Plogging (no, we’ve not made a mistake—it’s not blogging) has made its way to the United States, landing in Riverdale on a recent Monday morning. Plogging is the Swedish fitness craze for people who want to save the planet. A mash-up of jogging and the Swedish “plocka upp,” meaning “pick-up,” plogging groups have appeared in Sweden and other areas of Europe, with joggers running along trails and collecting litter in the process.
Rabbi Joseph Robinson, director of community engagement at the Riverdale YM-YWHA, having viewed a video of people plogging along Swedish trails, thought the idea was so cool and simple, he wasn’t sure why more people weren’t doing it. Referring to the Jewish concept of “tikkun olam” (repairing the world) and wanting to engage the community, Robinson, along with Nadeem Kazi, director of fitness & wellness at the “Y,” decided to combine the two elements of “repair” and “exercise,” encouraging the Riverdale community to do something good for their neighborhood and for themselves.
“Our hopes and intentions filled us with the desire to be change agents,” explained Robinson. “Most people walk or run in this city. Most people can see the devastation we are wreaking in the community by trash in the street, on the sidewalks and in the bushes. So why not follow their lead (the Swedish) and help the problem in a small way?”
On Columbus Day, a day off from school, heavy morning dew turned into a dreary day. But students, professionals, activists and community members showed up to go plogging and walked the west side of Riverdale Avenue down toward 252nd Street. With gloves and trash bags in hand, the groups covered roughly two blocks in one hour. Clearly, the bending and squatting provided lots of exercise. The group collected and sorted trash, filling five large bags of waste and two bags of recyclables, which they brought back to the dumpster at the “Y.” From a humble beginning, with virtually no cost involved, excitement mounted as the event was posted on social media showing Riverdale residents taking care of their neighborhood. People expressed support and interest in joining the next plogging event, while offering cheers of encouragement to the community-minded participants.
By Yvette Finkelstein