While we jog, we keep our headphones on, distract ourselves from the world around us and go into an altogether different world. However, for G Nagaraj, the meaning of jogging is totally different. He familiarises all of us with plogging, a concept that originated in Sweden in 2016. It is derived from the Swedish term ‘plocka upp’, meaning ‘to pick up.’ With a motto of keeping the surroundings clean, Raj starts his day by plogging in the morning. Nagaraj, who is known as Plogman, started his journey of plogging in 2018. He founded ‘The Indian Ploggers Army’ with a passion for picking up waste and cleaning the nearby areas. He initially started with Bengaluru but today, he is making an impact in different metropolitan cities like Delhi and Chennai. Let’s connect with Nagaraj to understand more about plogging, his mission and his plans for other environmental issues.
1. What inspired you to combine your passion for running with the cause of waste management through plogging?
It traces back to an eventful cycling journey nearly a decade ago. After participating in a cycling event, I saw a few painting greasy walls on a main road on my way back. When I asked the people, their simple answer was “If a place is clean, people will keep it clean & if it’s dirty, they will make it dirtier.” That hit me hard. That’s when I decided to spend time on clean-ups.
Another instance happened when my daughter was born in 2012. We named her “Avni”, which translates to “Mother Earth” in Sanskrit. That name reminds me every day to take care of our planet, just like I care for my daughter.
2. Can you share a memorable experience from one of the plogging events organized by The Indian Ploggers Army?
Although we have many wonderful memories over the plogs, I remember the one at Marina Beach in Chennai. I was out early in the morning, picking up litter while another thin-aged lady, who was a rag picker, was doing the same. Both of us plogged and afterwards, I gave all the trash I collected to her. She felt so happy and thanked me as collecting garbage was how she earned a living every day.
We’ve had many instances where the safayi karamcharis have appreciated our team for joining them during these clean-up events.
There was also a special event at a school where there was a fancy-dress competition for kids. While most children dressed up as doctors, engineers, or teachers, my daughter decided to dress up as a sanitation worker. Her choice surprised many, but it was heartwarming to see the teachers, other parents, her friends, and even the school staff appreciate her for highlighting the important role of a rag picker.
3. What strategies have you found most effective in engaging and mobilising people to join your cause?
Engaging resident welfare associations, and nearby educational institutions, and collaborating with local government authorities has significantly expanded our reach and impact during our plogging events.
Our approach involves initially inviting ploggers to participate in clean-up activities, followed by encouraging them to take a sustainability pledge. This method has proven highly effective in making a lasting impression and fostering a sense of commitment towards our cause.
4. How do you envision the future of plogging and environmental conservation in India, considering the growth of your movement?
Our ultimate goal as ploggers is to reach a point where our efforts during a plog end in failure—we simply don’t find any trash to pick up. I imagine a situation where we get into a long walk and fail miserably to find any trash. That would happen when each one of us as individuals, corporations & civic authorities work for a common objective of a “Garbage-free “neighbourhood, i.e. an army of like-minded citizens working for a cleaner planet.
5. Besides waste management, do you have plans to expand your advocacy to other environmental concerns or related areas?
We see plogging as a starting point to address various environmental issues. Alongside waste management, we are looking forward to many more initiatives that connect the dots.
It is our privilege to be among the best groups that collect preloved items like clothes, toys, and stationery during plogging sessions and redistribute them to the underprivileged sections of society. This approach not only promotes sustainability but also emphasises the value of “Reuse”, “Repurpose” & mindful consumption.
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