At the Audubon Center at Debs Park, a group of 30 or so volunteers showed up for an early Saturday morning “plogging” expedition, the sixth of its kind organized by Michelle Tarian and Tyler Locke.
“I wanted to give back” said Tarian. “I like volunteering. I think if you have free time on the weekends, you should. And it's also a really great reason to get up early, experience the quietness before the chaos of the city starts.”
The term “plogging” is a combination of the Swedish "plocka upp," meaning "to pick up," and "jogging," and it's really just that -- jogging combined with picking up trash.
“I was reading online,” said co-organizer Tyler Locke, “and I found some article about jogging and picking up trash in Sweden. I thought it was great idea.”
Plogging groups are popular in Europe already and now the craze is catching on here in the U.S. for people who like to combine fitness, volunteering and environmentalism.
Tarian and Locke organized their plogging events through LA Works, a non-profit that seeks to make volunteering the norm in Los Angeles.
LA Works’ Denise Flaten explained first hearing the word.
“We're all like, plogging? We don't know what plogging is, but [Tyler] explained it to us, and it's a really fun get together,” said Flaten.
Volunteers come from all over Los Angeles County, of all ages and backgrounds. They jog a pre-planned route which is spotted with drop-off points for the garbage they collect. The city then later collects the trash from these drop-off points.
“The volunteer population in Los Angeles is very different from in other cities, I think,” said Flaten. “Number one, there's a lot more millennials. Number two, it really is more part of our social fabric than people realize.”
Cindy Lee, a first-time plogger, explained how she got involved.
“I just googled it. I just wanted a volunteer opportunities outside so this looks interesting. And my brother lives in Finland, and this is a Swedish thing, so I was feeling that connection,” said Lee.
Ploggers were told to avoid picking up any dangerous items and as they moved their way through the neighborhoods and up into the Debs Park trail, the jog became more of a hike, as well as a chance to chat and make new friends.
“It feels good to volunteer,” said Tarian. “You don't always want to wake up at 8 a.m., but it feels good once you do it. So I think that kind of keeps people coming back.”
For those who enjoy staying fit and cleaning up the environment, plogging makes them feel like they're on top of the world.