Congratulations to the 2022 Storyfest Winners!

Photo of eight people on a stage in front of a blue background.

From left: Planet Forward Founding Director Frank Sesno; Leo, Operations Coordinator at Plantita Power; Jennifer Cuyuch, George Washington University, whose story covered Plantita Power; Halley Hughes, University of Arizona; Sven Lindblad; Farzona Comnas, George Washington University; Ryan Bieber, Ithaca College; and Dr. Imani M. Cheers, GW's Director of Academic Adventures. (Not pictured is Delaney Graham, SUNY-ESF.)

At the 2022 Planet Forward Summit on April 7, we were pleased to announce the winners of our annual Storyfest competition – the very best stories from college students around the environment, sustainability, and innovative solutions from the past academic year.

This year's student storytelling was – in a word – exceptional, and the competition for the title of Storyfest 2022 winner was incredibly tough. Our finalists covered everything from musicians and scientists to farmers and community activists, and highlighted solutions on everything from new irrigation technology to mammoth resurrection. You can see all our amazing finalists' pieces right here on PlanetForward.org.

After a great deal of deliberation from our committee of judges, we are excited to share our our 2022 winners:

MOST COMPELLING CHARACTER

Image from above of a person potting a plant in a yard.

Still from Plantita Power: Microgreens in the District (Jennifer Cucyuch/George Washington University)

Plantita Power: Microgreens in the District

Jennifer Cuyuch, George Washington University

The judges say:

Through her warm interviews and vibrant use of music and graphics, the judges say Jennifer not only conveys the character of Plantita Power's founder, Steph, but also their community and spirit of care and life plants! that they cultivate.

 

MOST CREATIVE STORY

Illustration of little girl and a bird in front of a village.

Still from 'Coastal Degradation Through Fresh Eyes': A picture book come to life (Delaney Graham/SUNY-ESF)​​​​​

'Coastal Degradation Through Fresh Eyes': A picture book come to life

Delaney Graham, SUNY-ESF

The judges say:

A thoroughly absorbing story built around storybook characters. Amka’s friend, is a puffin who is homeless because of coastal erosion. They embark on a journey of discovery and hope. The story works and the characters pop. The judges were taken by the character – and the content.

 

BEST SCALABLE INNOVATION

A amber sand dune towers over the tiny figures of a group of people.

A towering sand dune in Wadi Rum. (Farzona Comnas/George Washington University)

Farzona Comnas, George Washington University

The judges say:

Beautifully written and photographed, this story is personal to Farzona, focusing on deserts in her native country of Jordan. They’re becoming hotter and drier as a result of climate change. Farzona proposes planting forests in desert. Sound impossible? She cites an initiative in Lebanon that has done just that. The practice is called Afforestation. Project Drawdown rates it 15th of the most significant steps we could take to reverse global warming. The judges say, this story delivers!

 

BEST SCIENCE NARRATIVE

A side by side of two forested mountains.

Left: Spain, 2021 (Ryan Bieber/Ithaca College) Right: California, 2019 (Andreas Haslinger/Unsplash)

A tale of two mountains: Battling climate change and wildfires at home and abroad

Ryan Bieber, Ithaca College

The judges say:

Ryan weaves a compelling narrative built on the science. It is a tale of two Sierras. In California, the Sierra Nevada has experienced “nine out of ten of the state’s largest wildfires … in the last decade.” In Spain, monoculture replanting in the Sierra Nevada became a fire trap. This story is a compelling narrative of learning and loss showing distinct ways that human activity has led to devastating wildfires

 

BEST USE OF SCIENCE & DATA

Text on a brick sign reads "Mission Garden"

(Halley Hughes/University of Arizona)

Hope flows through the heart of Tucson: The Santa Cruz River Heritage Project

Halley Hughes, The University of Arizona

The judges say:

Halley brings the science and data to real-world life in her story about the Santa Cruz River Heritage project. A “trickle of water” that represents “enormous change.” The story captures the heart and soul of the living desert. As Halley writes, “making Tucson more drought resilient, conserving water resources, supporting critical biodiversity, connecting a city to its heritage, and educating a new generation.”

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Congratulations to our winners — and a huge thank you to all the students who entered this year. We are so proud of the stories you are telling to move the planet forward!

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.