Here’s how to be a holiday hero this summer

In this week’s Big Issue we highlight ways to make holiday time matter, from days out that don’t cost the earth and could save the planet to empowering people by giving them a chance to go wild. Read on for our essential guide to how you can make a difference this summer

Pick up litter as you jog

Binbags at the ready, lace up those trainers and get plogging – jogging while picking up litter. The Nordic craze – which gets its name from the Swedish “plocka upp” (pick up) – landed on British shores last year and a UK-wide network of ploggers emerged.

Leading the London crowd of fit environmentalists is Michelle Parkes, who along with binman-turned-personal-trainer Dermot Kavanagh founded Plogolution. Their plogging events, held all over London, have attracted hundreds of people from fitness fanatics to those who’d never jogged before – all with one concern in common.

“Just over a year ago, Dermot and I went for a run,” says Parkes, a 39-year-old marketing consultant. “And as we’re running he keeps pointing out rubbish. If I’m honest, he spoiled my run. And subsequent runs. Because everywhere I went, all I saw was rubbish.”

Parkes came across an article on plogging, and it seemed a no-brainer. Her and Kavanagh got a few friends together and held the first plogging event almost a year ago in Putney. Now, regular Plogolution events are held in areas across London. There is always a 5k version for those who want to run and a 2k version for those who would prefer to walk the route.

“Not only have you gone out and got some exercise,” says Parkes, “but you’ve also done something really good for the environment. And you can immediately see the difference you’ve made. The impact a group of ploggers can have is quite remarkable.

“We get such a mixture of demographics – we’ve had people who’ve been very open about having mental health issues and they’ve found that plogging has really helped them. We’ve had people come along who’d never come before and they are there every time because they love it, and then we have people who were able to come to one but haven’t been able to come again whether that’s because we haven’t returned to their area or they are only in the
area temporarily. 

“A very large percentage of the people at each event are people we haven’t met before.”

Keep beaches clean

The plastic pollution crisis isn’t going away, so there are a lot of options if you’re keen to clear up rubbish. The Marine Conservation Society is always looking for people to help keep Britain’s beaches clean. Why not plan a seaside break around learning about wildlife protection and keeping beaches pristine to boot? 

Record wildlife sightings

People who want to help look after wildlife are in luck, with some organisations asking visitors to submit information on animals they see. If you’re planning a trip to Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly, bear in mind the Environmental Records Centre runs the Online Recording Kernow and Scilly (ORKS) – a website and app that make it quick and easy to record and submit your sightings, whatever your level of experience and no matter how common the species. 

Maintain Britain’s towpaths

The Canal and River Trust is always on the look-out for casual volunteers to get involved with the Towpath Taskforce. They’ll have you doing everything from lock-painting, hedge-planting along the waterways and weeding gardens to repairing towpaths and, yes, clearing litter. 

Help track ancient trees

If you like the idea of contributing to a collection of data for experts to use, but don’t expect to see much wildlife on your travels, the Woodland Trust would love you to get involved with its Ancient Tree Inventory. More than 160,000 records of ancient and notable trees have been added to their live database so far. One way to help is by going on a tree hunt. Visit the inventory online to find old trees near you, then record ones that are missing. Or, if you spy a very old tree that doesn’t appear to be on the trust’s map, you can add to it to help protect valuable tree heritage.