Planet Forward Summit 2018

“Story telling can be tied in to all walks of life”

Anna Sumi; Senior at George Washington University

April 5th and 6th I attended a 2-day sustainable storytelling event hosted yearly by Planet Forward. Planet Forward is a project of the Center for Innovative Media at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs in Washington D.C. This project teaches, celebrates, and rewards environmental storytelling by college students. It is the premier engagement tool for GW’s many sustainability initiatives.

There were over 400 attendees and college students from a total of 40 schools for this event. The crowd brought together students, scientists, communicators, innovators, private sector leaders, and policymakers.

Hearing from Ananda Varma, a natural history photographer for National Geographic, was impactful to me as a storyteller because it proved that storytelling truly can be tied to all walks of life. Ananda obtained a degree in integrative biology from UC Berkeley and is now helping biologists communicate their research through photographs.

(Picture captured by Ananda Varma; project titled Beauty and the Bizarre)


Knowing storytelling is essential in the era we are in and seeing his career choice is a reflection and affirmation for young storytellers who are looking to highlight stories from in any industry.

Selfie with Ananda Varma; photographer and contributor for National Geographic.


Sara,  trust your inner creative when you are looking to share a story.

– Ananda Varma to me at #PF Summit 2018

The second day, we heard from two U.S. Presidents grandchildren, Theodore Roosevelt IV; Susan Eisenhower(so cool!). We also heard from Nick Akins, the chairman, president and CEO of American Electric Power; and Denise Fairchild, president and CEO of the Emerald Cities Collaborative.

Denise Fairchild, Nick Akins, Susan Eisenhower and Theodore Roosevelt.

(from left to right; pictured below)


The main central message was how to understand and convey the stories of our planet and the ideas and innovation needed to move it forward.

Planet Forward hosts a storyfest in which college students all across the country can apply and submit videos, blogs, photo essays and more creative projects. Those storytellers that win go on an either-day trip with Lindblad Expeditions between Sitka and Juneau to capture the stories of climate change while exploring Alaska’s coastal wilderness.

College students may also apply to be correspondents for Planet forward.

Click to learn more about the Correspondent Program

Storytelling is central to making sure audiences online stay engaged. Messaging can be tricky depending on the subject matter. I invite any college student, scientist, communicator, innovator, private sector leader and anyone with a passion for changing the world within environmental sustainability to check out this project.

Click to learn more about Planet Forward.


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