Good-Doers are ‘Plogging’ Through Central Park; Find Out What It Is and Start Doing It!


Renee Baruch and the off-leash gang.

By Carol Tannenhauser and Renee Baruch

As I was walking my dog in Central Park the other morning, wondering what I was doing in the city in the summer (or, maybe, ever), I bumped into my friend, Renee Baruch, who has lived on the Upper West Side for 42 years. She was with her dog, Popcorn. I noticed that Renee was wearing a latex glove on her right hand and had a plastic bag hooked over her left arm. As the dogs enjoyed a (legal) off-leash hour, and we walked and talked, Renee kept bending over and picking up cigarette butts, and depositing them in the bag.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

”Cleaning up,” she said.

“Why?”

“Because I live here.”

Simple as that.

Today, I bumped into another woman who was doing the same thing. In fact, Renee had told me to look out for her, that she had been Renee’s “inspiration.”

“Is it a movement?*” I wondered.

The second woman spoke limited English. She told me she was from Japan, but quickly added that she was educated in “Christian schools.” She was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers.

“I do it every time I jog or come to the park,” she said, “for years. It’s a small thing, but it’s better than doing nothing. I know it is a losing battle, but I do it anyway.”

She wouldn’t give her name or allow a picture, but revealed that she also lives on the Upper West Side.

When I got home, I emailed Renee and asked her to write her own story. She sent the following:

“I walk my mini Golden Doodle, Popcorn, in Central Park every morning when I’m home and it isn’t pouring, and, for a year before I started cleaning, I was really concerned and annoyed by the litter everywhere in the park. It was especially noticeable to me, because I was picking up a ball constantly that Popcorn retrieved, and I was most worried about the broken glass I saw, which was a danger to my dog.

“I was inspired by a lady who calls herself ‘Nancy,’ but that’s not her real name. I saw her occasionally in running clothes, with a latex glove, picking up litter and placing it in plastic bags and then properly disposing of it. I decided that was easy enough to do and started to do the same myself. So I got a supply of latex gloves and just took one with me each morning to pick up litter while Popcorn retrieves a ball.

“It gives me a feeling of doing something constructive to solve a small problem in our community. I can’t afford a huge donation to the Central Park Conservancy, and anyway, they aren’t terribly concerned with cigarette butts and broken glass. But that’s something I can do, and do easily.

“If everyone who used the park did the same each day, it would result in a sparkling clean park. Maybe I can inspire a few others as Nancy inspired me!”

*It turns out it is a movement after all! It’s called “plogging”—a combination of “plucking” and “jogging”—which means jogging while picking up trash. MarketWatch called it “the hottest fitness trend of 2018.”

COLUMNS, OUTDOORS | 33 comments | permalink
    1. EGF says:

      This example of a decent human being shows how each and every one of us can make a difference and make the world (or this city anyway) a better place. It doesn’t even take that much effort but it has to be selfless. I’m following her lead. Thank you for this inspiring piece!

    2. Mark P says:

      I do the same thing at Hudson Beach in Riverside Park at 105th St. Families eat at Ellington in the Park and let their children leave copious amounts of plastic cups, plastic toys, tissues, water bottles, deflated balloons and other trash in the sand. Just like your subject, I was angered by the volume of it, and then I realized, there is something I can do about it. If I care about it, I can help take care about it.

      Now, every time I visit, I bring a bag with me and scoop up. If I forget, I just ask the restaurant for a takeout bag. And as I’m usually on the sand barefoot, I sometimes will ask another person to walk over to the trash and empty the bag for me. No one’s turned me down yet – and it’s an opportunity to connect with someone new and inspire others – again, just as in your study.

      I will just add that the latex glove part is totally optional IMO. I don’t use one and I pick up bandaids and tissues. Respect if you feel it’s too gross, but I personally don’t believe there is any risk and I wouldn’t let that stop me from picking up. And all that said – I only pick up what I feel like! The best part of this kind of real, genuine volunteerism is it’s totally up to you!

      “My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” ― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

    3. Young Sally says:

      I do this in the grocery store….if an item is lying on the floor…particularly in the bread aisle – I am compelled to put it back on the shelf….no glove needed.

    4. Ruth Bonnet says:

      What a lovely article! I also pick up other dogs’ poo (with a bag!) because I can’t help but think there might have been a time when mine has gone and I hadn’t noticed.

    5. michael says:

      MORE STORIES LIKE THIS PLEASE!!!!

      Thank you Rene, and thank you Carol!

    6. Ina Saltz says:

      I love this story! How wonderful! I volunteer in the park and although I am mostly doing gardening chores, I also pick up litter whenever I am in the park. I always wear a glove. It’s disheartening to see so much trash but the park gets 40 million visitors a year so it’s heavily used.

    7. JS says:

      Great person…..wish more people were like her.

    8. Joan Abnett says:

      I tried that where I live in Australia but because I have epilepsy, continually bending and straightening caused severe dizziness. Realised that the next person may have to pick me up along with the rubbish! Ah well, thought that counts I guess!

      • Ina Saltz says:

        There are lightweight inexpensive devices that will allow you to pick up trash without bending.
        Google “trash grabber” and there are many options for as little as $10.

    9. Central Park Dogs says:

      Dogs in the Park

      Dog owners using Central Park have both the privileges and responsibilities established by the NYC Parks. See our Dog Owner’s Guide to Central Park for details on when and where dogs can be off leash in the Park, locations of dog-friendly drinking fountains, and other important information dog owners need in order to practice being good Park Citizens.

      You can help us to keep the Park clean and safe by respecting these rules:

      Dogs must be under the control of their owner at all times
      Dogs must have a NYC license tag and valid rabies tag
      Dogs must not dig, chase or harm wildlife, damage Park property, or interfere with other Park users
      Always clean up after your dog, including dog hair that you brush off in the Park
      Please respect signs, fences, and red flags that may indicate temporary closures due to restoration, maintenance, or weather conditions
      Dogs are allowed off-leash when the Park is open from 6:00 am to 9:00 am and from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am when the Park closes. Dogs must be on-leash at all times from 9:00 am until 9:00 pm.

      Even during off-leash hours, dogs must always be on-leash in the following areas:

      All Lawns posted as 9:00 am areas
      Arthur Ross Pinetum West
      The Bridle Path
      Cedar Hill
      Children’s Glade (Great Hill area)
      Conservatory Garden
      Dene Slope
      East Green
      East Meadow Oval
      Kerbs Boathouse Plaza
      The North Woods and The Ravine
      The Ramble
      Shakespeare Garden
      Strawberry Fields
      Turtle Pond Lawn
      Dogs are never allowed in the following areas:

      All Ballfields and Recreational Courts
      All Playgrounds
      All Sand Volleyball Courts
      All Water Bodies, Streams, and Ornamental Fountains
      Elm islands at the Mall
      Great Lawn Oval
      Hallett Nature Sanctuary
      Lilac Walk
      Reservoir running track
      Sheep Meadow

      • Brenda says:

        Having park volunteers ask people to put their dogs on leashes after 9:00 AM would go a long way in making everyone (including the free-range animal) much safer.

        • CCL says:

          Very much agree. Thank you!

        • EricaC says:

          Maybe someone could also remind them to stay off the grass in the areas that are closed for restoration. I know people want a picnic, but the restoration will allow more picnics for everyone if people would just stay off for now.

        • Beth says:

          Brenda, CPC volunteers are instructed not to tell people to pick up after their dogs or walk their bikes on the paths, etc. Ttheir job is to assist only. Employees are supposed to but I can tell you by experience that, not only do people not respect staff requests, they are outwardly disrespectful. These were my neighbors and it was very disheartening. They were a big reason why I left my job in the park.

        • Ina Saltz says:

          As park volunteers we are not supposed to enforce the regulations as there can be complications, maybe a confrontation. However we can call upon the authorities who are empowered to enforce the regulations. The numbers to call are on the back of our ID cards.

      • UWS lady says:

        Thank you for spelling out the dog rules. I would also appreciate it if dog owners would not let their dogs run off leash and on leash for that matter near the CP tennis courts. It is very distracting to have a dog barking and running around when you are trying to play tennis. The movement and noise throws you off and interferes with the game. There are so many other places fir dogs to romp.

      • But Always Pick Up the Poo says:

        Re cleaning up dog hair brushed off in the park, the hair is actually used by birds to line their nests.

    10. Oona says:

      Great idea, finally a club I’d like to join!

    11. Puppy person says:

      When I pick up after my dog, I sometimes pick up after OTHER people’s dogs too, if there’s a pile nearby. C’mon, fellow dog owners, don’t just leave it there. It’s incredibly rude and gross! I might also collect nearby cigarette butts in the same bag. Must be great to be a smoker, huh? I mean, the world is your ashtray! Just lovely.

      • JeffG says:

        Thank you! I thought I was the only one. I mean, as dog owners, we are typically armed with disposal bags at the ready, so why not? Plus, I find that the tiny bit of satisfaction in doing this helps counteract my frustration with the prior owner who failed to pick up.

    12. Marci says:

      I do this on the street with abandoned coffee cups, plastic bags or whatever that are in my path. I pick them up and put them in the nearest trash bin. I also know it’s a losing battle, but I agree with Renee; I live here and I’ll do my part to make it even a tiny bit better.

    13. sam says:

      This is lovely. We love our neighborhood lets keep it clean! Imagine if the Broadway median were planted and well maintained by those who live on its blocks – how hard would that be and wouldnt we all benefit? Please more stories about responsible citizens rather than all this negativity!

    14. Glass Half Empty says:

      Anyone besides m’self notice the “skyline” at the upper edge of the pic?

      Probably not, as there is a very-low cloud ceiling obscuring the buildings, esp. the “supertalls”.

      How ironic…luxe apartments costing millyuns of millions for their super-views will sometimes have no view at all.

      Just picture the NY Post headline:
      Mother Nature
      Foils Billionaires!

    15. Joan Herschaft says:

      Hi, I think you are a exceptional person. I live on 92st and 3rd Ave. Upper eastside in a walk up building. The garbage on the street is disgusting and the store owners ignore it. I by myself sweap and pick up trash adter working all week. People look at me like I am crazy. It is my street and I live on so I care for it ,just like the good old days.. Lets be trend setters!!!

    16. Andy Besch says:

      Bravo to all. I do the same thing when walking our dog in Central Park. A plastic cup here, a beer can there. It all helps.

    17. JeffG says:

      I do this on subway platforms waiting for the train. It helps that I usually have a dog-poop bag handy (I figure if I can pick up my dog’s poop, I can pick up a stray coffee cup or napkin), plus I carry hand-sanitizer, so I’m not worried about “germs.” And there are usually garbage receptacles on the platforms, so it’s easy to dispose of.

      People are less likely to litter in litter-free spaces, so I truly believe these small acts have real impact.

    18. Nydia Leaf says:

      While this is admirable citizen action, it would be more useful to support City Council Res.747-A whereby the Pentagon would give back to NYC some of the $25 Billion we fork over to the Military annually while we need it for our city and domestic priorities. Security can be defined in many ways. Councilmember Helen Rosenthal is one of ten supporting Res. 747-A

    19. JB says:

      There’s a park with a beautiful old carousel in Binghamton, NY – and, throwback here, I’m not gonna google it for you … in fact, let me start again …

      Once upon a time, long, long ago, in Binghamton, NY, there was an old carousel in the middle of a beloved city park. The cost to ride the carousel was a piece of trash from the neighboring fields so that every child could afford to ride, and every child learned civic behavior.

    20. Jerry Lou says:

      I have also been plogging although I didn’t know there was a name for it. I have lived near Central Park all of my life, and like many New Yorkers, I feel responsible for keeping it clean

    21. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      My favorite grabber. The cheap ones are crap.

      https://www.webstaurantstore.com/unger-nt090-nifty-nabber-36-trigger-grip-trash-grabber/905NT090.html
      Unger NT090 Nifty Nabber 36″ Trigger Grip Trash Grabber