Sometimes the best ideas seem to come out of nowhere.
For Sam Combs, it all began with a question that came to him while eating lunch. How could he combine his love for exercise with his compassion for the health of the environment?
Less than 24 hours later, the concept of Good.Clean.Fun was born. This initiative integrates environmental activism with healthy living. Since launch, Good.Clean.Fun has collaborated with other organizations such as the Go Green! Brooklyn Festival, NYC Parks Department, Open Space Alliance, Curb Your Litter, and many more to clean parks in the North Brooklyn area. Sam now has his eyes set to bring his concept to a national level through a cross-country trip he’s doing this year.
Sam can often be seen barefoot and talking to strangers about Good.Clean.Fun, and it’s easy to understand why his organization has grown so quickly. His enthusiasm is infectious. ”How great would it be to do some good while pursuing regular healthy activities like jogging in the park?”. Sam has a knack for getting everyone around him to pick up litter – and enjoy it!But what was Sam like before Good.Clean.Fun? And why is it so easy for him to speak with strangers?
A longtime resident of New York, Sam used to work as the manager of Pies ’n’ Thighs, a restaurant on the south side of Williamsburg, as well as a guide for an outdoor company based in NYC. He had a good life, but didn’t feel quite satisfied. Sam, along with his girlfriend at the time, acted upon their restless impulses and decided to quit their jobs, sell their apartment, and travel the world in early 2015.
Through a combination of boats, planes, hitchhiking, and just plain walking, Sam and his girlfriend spent about half a year steadily making their way from New York all the way down to Ecuador. They experienced many different types of communities, making a living by working for other people in exchange for food and shelter. After almost 7 months on the move, they ended back in New York. Their journey was over. Yet, for Sam, the odyssey had taught him a lesson he’d never forget: the true value of community, which had become a basis for Good.Clean.Fun.
But there was still a problem. Even after his long and fulfilling trip, Sam was still searching for something new:
“When I got back to New York, I wanted to put into practice some of the things I’ve learned during those last seven months because I’d spent time and energy seeing what the benefits of community could do. And I came back to the neighborhood that I’ve lived in for about 8 years (Williamsburg) and I’d noticed that a park that I loved, McCarren, needed some love, itself,” Sam said when describing how Good.Clean.Fun was born.
“I just had this idea. McCarren Park needs some help, and I am going to the park tomorrow to exercise. I’m going to buy a pair of reusable work gloves, and I’m going to incorporate caring for the park into my workout,” he added.
The next day at McCarren Park, Sam set up his whiteboard and wrote “Good Clean Fun” on it. He added suggestions below the heading on just how to have “Good Clean Fun,” which included various exercise options and encouragement to help out the environment while completing them, including small actions such as picking up trash, planting a flower, or removing a spot of graffiti.
As Sam ran around the park, combining actions such as squats with picking up litter, he invited strangers to join in with him.
The reaction? People absolutely loved it. Sam used his experience of interacting with strangers as an outdoors guide and restaurant manager to approach people in a friendly and inviting manner. The idea immediately caught on, and people all around McCarren Park began to incorporate Sam’s brand of “Good Clean Fun” into their routines. Thus, a movement was born where people pick up litter, trash, plant flowers, and bring fresh water jugs to the Mccarren dog park while having fun.
Almost a year later, Sam and fellow Good.Clean.Fun.er Mara Lileas are embarking upon a month-long trip across the United States to help plant seeds of stewardship and environmental awareness in communities everywhere. The tour will include stops in Chicago, IL, Bozeman, MT, Mt. Shasta, CA, Boulder, CO, Oklahoma City, OK, and many more places. With the ever-growing network of “G.C.F.ers” participating in service to their communities, Good.Clean.Fun is forming into a widespread movement that engages people with themselves, one another, and the environment around them.
Most importantly, to join in on the initiative, one doesn’t need a special invitation from Sam or any other GCFer: ‘Figure out what you like to do and I can help guide you to that. Find your bliss and then empower it. Follow your heart with it. And support your community, because once you start to do that, you might find that it’s worth it to get involved with things outside of just your headphones!”
Before Sam explores the country, he will be at the Go Green! Brooklyn Festival, arranging a fitness themed cleanup with the New York Road Runners. Join in on June 4th at Mccarren Park from 1-5pm.
You can learn more and follow them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/goodcleanfunfitness.