California Teen Inspires Youth to Think of Creative Ways to Combat Environmental Issues

Daily Point of Light # 7182 Dec 9, 2021

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Romal Mitr. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Point of Light. 

Romal Mitr has been passionate about the environment for as long as she can remember, due to being raised in a household that pushed for environmental sustainability. So it was no surprise when in 2019 she started Reimagining Earth, an initiative that aims to inspire people to think of creative ways to combat the world’s environmental problems. The 16-year-old has combined four of her own creative interests — filmmaking, geography, education, and origami — into Reimagining Earth’s programs.  

An avid filmmaker, Romal started a filmmaking program and launched Earth Unfiltered: Bay Area’s Environmental Youth Film Festival. Her interest in geography led her to start a mapmaking program that works to chart infrastructure to help create more accurate carbon footprint estimates. So far, she’s organized multiple mapmaking workshops and collected nearly 75 unique maps. For the education component, she’s working with California assembly members to propose bill that would increase environmental education in youth, and also serves as president of her school’s environmental club. Finally, she incorporates her origami hobby by hosting workshops and seminars on how to create sustainable origami out of recycled materials. 

Describe your volunteer role with Reimagining Earth. 

I’m the founder of Reimagining Earth. It’s an initiative I started that works to normalize the use of creativity when we look to combat our environmental problems. As my role in founder, I have started four programs under Reimagining Earth. They all channel my unique interests toward furthering the environmental movement. 

What inspired you to start Reimagining Earth? 

The whole premise of Reimagining Earth is to encourage people to creatively approach the environmental movement. I realized in my experience, many youth are often discouraged from approaching the environmental movement because they feel like it’s daunting or they feel like they don’t really have anything to contribute. I really wanted to encourage my peers to start taking small steps toward the environmental movement. I realized anyone can channel their passion toward furthering any environmental action, so I wanted to encourage people to look at their own lifestyles and reimagine them in new, more sustainable ways. 

Of all the programs, is there one that you are especially passionate about?

Romal Mitr serves as the founder of Reimagining Earth, an initiative that promotes using creative thinking to combat environmental problems./Courtesy Romal Mitr

I think all of them come from my deep passions, so all of them are very dear to me because they’re from what I’ve been doing from childhood, and just reimagined to channel them toward environmentalism. But I definitely think filmmaking is something I love to do all the time. I think it’s a really unique way to disseminate powerful messages. I feel like filmmaking is something many people overlook or don’t necessarily think has as much potential, but I have seen the effects of my films and my mini videos and how it has been able to inspire change in my community. 

Do you have any goals you would like to achieve with Reimagining Earth? 

I launched the environmental film festival, so one of the major next steps we have is sorting through all the entries we’ve gotten and trying to designate who would be the winners. I’m working on driving my legislative change to get my proposed bill passed, because I think increasing environmental education in youth is definitely the first step toward combatting our various environmental issues. Getting my proposed bills passed is something I’m currently working on with assembly members.  

Also, as part of my mapmaking project, based on the maps I’ve created, I’ve been trying to create more accurate carbon footprint estimates that take into account the urbanization in areas around the world. I’ve been charting this infrastructure like roads and buildings in secluded places, and the urbanization and the effects of the infrastructure in those places. I would like to look at how that has an impact on the global footprint estimates, because I know most estimates aren’t that comprehensive and they don’t really take into account the rates of urbanization in those areas. 

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about? 

My origami initiative is partnered with an organization called Paper for Water. Paper for Water is another youth-led organization I work with. Their goal is to create origami and fundraise using that origami to help provide clean water to impoverished communities. I’ve been working with them and we hope to develop a line of sustainable origami, because they work with regular origami. I’ve been pushing for creating that origami out of more sustainable materials like recycled paper, for example. We will still fundraise for these impoverished communities and provide them with clean water, but instead of selling regular origami, we will sell more sustainable ones. 

Romal Mitr meets with California assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan to discuss legislation that would increase environmental education for youth./Courtesy Romal Mitr

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?  

The most rewarding part has been looking at the effects of increasing environmental education. I can really see that people are inspired by this initiative and they feel if I’m able to apply my diverse passions towards furthering the environmental movement, they can do the same in their own unique way. I think that has definitely been the most rewarding part — seeing youth realize they have the ability to contribute to the environmental movement even if it’s not in conventional ways. 

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?   

Service is something that is really dear to me. I truly believe that it’s important for everyone, especially in the environmental movement, to come together in unity to help further various environmental initiatives. If everyone is working on their own separate environmental initiatives, or people aren’t supporting each other in this journey, it will be very hard to catalyze change. If we all work together and come together in solidarity, I think working toward a common goal such as improving the environment is definitely something that’s attainable. 

What do you want people to learn from your story? 

I want people to feel as if they are able to make an environmental difference in any way, whether that’s looking at their passions and reimagining them in more sustainable ways, or whether it’s creating an innovation that would help solve an environmental issue. Everyone has a unique role in contributing to the environmental movement, and if people truly embrace that role, we’ll be able to solve our environmental issues like climate change much faster. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Romal? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

Morganne Mallon