• Matt Sykes

The Plastic Runner - Voices of Regen #11: Karin Traeger

By Jaari Heyes, Photos by Karin Traeger

During a recent zoom call with Chilean Karin Traeger in her Melbourne apartment, she showed me her tattoo of the Patagonian mountain range. I was amazed to hear that she called this landscape her home for the first five years of her life - a region in South America that is considered one of the most uninhabited places on Earth.

After relocating to Santiago, Chile and spending her younger years residing by the Andes Mountain Range, Karin became naturally drawn towards the environment. This was where she developed a love for trail running.

“When I began running, I realised I had a pretty good playground at my doorstep - the mountains,” says Karin.

“I joined a running club and we would sometimes run up volcanoes. I have built a strong connection with Nature because of constantly running outdoors. It became my way of exploring, I would just grab my running shoes and go.”

Karin's passion for the environment and its wildlife influenced her to become a veterinarian in Chile. Yet when she decided to travel to Australia to dive the Great Barrier Reef, Karin was even more confronted with society’s impact on our ecosystems.

“From witnessing marine pollution in Australia, I began to shift my focus from animals to the broader environment. I then came to Melbourne to do a Masters of Environment,” says Karin.

During her studies at Melbourne University, Karin had also committed herself to a 100 kilometre ultramarathon, where the Yarra River trail became her training ground.

“While I was training on the trail, I saw so much litter! I found myself filling my pockets with rubbish every time I ran. A few months after collecting rubbish on my own I invited some friends to help me,” says Karin.

“Since 2018, we have done around 30 events, picking up 1,000 kilograms of rubbish. We have also engaged with over 400 people. 1,000 kilograms doesn't seem like a lot on global scale, but it’s all about creating behaviour change within Melbourne,” says Karin.

On The Plastic Runner’s social media, you will see the word ‘plogging’ featured on many posts. It is a Swedish term that combines picking up litter and jogging. Although the trend of plogging is said to have been around for a few years, Karin’s is currently using her social media to inspire a multitude of people to join the movement.

“A girl from Afghanistan contacted me over social media, telling me how she wanted to run her own plogging event. I gave her some tips and guidelines to follow. She ended up running the event and sent me a photo. It was amazing,” says Karin.

“Plogging is extremely inclusive. People tend to think they will be too slow or don’t consider themselves a runner, but it’s simply about jogging or walking a couple hundred metres and picking up some rubbish. Anyone can do it.”

Everyday, Karin is faced with the harsh reality of consumerism while running in the city and out on the trails. Once you begin seeing pollution in your backyard, it’s almost impossible to ignore the situation. It’s time to do our part and regenerate Melbourne’s trails and rivers.

“Try to purchase second hand goods, and make an effort to repurpose your own items. There are so many creative ways to do this, and you will feel great!” says Karin.

“Before buying something, try to ask yourself ‘do I really need this?’”.

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Plogging with friends from Salomon and Paddy Pallin

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