This 22-Year-Old Is Running Across the Country to Raise Marine Plastic Crisis Awareness

Eric White/Courtesy Parley

The Ocean2Ocean run with Parley for the Oceans, is meant to bring attention to the current marine plastic crisis. 

Starting on July 26, Sam Bencheghib will head out on an unbelievable adventure, in the name of raising awareness, by running across the country. His route—which will be 3,000 to 3,200 miles—starts in New York City and ends in Los Angeles, and it should take him about six months. As a youth ambassador for Parley for the Oceans, he’s running to raise awareness of the marine plastic crisis.

Bencheghib has plenty of firsthand experience seeing the results of plastic pollution. Growing up in Bali, he and his brother were all too aware that their island’s beautiful beaches were being completely destroyed by all the plastic dumped in the ocean. 

“With my older brother Gary, we started a local movement called Make a Change Bali where we’d come together with friends and clean up the beaches on a weekly basis,” said Bencheghib. “But we quickly realized that, the very next day, the trash would come right back.”


Eric White/Courtesy Parley

The Bencheghib brothers started using their organization to educate communities around rivers and streams on how to eliminate or recycle plastic to prevent it from filtering into the ocean. Three years ago, they took the traction from Make a Change Bali and it became Make a Change World. With Gary’s film expertise, they started putting out one- to three-minute videos “promoting innovations and solutions to plastic pollution,” said Bencheghib.

“We’ve now gone on four expeditions around the world to talk about the effects of plastic and really try to raise awareness through crazy visuals, like going down the most polluted river in the world on two plastic-bottle kayaks,” said Bencheghib. 

The fifth expedition is the cross-country run in partnership with Parley for the Oceans and the goal is impact, awareness, and change. Eight million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans annually. Parley for the Oceans believes that “behavioral change” can reduce the marine plastic crisis, particularly because 80% of the plastic in oceans is the result of land-based pollution.

Enter: Bencheghib’s Ocean2Ocean run, which will weave education and even trash pick-up into the six-month run. The 22-year-old will cover 13 states from the Atlantic to the Pacific, stopping in cities like Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Denver along the way. 


Eric White/Courtesy Parley

“It started by just googling the shortest route across America,” quipped Bencheghib.

Ultimately, he decided to purposefully integrate city stops along the route, in order to maximize impact. Make a Change World, in conjunction with Parley for the Oceans will host presentations at town halls and schools, organize zero-waste events, and even run-along street clean-ups. And this will all happen along Bencheghib’s 3,000-mile running route.

“Are you familiar with plogging?” he asked eagerly in explaining the impact of his run-alongs.

Plogging is the actual practice of picking up trash and jogging, and is just one way Bencheghib will weave positive environmental impact into his run. The goal—for him and Parley for the Oceans—is to interact with as many people face-to-face as possible to discuss the problem at hand and offer actionable solutions. He will also encourage people to sign the Parley AIR pledge; Parley’s AIR strategy reminds everyone to “AVOID plastic whenever possible, INTERCEPT plastic waste, and REDESIGN the materials and thinking.”

The Ocean2Ocean run involves releasing weekly or bi-weekly videos to provide updates on Bencheghib’s progress and highlight local eco-champions along the route. Look out for Ocean2Ocean events in your city, or follow along with @parley.tv, @makeachange.world, and @sambencheghib.