No two days are the same for Saad Amer, the 26-year-old cofounder of Plus1Vote. Some days he’s creating Instagram filters to educate people on the climate crisis; the next, he’s helping send a million text messages to get young people to vote. Launched in 2018, his nonprofit seeks to improve voter turnout in national elections using social media to create campaigns and engage with young people.
The organization often partners with leaders like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Vice President Al Gore to host seminars educating people on climate change and voting rights. During the 2018 midterm elections, Plus1Vote launched a campaign that was supported and shared on social media by Alyssa Milano and Jimmy Kimmel. Plus1Vote also teamed up with the Women’s March to help amplify the voices of people of color.
“Our core mission is to improve the representation of young people and people of color in our democracy, especially on issues such as climate change and social justice,” Amer told Insider. “I recognized there was a gap in terms of the connection between these major issues and young people. I saw a need to energize young people, especially young people of color, to come into the voting space.”
Plus1Vote partnered with V magazine during the 2020 election for the V is for Vote issue, which featured Mariah Carey and Taylor Swift. For January’s runoff elections in Georgia, Plus1Vote teamed up with Uber to provide free rides to the polls and sent more than 1 million text messages to potential voters.
And that’s just Amer’s day job. He also works on the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Youth Constituency, is an advisor to the National Parks Conservation Association, and is an expert reviewer for an intergovernmental panel on climate change report.
A graduate of Harvard, he cocreated the university’s inaugural Sustainability Plan and is a fellow at Yale University’s Public Voices Fellowship on the Climate Crisis. For Insider, Amer revealed how he spends a typical day, which includes multiple chai latte breaks and speaking at virtual seminars on the climate crisis.
He wakes up at 8 a.m.
After waking up, Amer brushes his teeth, drinks a glass of water, and gets dressed. Early-morning tea time is at 8:30, which is a “personal ceremony” to him, allowing Amer to reflect on the day ahead and the day before.
“Now that the weather is warmer, I’ll have my first cup of tea outside in the morning,” he said. “I’m not big on breakfast, but I’ll usually have some kind of biscuit with my tea.” Right now that means an Earl Grey in an “overly fancy teapot” with Dutch stroopwafel.
Amer has worked as an activist since the age of 13, when he began to do environmental work in his Long Island, New York, community, where he still lives today. In high school, he worked with the school’s environmental organizations to help preserve land and went on to attend Harvard University, where he researched the impact of climate change on the Indian Himalayas with the United States Agency for International Development and helped discover a new plant species in French Polynesia.
He became heavily involved with voting after realizing many young people were not incentivized to vote, despite the way many issues like the climate emergency and social justice would be affecting them. “It’s all about young activists. It’s about having our voice presenting and being able to elect policymakers,” he said. “That makes a grassroots effort more powerful.”
His first call with his team is at 9 a.m.
Amer takes his first morning call with the Plus1Vote team in which he discusses plans on how to organize and mobilize voters for upcoming elections. The team is focused on the “For the People” Act, or HR 1, which would expand voting rights.
Plus1Vote is planning social-media campaigns around the act and encouraging young people to write letters to their lawmakers to help push the bill through. “Our democracy is at a crossroads,” he said. “The coup at the Capitol and the 360 voter-suppression bills across this country show how desperately we need to protect the right to vote.”
In 2018, Plus1Vote made a video that highlighted the women of color who were running for public office across the country, including Ayanna Presley, who tweeted the video. “Then, of course, she made history as the first Black woman elected to Congress from the state of Massachusetts,” he said.
The organization depends heavily on the tools social media provides, such as Instagram filters, which help them further involve people in the spreading of social messages online. The celebrity endorsements, for the most part, are organic, he said. Much of Amer’s time is spent conducting research and planning for events. “Now that it’s warmer I’ll often work outside,” Amer said.
Lunch is at noon
Today for lunch Amer is eating leftover Thai food, with some mango juice. “There has been a rise in hate crimes against the AAPI community and Asian-owned businesses have been struggling through the pandemic,” he said.
Amer recalls the day the insurrection at the Capitol happened. He was drinking a chai latte and couldn’t believe what he was seeing on TV. But, if anything, it made him realize he has to work harder to get young people to vote and help elect lawmakers that better reflect their values.
“I don’t think it’s the job of people of color to educate everybody on every single issue,” he said. “What we need is to see people brought to justice and for them to start educating themselves on the reality that we’re in.”
Next, a speech for Earth Day
Last week the team was preparing for Earth Day. Amer said he made sure to read the announcements from the White House and Congress regarding the climate crisis in order to organize campaigns around it.
He also had to pay close attention to these statements because he is a member of the Youth Constituency to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Staying plugged-in on the international developments of this week are crucial,” he said.
Amer has spoken at the UN “like a bazillion times,” he said, mostly “yelling at various ministers and ambassadors about the need to really treat climate change as a major priority.” Last year the organization was going to plan an Earth Day and climate strike, but it was canceled due to the pandemic.
They had to digitize the entire campaign, creating a three-day livestream in which Amer interviewed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He had a similar virtual event this year with the same goal: making sure people understand being a climate activist is also being a voting activist.
“Young people understand that we’re seeing our futures being robbed from us,” he said
“There’s a lot of gate-keeping in activism,” he said. “It’s important to invite everybody into activism, especially into the voting space of our democracy, where everyone is supposed to be represented.”
After lunch and a marathon
call, he takes a chai break around 3 p.m. “I have multiple cups of chai per day and usually have one by my side while working and while on Zoom calls,” he said.
At 5 p.m. he rushes to rehearsal for an event he’s hosting on climate justice called Action for the Earth Symposium, which was later streamed on NowThis. “The event centers intersectional environmentalism and youth voices taking action on the climate crisis,” he said. It also features the climate activist and writer Bill McKibben and Michigan Rep. Andy Levin.
A week earlier, he gave a guest lecture at the Harvard Graduate School for Education about youth civic engagement and spoke on a panel at Ohio State University on environmental justice. And earlier this year, he hosted an event in which he spoke to the actor Mark Ruffalo, famed for his portrayal of Bruce Banner and the Hulk.
“I was like, you’re a climate activist — the Hulk is green because you are a climate activist, right?'” Amer joked and said Ruffalo confirmed, “the Hulk is green because of climate change. “
Aside from providing free Uber rides in Georgia, Plus1Vote also provided free rides to the polls during the presidential election in Florida, South Carolina, and Mississippi. “It’s really essential to use these different tools and platforms to give younger people access to the ballot,” he said, adding the pandemic has only highlighted the issue more.
Then he goes for an evening run
Around 6 p.m., after the bulk of his work is done and before the sun sets, he makes sure to catch some fresh air by going for a jog.
“My favorite part about the spring is all the flower trees blooming,” he said. “I’ll stop and smell the flowers every chance I get. I’ll visit a few PokéStops,” a reference to the mobile game “Pokémon Go,” “and head home for dinner.”
Dinner is typically at 7 p.m. and recently, he’s been cooking aloo gobi, a potato and pea dish topped with fresh cilantro and served with methi paratha — a flatbread made with spices and fenugreek leaves. “One of the best parts of South Asian cooking is the array of vegan options,” he said. Amer is of South Asian descent. “About a quarter of India is vegetarian, so there are plenty of options.”
Before bed, he writes
After dinner, he takes some time for writing as part of his Yale fellowship with The OpEd Project. “I’ve been working on a series of pieces on the climate crisis focused on environmental justice, civic engagement, and climate solutions,” he said.
Afterward, he listens to music and audiobooks before retiring for the evening. He falls asleep, usually between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., depending on the day. Then he wakes up and does it all over again.