Neighborhoods

This Wash West resident thinks dog owners can help clean up Philthadelphia

They’re already picking up poop. Why not litter too?

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Colleen O'Rourke / Seger Dog Park
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Philadelphia has a litter problem. Some neighborhoods are worse than others (mostly the ones with lower incomes), and there’s a movement afoot to encourage city government to bring back street sweeping, but anyone who lives or works here knows trash-strewn streets are a regular sight.

Andrew Freedman, a 40-year Philly resident, has an idea that could help: Tap into the ready force of Philadelphia dog owners.

In conjunction with Seger Dog Park, where Freedman is a board member, he’s launched a new awareness campaign to get this street-walking cohort into the habit of cleaning as they go.

The concept — which Freedman calls dogplogging — goes like this:

  • When you take the dog out, bring a couple extra bags
  • As you stroll the streets, place one over your hand like a glove
  • Use that protected hand to pick up random scraps that flutter in your path, storing them in a second bag
  • At the end of the walk, toss the collected trash in the nearest Bigbelly, along with whatever else your dog deposits

“You’re already picking up poop,” Freedman said. “Why not add this?”

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Colleen O'Rourke / Seger Dog Park

He speaks from experience. Around 20 years or so, Freedman and his wife Nancy adopted the practice after seeing a news story about a California woman who challenged herself to see how much trash she could collect from her local beach in a year.

The Freedmans made it a habit, picking up flotsam from the tree pits and gutters nearly every single day for the past two decades as they walked around with their pooch. If you think the sidewalks of Washington Square West are relatively clean, this couple deserves a thank you.

If you didn’t notice — well, that’s why Freedman wants more people to join the cause.

He’s tried to start this movement a few times in the past, but it never picked up steam. This time, he’s piggybacking on something that’s started trending worldwide.

“Plogging” was a campaign that originated in Sweden to encourage joggers to pick up (“plocka upp“) litter while jogging. While not as much of a craze in the U.S. as other nations, the idea has crossed the ocean, inspiring runners everywhere from D.C. to Seattle.

To Freedman, enlisting dog walkers to scoop trash makes much more sense than people who are exercising. But the Scandanavian name for the act held appeal.

“I initially wanted to call it ‘shitbagging,’” he said. “But I contacted folks in Sweden and no one objected to using ‘plogging.’”

And that’s how dogplogging was born.

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Colleen O'Rourke / Seger Dog Park

In order to encourage engagement, Seger Dog Park is incentivizing the mission with prizes. Post a pic of your activity and tag it #dogplogging, and you’ll be entered in a weekly raffle to win gift certificates from local businesses worth $5-$15. There are also a few dogplogging get-togethers planned.

So far, the program has seen modest success.

“People are receptive to it, but it’s one thing to like it and another to put it in practice,” Freedman said. “It has to become a habit.”

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