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Dear Miss SmartyPants,

I recently read about an activity the Swedes have named "plogging", which refers to the practice of picking up trash while walking or jogging. The term is a mash-up of the words "plocka upp" ("picking up" in Swedish) and "jogging". I have been jogging almost daily for the past few years, and usually pick up litter as I go. Who knew there was a term for it?

This is not a ploy to be named Citizen of the Year. It's just something that I can't not do. My problem is, I'm not sure it is good for me. I find myself disgusted with and even angry at the people who dispose of their garbage out of their car windows, or carelessly drop wrappers, plastic bottles, cigarette packs, etc, while sitting at the bus stop or walking to and from school. What is wrong with these people? What kind of upbringing have they had? Do they take no pride in their surroundings? Or themselves?

You can tell that this kind of monologue running through my head is probably not good for my peace of mind, stress level, or regard for my fellow humans. Should I try to put on blinders, change my mindset, and learn to disregard the trash? Is it time for a new hobby, something that doesn't put my brain in a bad place? I do not want to give up jogging.


Dear Conflicted,

True confession: I too am a plogger, though I walk instead of jog, and I share your frustration. It is amazing and so discouraging to realize how much trash is disposed of every day along my three mile route. Cigarette butts and dirty diapers are outside my personal limits, but everything else within a block of the sidewalk or street is fair game. It's a rather nasty business.

But I had a little talk with myself (not out loud) during which I said something along the lines of, "Self, it is true you should not have to pick up after others. It is also true you enjoy a trash-free environment. It makes you feel better to pick up the litter than to pass it by. You are actually walking more than your allotted 3 miles because of all the meandering, and the frequent squatting no doubt burns more calories and is better for your health. Plus you have the satisfaction of leaving a trash-free trail behind you, at least for a little while. So, buck up, Self."

It's great to learn how fashionable our little activity is becoming. How very encouraging to know that plogging is becoming popular throughout Europe, and starting to catch on in the U.S. I am not usually much of a joiner, but this is a club of which I am proud to be a member. You should be, too. Turning your disgust and anger into action is the best way to confront the problem. In fact, if you have friends who also jog, you might suggest they take up your hobby, too. Plogging can be good not only for the environment, but also for your mental and physical health. Plog on!

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