From Jogger to Plogger

Steven Goldstein, MD, FAAP

Steven Goldstein, MD, FAAP

Steven J. Goldstein, MD, FAAP is a general pediatrician in Queens and Climate Heath Organizing Fellow at the Center for Health Equity Education and Advocacy (CHEEA).  He is AAP Chapter Climate Advocate for District II and Chair of NYS AAP-Chapter 2 Committee on Environmental Health and Climate Change.  He is past president of the NYS AAP-Chapter 2.

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.”
– Stewart Udall
, former US Secretary of the Interior

I spend a lot of time walking with my dog Bella and those walks help keep us both fit and grounded.  When I was younger, I was an avid jogger, but injury and time have slowed my pace to walker and hiker.

As I walk around the neighborhood it is striking that there is so much litter and debris in our streets, and in common areas.  This is a quality of life issue and the litter is not only hard on the eyes but also on the environment and ultimately on our health and that of other species.

Much of the litter I see comes from uncovered trashcans that gets blown around, but if you spend some time on the roadways you will see much thrown from vehicles and by people on the street.  Litter seems to attract more, and in areas with an abundance, it seems that people in the vicinity don’t care, so more is deposited.  A lot of litter in our neighborhood is pandemic related.  There are used masks and gloves everywhere.  Less people smoke cigarettes now, but you see vaping canisters in abundance instead of butts and used packs.  This refuse ends up in our waterways, and often wends its way into bays and the ocean, poisoning or choking sea life, and may end up in the food chain. Plastics rings often strangle birds and can choke other animals.

It is interesting that in Japan, one rarely sees a trash can.  The train stations and streets are spotless.  Everyone holds their trash and disposes of it properly.  We need to make it unacceptable to litter here as well.

In the meantime, on my walks, I have become a plogger.  Plogging is a portmanteau word and what follows is an explanation of what it is and how to do it from the technology site BGR India:

Plogging means pick up and run.  Here, you pick up any trash you see on your way, put it in a trash bag, and run.  Sweden has people running with trash bags, and it’s slowly catching up globally.  Called Plogging, the Swedish word is formed by combining ‘pick up’ and ‘run.’  And with the new trend, trash bags are what people are picking up and running.  You see trash on your way, you pick it up.  In all, it’s good for your body, good for your mind and good for the environment around you.  Though it started off with Sweden, it is catching up all around the world.  Instagram is buzzing with the new plogging hashtag.  If you look it up, you can see ploggers from all over the world sharing their routes, and their trash bags.

Terry Swearingen, winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work on dioxin and heavy metal emissions, said this: “We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.”  I would argue that things haven’t changed much since she made this statement in 1997.  We can make a small contribution to change that.

I invite you to carry a trash bag on your walks and help improve our environment, make litter unacceptable, and the neighborhood more beautiful.