Plogging is a relatively new eco-friendly exercise that first started about five years ago. Erik Ahlström from Sweden organized an activity that combined jogging or brisk walking with picking up litter and the activity of plogging began. The word originate from the Swedish phrase to pick up – ‘plocka upp’. Around two million people now participate in plogging on a regular basis across 100 countries. Plogging events have been growing in popularity and it is now an activity promoted as part of National Clean-Up Day.
Can you tell us more about plogging and how it came to NTT as a sustainability initiative?Monika Guida
About three years ago I started collecting litter in my spare time. I was inspired by Paul Waye, who is one of the world’s best known ploggers, and is on a mission to pick up at least one piece of litter every time he goes running. Normally I just do it by myself while listening to music. Then in May last year we had a two-day kick off for all personnel in the NTT Germany office. The management team had the idea to find a way in which the employees could be more active in sustainability and corporate/social engagement. We held a series of afternoon and evening workshops during this kick-off event in which people could come together from different parts of the business to brainstorm ideas. There were many proposed ideas and the idea of plogging was among these. We presented our ideas to the audience and the 800 attendees voted and one result was to create a group enthusiastic for plogging among the NTT team members.
How did you turn this idea into a reality?
We created a group on our internal portal (Yammer) and agreed a date for the activity. When the time came, we provided an NTT-branded high visibility jacket, litter picks and bags and agreed to meet one Friday in September (one day before the “World Cleaning Day”) across all eight of our German sites. Even though in some locations it was raining, all NTT members who joined did a great job, and enjoyed the cakes and sandwiches provided. After the event we found people were so enthusiastic about what they’d achieved. In just a short time we had collected 32 bags of rubbish, in Bad Homburg alone, which the local council then collected for us. Across all eight locations of course the total number of bags collected by the 100 participating team members on that day was much greater.
Why is it important to you to do this?
It’s not nice to have a dirty environment. Seeing the litter makes me feel so sad and afterwards it looks so much nicer when you can then see the clean ground, especially in the parks and forests. It also sends a positive signal and sets a good example to those who see it – I hope people take it as inspiration to set a good example too. I actually asked for a litter picking toolkit as a birthday present from my family three years ago and last Christmas we finally went together as a family, which was really nice. Paul Waye actually gave a very inspirational message about plogging just for our NTT employees which was wonderful. He talks about how it is better to have 1,000 people picking up one piece of litter than it is to have one person picking 1,000 pieces of litter. You can see the personal impact before and after and know that you’ve made a difference.
What’s next – will it continue?
Yes for sure. I set the challenge to all NTT members throughout the globe to pick up just one piece of litter on the 1st of March 2023, the reactions were amazing, from all over the globe people took part and accepted the challenge. We plan to do more this year since NTT has now set up a global initiative to support World Clean Up Day. It takes place on the third Saturday in September every year with the aim of raising awareness about litter and the damage it causes. And for anyone in the Bad Homburg office, they will be welcome to join a ‘plogging lunch break’, which will take place every second Wednesday of each month.
Monika joined NTT Europe in 2001 when there were less than 10 people in the German office of NTT Europe. She lived in Japan for two years and it was her love of the country and culture that attracted her to working for NTT, a Japanese headquartered company. Upon joining the organisation Monika worked in sales and marketing for NTT Europe before it was renamed NTT Germany. Three years ago, Monika changed roles to office management and now is a member of the German facilities team dealing with all facility related matters of the Bad Homburg office.