this young activist is running 3,000 miles to save the oceans
Sam Bencheghib will educate people along his route from NY to LA about the growing environmental crisis.
Photography Charlie Rubin
“I’ve always believed that no idea is crazy enough. Especially when you want to make a difference, and inspire people,” said Sam Bencheghib, warming up in a Manhattan park. The 22-year-old activist was preparing to run from New York to Los Angeles over the space of six months to raise awareness about ocean plastics. He’s running a total of 3,0000 miles, around 20 miles a day, and stopping in 80 cities along the way to educate people about what a dump we’ve made the ocean, a plan that to anyone else would seem crazy. “By doing these physical challenges, hopefully it’s a good tool to inspire people to protect the environment.”
Sam’s always had a connection to the ocean, having grown up in Bali. His first initiative with Make A Change World, the company he co-founded with his brother Gary, was to kayak Indonesia’s incredibly polluted Citarum river in a boat made from plastic bottles in 2017. “And that’s when we realized that no idea is crazy enough. Going down the most polluted river in a plastic bottle kayak is insane, but managed to convince the Indonesian government to send in troops to clean it up,” Sam says. “So hopefully with this run, by running through 80 cities, I can engage with as many people as possible, and get as many cities as possible to sign the Plastic Free Pledge [which seeks to eliminate single use plastic].”
Accompanying Sam on his journey is Parley for the Oceans, the company that cleans up and recycles ocean plastic into clothing (they’re partnered with brands such as Adidas and Stella McCartney). They hope that the Ocean2 Ocean Run will help convince people of the need to take action — now. According to Sam’s Gofundme,
“If we don’t stop our consumption habits, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. And as of today there are already more micro plastics in our ocean than stars in our galaxy. It’s affecting our water, our corals and our marine life. Studies have found that close to 95% of seabirds are ingesting this ocean plastic and researchers have found plastic in rain samples and in the air that we breathe around the world.”
“I’m bringing the ocean to citizens around the US who don’t necessarily understand the problem,” Sam says. People also don’t understand what the ocean gives us — for example, every other breath we take is made by phytoplankton that lives there. “A big part of it is that, no matter where you live, inland or by the coasts, everyone contributes to this problem because they’re using plastic. And 80% of the plastic in the ocean comes from rivers and streams.” Follow Sam’s journey on Instagram.