Unsung Hero #136

Westport’s roads are filled with joggers.

They’re all different types: men and women, old and young, in shape and trying to get there.

With their jogging gear, headphones and determined looks, though, they all tend to look the same.

Except for Julie Van Norden.

Julie Van Norden

You might have seen her running, from her home near the Merritt Parkway through town and back. Or a longer run, toward the train station or Staples.

She’s the one holding a couple of empty beer cans.

Or (to be fair) other garbage.

No, she doesn’t have a problem. Just the opposite: She’s doing her bit to fix the problem others have.

You know, the ones who throw trash out the car window, wherever they want.

“I love where I live. I want to keep it clean,” she says.

So she “plogs.” That’s her word for “picking up litter while jogging.”

Julie Van Norden, at work.

Right now, Julie may be the only Westport runner who does this.

She focuses on items that can be recycled. She scopes out what needs to be picked up on her her way out. On her way back, she picks up whatever she can carry.

Back home, she sorts it all out into her recycling bins.

Wouldn’t it be great if we saw other folks running with beer cans too?

Then maybe one day, none of them would have to.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

9 responses to “Unsung Hero #136

  1. Kudos to Julie. I know that Chris and Carol Swan in our old neighborhood used to do that while walking or bicycling.

  2. Ms. Van Norden is not alone. When I walk from Old Mill to the Minute Man around to the marina kayak storage and back to Old Mill I try to grab most anything that isn’t bio degradable. I want keep it from blowing around. I try to get at least three pieces a day. There are others who do the same, too.

    Ironically, today I picked up a bag of dog feces that was in a plastic bag placed next to a phone pole. It was less than 30 feet from a town garbage bin on the west end of Old Mill Beach (green area next to Positano’s old location). I’m amazed this dog walker has already bagged up his/her dog’s droppings, but can’t walk it over that very short distance. Disclosure: I don’t even own a dog.

  3. Julie Van Norden

    Thanks Dan! Just want to clarify that I didn’t come up it’s the term “plogging”, it comes from the Swedish “plocka upp” meaning you pick up. The Swedes actually popularized the trend of picking up litter while jogging. And I was sure there were others like me out there, and I hope there will be more!

  4. So much for the bottle bill curtailing this type of litter. The scary thing is these litterers are drinking and driving….

  5. I’m a walker rather than a runner. My inter-Westport commute on foot is one mile in each direction and includes a trip over the Ruth Steinkraus bridge. I often pick up some of the trash that seems to accumulate there (mainly on the northeastern corner next to Starbucks). Unfortunately, to do a proper job of it I’d need a large garbage bag each day. I’ve brought the matter to our department of public works but frankly there hasn’t been any change. That said, I do my part to make a contribution by picking up what I can. Shame on litter-bugs.

  6. Christine Freeman

    Yea Ploggers and those that pick up the “Junk”!

    I’m a walker as well and I pick up the junk all the time whether in Westport, Norwalk or beyond. I can’t believe there are so many INCONSIDERATE people out there that just throw out junk no matter where they are or who they are. PLEASE messy walkways, filthy streets and dirty neighborhoods are only going to decrease housing values including the value of your own home AND raise the possibility of increased property taxes if our local governments have to pick up all the junk. Homeowners
    and local citizens take pride in the appearance of your property and your community!
    WE ALL NEED TO PICK UP THE JUNK WHEN WE SEE IT. Perhaps the local governments will drastically increase the litter and dumping penalties. I wonder if we could bring some type of class action against those that habitually invade our properties with junk. For example, could we seek the continued civil right of quiet enjoyment of our properties that we share under real estate law and/or seek redress against those that trespass onto our properties when dumping junk on our lawns, gardens and driveways?

  7. Leslie Petersen

    I pick up along the front of my house on Roseville every morning and it is amazing what people throw out of their cars. One consistent culprit, the men working on the cable and power lines. They never clean up.At the base of the transformer poles I find all kinds of wire and metal debris.
    I’m sure these polluters would be upset if they found all this crap in their own front yards. It’s nice to hear a lot of people do their part around town to pick up the trash.

  8. Like many others, I too pick up trash. On occasion someone will compliment me. I acknowledge their thanks but also suggest they consider doing the same. I tell them it is not hard and, most importantly, citizens cleaning really makes a difference.
    Don Bergmann

  9. There is a gentleman jogger who runs around Westport who I often see carrying trash (items range in size from small to large) and if I know he is some distance from a receptacle, I will pull over and take the trash from him. I’ve done this a few times with him and we’ve yet to introduce ourselves ! Either way, many thanks to everyone who picks up trash and helps keep Westport clean.