Published: 31st March 2018
Plogging party: This Bengalurean is organising treks for people to purge the Kodai hills of trash
With the event, The Plogging Party, Jacob Cherian is not only cleaning our favourite trekking spots but is also challenging the stereotype that rag-picking is for people who do it as a full-time job
With great treks come even greater trails of trash dropped on your, well, mountain trail. While it has become cool to bomb your Facebook feed with pics of you embracing the great outdoors, no one stops to think twice about the plastic covers, chips packets and food containers we use and throw.
Not until 28-year-old Bengalurian Jacob Cherian decided to bring plogging to our hills and trekkers. Yes, you read that right. Plogging. PS, it doesn't mean blogging about your awesome experience on the hills.
Plogging was introduced in Sweden in 2016. Short for 'jogging and picking up the trash while at it", plogging is emerging as the most eco-friendly practice among the traveler community across the world. Jacob didn't want to miss the opportunity and he came up with a weekend event to be held on March 31 and April 1, and named it The Plogging Party. "I came across the term Plogging only recently but I have been cleaning whenever I visit my house in Kodaikanal for over two years now. The activity is picking up the momentum because we have a word for it, which is great. That helps create sort of a buzz, you are able to tell people about what is going on. Otherwise, people lose the interest," he explains.
People texted me saying that I am charging people to clean my own land but that's not what it is about. It is about normalising the concept of cleaning wherever you go or whatever you do
Jacob Cherian, organiser of The Plogging Party
Jacob had decided to start the cleaning drive on a hill in Kodaikanal two years ago. "I don't understand why if it is that complicated. I wanted the place to be clean so I cleaned it. Waiting for someone else to clean it was not working out so I decided to do it myself," he said. However, the inconsistency was always a constant barrier. "If you get up and clean your neighbourhood, it is going to get dirty the next day but if you give it a strategy, it might stay clean for a long time because people know what you are up to," he confers.
Best party ever: The Plogging Party involves trekking, cleaning, food, bonfire and even nap time
Jacob, who runs a digital marketing firm in Bengaluru, believes that if everyone who enjoys city life but likes to escape in the hills once in while picked up their trash, then hills would be a cleaner place. Relatable much?
Cashing in on this relatability, Jacob's Plogging Party aims at inviting people for an organised trek that encourages an eco-friendly travel. You are allowed to have heavy expectations as the trek is much more than just a cleaning drive. Not only it does involve camping, music, dinner, and bonfire, it also has a designated nap time schedule. Imagine sleeping under the blue sky on a quiet afternoon. Such bliss.
Jacob explains the drill further, "We have short plog, where participants can get acquainted with the land and the long trek where the execution actually takes place. We are equipped with garbage bags, cloth and lot of sanitizer. We will also provide a boot camp on how to trek in the high leech-prone area. So, yes we are fully prepared for this," he says.
What he wasn't prepared for was the kind of mental block he had to deal with to pull this off. Jacob, who was investing all his energy in organising the plogging event was posed with questions like 'how can you do something with people's residual bad energy'. "I was like, what does it even mean? Are you serious? How do people even think like that" he had no reply to such questions. To Jacob's understanding and what's probably true, 'there is a strong cultural angle attached to plogging in India and it needs to be broken at an ideological level."
What should actually be seen as a normal thing to do is facing caste-based challenges. "It boils down to the caste system. We are a caste-based society. Picking up trash is assigned to certain strata of the society. If someone else did it, it becomes something of a lower order. That's exactly why we need to break this mentality," he encores.
Despite all the challenges and blocks, Jacob believes that plogging has a bright future in India because he thinks that there are many in India "who are itching to make this country better". "This concept definitely has a future. I have been invited to Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kerala to carry out the same drill and I am still trying to figure the schedule out. We already have such great examples like that Afroz Shah trying to clean the Versova beach. So, there are examples for people to follow," he says.
For his suggestions to the young and bright minds, he thinks that it is very much possible to make a business out of it. "It definitely has a good potential to be cash positive business idea. It may be attached included in CSR budgets or can be taken up by a travel agency, there are a lot of good options," he concludes.