative ways to combat litter will spread across various Cleveland neighborhoods.

“There are so many communities in the city—imagine if each one of them wanted to take this idea on,” says Love, adding that they’re working on enlisting everyone from Collinwood school track teams to senior walking groups. “We’re trying to bring as many audiences as possible into the cleanup space.”

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As a Cleveland native and enthusiast, Jen Jones Donatelli is thrilled to take on the managing editor role at FreshWater. As a full-time freelance writer and editor for more than a decade, Jen has contributed to publications including Redbook, Budget Travel, GOOD, Playboy, Thrillist, Cleveland Magazine, Los Angeles Confidential, San Francisco, Ohio Today, and many more. She is also a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland and a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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