Storyfest 2020 – Winners Announced!


Tell an inspiring story to move the Planet Forward

Enter to win our Storyfest Award

Grand Prize:
A storytelling voyage to Iceland with Lindblad Expeditions
and Planet Forward in summer 2020!


There is no story more gripping than that of our changing planet — and the solutions to sustain it. While problems from climate to plastic use to conservation abound, we’re looking for the stories surrounding the people, ideas, and innovations making the world greener now. 

Storyfest shortcuts

See the Storyfest
2020 Winners

See all of this 
year’s Storyfest entries.

Watch a video about the Storyfest 2019
winners’ experience in the Galápagos.


Check the FAQ!

The Planet Forward Storyfest Awards recognize and reward the best and most compelling student-told stories illuminating environmental issues and solutions, told during the 2019-2020 school year. We are looking for both substance in the story and creative execution. Be memorable. Have impact. Have fun.

Award Categories

  • Best-Written Article: Paint a picture of an environmental challenge through your words — and then identify a character who’s working to overcome that challenge to achieve a worthy outcome. Include interviews with 2-3 primary sources, and construct a compelling narrative with a clear story arc through these sources. Articles should be 600-1,000 words and include a minimum of 1 image. Your image can be provided or public domain, but it preferably should be authored by you.

  • Best Video: Let your characters tell their stories directly, and let viewers see the innovations for themselves through video. Video entries must be 2-4 minutes, HD quality, and pieces must be uploaded to Vimeo or YouTube. All videos should include a paragraph or two (50 to 200 words) of information about your story – but don’t give away everything in your video; entice viewers to watch it. Note: If the entry is a longer documentary, submit a trailer that satisfies the run time requirement.

  • Best Short or Sharable Video: Challenge yourself to a short-form story told in 30 to 90 seconds, and create the perfect viral video about an environmental issue that has a great solution. Educate and inform viewers through visuals and text in a shareable video format. Videos must be HD quality and uploaded to Vimeo or YouTube.

  • Best Multimedia Story: Some stories are more complex, and a written article is best supplemented with more detailed content in another medium — from still images to video to audio. All multimedia submissions should include an article (600-1,000 words) and multiple photographs/a slideshow (preferably authored by the entrant) or an entrant-created infographic, OR an article and an entrant-created video or podcast/audio story. Photos should be at least 150 dpi and each should have at least a brief caption. All videos should be 2-4 minutes, and podcasts should be 3-15 minutes long. If the submission is prepared using Adobe Spark or similar platform, a written summary of 100-200 words as well as an embed code must be provided.

  • Best Photo Essay: Some images are forever seared in our memories. Craft your own work of memorable photojournalism though a photo essay that tells the story of an environmental challenge and feature a solution or progress in surmounting that challenge. Select your best 5-15 photos, 150 dpi minimum, to include with your written text.

What can your stories be about?

We’re looking for stories about ideas and innovations that can move the planet forward. Untold stories. Misunderstood stories. And little-known ideas, people, and breakthroughs that can make a difference, have impact, inform, and inspire. These are the topic areas we’re hoping you will explore, and can reflect your studies, research, work, experience, or dreams:

  • Food: How can we feed the planet, grow better food, stop wasting so much of it?

  • Water: How should we use it, conserve it, clean it, get it to places that don’t have enough of it?

  • Energy: What are new ways to get it, make it cleaner, use it more efficiently?

  • Mobility: What’s a better way to get around, reduce congestion, minimize the impact on the environment and the climate?

  • The built environment: How should we build for the future? What are the new materials, technologies or designs that will make better homes, offices, neighborhoods, cities and towns?

  • Biodiversity: How do we preserve and foster our vital ecosystems?

What will our judges look for?

Be bold, creative, and use the tools of the trade. Our judges will be looking for:

  • Compelling characters: The story of a character, working to move the planet forward, and told in an engaging way, is one of the key elements to a great story.

  • Creative storytelling: Tell your innovation story in a creative way – either through media format or storytelling technique (e.g., infographic, video, music video, poem, art, etc.).

  • Science or data storytelling: Delve into explanatory storytelling – use science or data to tell the story behind an innovation or idea to move the planet forward. Explore using metaphor, revealing a discovery as if you were solving a mystery.

  • An innovation story: Focus your piece on a scalable and/or inspiring innovation that has a great chance to change the world in the future.



Grand prize winners will travel with Planet Forward and Lindblad Expeditions for an unrivaled expedition to Iceland, the famous land of fire and ice, and report on the pressing environmental issues found just south of the Arctic Circle. Students will accompany the Planet Forward team on the National Geographic Explorer, a 148-guest ship, from June 29 to July 5, 2020. Students will explore under the guidance of an expedition leader and a team of naturalists, including a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor and an undersea specialist. The ship’s expert team will host educational talks aboard the ship, to complement your daily explorations on this field-based adventure. Planet Forward Founder Frank Sesno will be your editorial guide to help shape the stories that will come from the experience.


Storyfest entries will be judged in four areas:

  1. Creativity and effectiveness of chosen format/s;

  2. Excellence in written/verbal communication and/or technical and production skill;

  3. Factual accuracy, including attribution of facts, data and quotes, and superior research that considers different perspectives; and

  4. Overall potential impact of the featured idea.

All submitted work will be reviewed by a committee of journalists and sustainability experts not affiliated with Planet Forward.

Team Entries

Please note that team entries are limited to two team members. Both team members will be recognized at any university award presentation; however, only one travel Prize will be awarded for the entire team. See the Official Rules for more information on team entries.

Story Eligibility & Deadline

Any story submitted on between Monday, April 22, 2019, 12:00 am EDT, and the extended deadline to submit stories, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, at 11:59 PM EST, is eligible for Storyfest 2020.



  1. Review the Official Rules, then log into your account, or create a new one.

  2. Draft your story on the Planet Forward website.

  3. At the bottom of the page, check the “This is a Storyfest entry” checkbox and complete the entry form questions. 

  4. Change your story status to “Needs Review,” and hit “Save.” You’re done!

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