From Disposable to Reusable: Can ‘Loop’ Solve the World’s Plastics Problem?
It’s time to take out the trash, once and for all. Tom Szaky has one mission: to outsmart waste. As the planet drowns in plastic and chokes on trash, Tom’s company, TerraCycle, is discovering new ways to turn waste into consumer goods – and they’re getting some of the biggest brands in consumer goods to join them. Tom showed us how the plastic crisis all began from the power of a single story – one that created a world-wide disposability mindset – and how a new story is driving major impact not only for the world’s biggest brands, but for our planet.
Telling Stories That Reach
Impact isn’t one-size-fits-all. So, how do we define and measure it? It all depends on what you as a storyteller, set out to do. So said our panel of women leaders, whose experience ranged from public service, to podcasting, to global corporate communications.
For Danielle Nkojo, a public servant with the D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment, impact is about behavior change. “The impact that I’m trying to get at is for people to revalue their clothes," Danielle said. "What’s connecting people, I think, is to think about the story of their clothing.”
Kameel Stanley, a podcaster with St. Louis Public Radio, shared how her definition of impact shifted as she transitioned into podcasting full-time. “My idea of impact has changed now that I’m a podcaster,” Kameel said. “Because of the nature of podcasting, you have such a different, and oftentimes, more intimate relationship with your audience.”
And what does impact look like for those in corporate roles? For Kimberly West, Director of External Communications at MARS, Inc., impact involves humanizing their sustainability story – and developing relationships in the process. “How can you get a better way to build a more sustainable relationship with people?” Kimberly asked.
Students With Impact
A good story starts with a strong voice. Since 2009, students from across the U.S. have developed theirs and found a platform to share their stories with Planet Forward. From America’s Heartland to Alaska, Wisconsin to Rome, Italy, four students with four different academic backgrounds shared how Planet Forward not only helped them find their voice, but launched them to make lasting impact through their storytelling.
Stories Can Change Our World
Impact is driven by knowing your audience – and what you want them to do. So said Kaitlin Yarnall, SVP of Storytelling at National Geographic. Purpose drives everything behind a story, from medium, to content, to delivery. “We don’t just make documentaries to save things and put them out there and hope it’s going to work,” Kaitlin said. “What we do is we think about who is the audience that we’re trying to reach.”
Kaitlin shared the impact behind one documentary series, “Pristine Seas.” Seeking to protect 20 areas of ocean by 2020, a National Geographic team designed the documentary by targeting specific government leaders with the authority to do so, and developed and screened the series just for them. The result? As of 2019, 21 areas of oceans around the world have been protected – exceeding their goal – and the team is only just getting started.
NowThis is Storytelling with Impact
A phone + a few questions = the storyteller's starter kit. Zinhle Essamuah and Lucy Biggers from NowThis News shared the platform’s approach to storytelling, and how one small step into storytelling can not only make a difference in the world – but for careers as well.
Zinhle Essamuah, a host and correspondent for NowThis, who got her start at Planet Forward as a student, walked us through specific tactics and questions that help NowThis reporters define their stories to mobilize audiences. We learned how to identify the most compelling components of stories, and how to drive audiences to action through a simple set of questions.
Lucy Biggers, a producer for NowThis, shared how she broke into the environmental beat, and how using new media platforms helps her connect and engage young audiences. For her, it all started with a small idea and the camera app on her phone three years ago. Now, she has launched a mini-series, “One Small Step,” about environmental lifestyles on Facebook Watch, which is followed by thousands.
The Greenprint: Plant-Based Diet, Best Body, Better World
Never underestimate the impact of a single changed habit. So said Marco Borges, a New York Times bestselling author, the founder of 22 Days Nutrition, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s personal nutritionist. Marco’s mission? To help save the planet - and our health - one plant-based meal at a time. “We’ve got to do everything possible today to do our best to make this planet a better place and to be better stewards of what we’ve been given for the future generations to come,” Marco said.
That’s why he partnered with Beyoncé and Jay-Z to challenge their fans to adopt healthier habits for the chance to win free concert tickets for life. If fans pledged to eat one plant-based meal a day for life, over 61 billion lifetime carbon emissions and 846 billion lifetime gallons of water could be saved. Within 48 hours of launching that partnership, the Greenprint Project pledge reached over 200 million people, and got worldwide media outlets talking about plant-based living. And Marco is only just getting started.
Empowering the Next Generation of Environmental Heroes
For impact that lasts, focus on empowering the next generation. When Laura Turner Seydel and her father, media mogul Ted Turner, launched Captain Planet, schools weren’t doing enough to educate young audiences on environmental issues. Now, it’s a different story. The TV show created a new generation of committed, empathetic youth across America – and the world – who would be changemakers in their homes, communities, and schools.
And that’s exactly what happened. Since its launch in 1990, the cartoon gained a worldwide following: over 113 episodes were broadcasted in 100 countries, and translated into 23 different languages. From the characters to the principles taught in the show, Captain Planet has ingrained itself in the memories of its watchers over the years, and the Captain Planet Foundation continues to work with schools all over the world to implement environmental projects and develop curricula to continue to form the next generation of environmental heroes.
Stories Change Behavior
Can a single picture generate a movement? For Steve Winter, an award-winning photographer with National Geographic, his photos have generated movements and campaigns to protect endangered cat species around the world – from tigers to cougars, panthers to jaguars. In order to generate real impact, Steve had to figure out what was so important about the natural habitats of these big cats – and why their importance should matter to his audience.
Using unique perspectives in photography, Steve captured the images that moved general audiences and policymakers alike to preserve some of the most misunderstood and trafficked species in the world. From Brazil to China, Nepal to Hollywood, Steve saw tremendous impact from his work – and shares how we can highlight unlikely characters in our natural habitats, too.
Data might be king, but relationships drive it forward. As the global population continues to grow significantly, organizations are developing new tools to help feed an increasingly hungry planet – and sustainably, too. Stella Salvo from Bayer Crop Science shared what her team is doing to help farmers produce more, on less. As the company explores the future of plant genetics, and how scientific discoveries can help sustainably combat global hunger, Stella’s team has discovered that technological advancement alone isn’t the answer – connecting with people is what makes their scientists successful.
Stella explained how people are at the heart of any scientific breakthrough – and how stories of farmers, families, and community members help to keep Bayer’s scientific advancements focused on what matters.
Making Better Pictures
Visual storytelling has little to do with equipment, and everything to do with how we view the world. In this skills-based workshop, Bill Douthitt of Science Magazine shared practical, hands-on tactics that would instantly improve not only how we take pictures, but how we attract audience interest to our visual stories - and how visual storytelling can become a career, too.
Sound Off: Using Podcasting as a Way to Amplify Storytelling
One of the coolest ways to amplify storytelling is through sound. In this workshop, Kameel Stanley, journalist and host of an award-winning NPR podcast, We Live Here, shared practical techniques attendees could immediately apply to step up their sound-based storytelling. From developing a story pitch to promoting a podcast in a competitive landscape, Kameel taught us how to launch into the podcast space – and how podcasts can make a huge impact in local contexts.
Gene Editing: Is This The Next Food Revolution?
What exactly is gene editing, and what is CRISPR? In this panel discussion between a journalist, a farmer, and a plant geneticist, we learned about the technology behind a new frontier of possibilities for sustainable food, and discovered what kind of impact gene editing might have for agriculture and farmers.
STEMinism: Women, Girls, and Leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
How can we inspire a new generation of women to lead, despite challenges in STEM workplaces? Women are underrepresented in several areas of STEM, especially in STEM leadership. By fostering open dialogue, this panel engaged women from every walk of life to share their experiences, challenges, and successes, and to empower a new generation to lead fearlessly. Hosted by Jamie Hestekin of University of Arkansas, a Planet Forward Consortium member.
Science Stories That Stick: Connecting With Your Audience
How can values-based conversations help environmental communicators engage with audiences – despite tricky topics? In this panel, we discussed GMOs, gene editing, and how scientific understanding and the power of story impacts consumer decisions and societal stigma.
SymbioSEAS: Connecting Science, Education, Art, and Society
Impactful storytelling bridges the gap between scientific research and its impact on local communities. One locally based art exhibit in Honolulu, Hawaii, is doing precisely that. A collaborative effort between community artists and scientists at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, the exhibit brings global awareness to the health and rehabilitation of oceans and coral reef, and engages the local community to tell the story of the coral reef – and the scientists who study them. Led by Emily Sesno and Beth Lenz of University of Hawaii at Manoa, a Planet Forward Consortium member.
Teaching the Earth: Lessons from the Classroom and Beyond
Designed for faculty attendees in mind, this session focused on best practices in teaching environmental communication from Planet Forward Consortium members, led by Andy Kavoori of University of Georgia. Faculty from Consortium schools shared the models they have used in their teaching, what has worked, and what might need some tweaking. Students and faculty alike brainstormed together to share what campuses across the United States are doing to equip the next generation of environmental storytellers for success.
Place and Environment: Place-Based Learning that Bolsters Environmental Literacy
How can more college classes break outside the traditional classroom and into their natural environments? Jerod Foster, Assistant Dean and professor from Texas Tech University - a Planet Forward Consortium member - highlighted Adventure Media, an experiential media and communications course that exposes students to the natural environment through backcountry bikepacking and media production. Joined by Justin Rex, a Texas Tech graduate student and Planet Forward Correspondent, they shared how more faculty can integrate field-based academics into their coursework, too.
Can games be stories? And can they have impact? If a story features compelling characters overcoming obstacles to achieve worthy outcomes, then yes! This session explored games as interactive narratives for education, raising awareness, influencing behaviors, and persuasion. Designed for both faculty and students in mind, we learned how to use eco-educational games to drive progress – both within the classroom, and in the local community. Led by Curt Gervich from SUNY Plattsburgh - a Planet Forward Consortium member.