6 Environmental Leaders to Look Out for in 2021

Sustainability activism is personal and comes in many shapes and forms. Let tomorrow’s environmental leaders inspire you.

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Men and women in collage conducting different activities, sustainability, environmental, influencers, activists, leaders
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A new generation of environmental leaders are mobilizing the world around climate change, social justice, and economic inequality while we watch in awe. ‘Fridays For Future’ is likely the most known Gen Z climate movement, however, many other grassroots sustainability activists are making big moves in their communities.

Here are six environmental leaders you should look out for in 2021:

1. Autumn Peltier

What were your hobbies at the age of 13? At that age, Autumn Peltier found herself standing in front of the United Nations committee advocating for clean water. The Anishinaabe Indigenous sustainability activist began her fight for First Nations communities’ right to clean drinking water in Canada when she was only eight years old.

To amplify her voice and impact further, Autumn initiates conversation together with fellow environmental leaders like Greta Thunberg. Both have featured in documentaries about their work and its impact on future generations.

2. Isra Hirsi

With young activists fighting for climate justice amidst public criticism, and the stress of simply being a teenager, self-care has become a priority for Gen Z environmental leaders.

At only 17 years of age, Isra Hirsi is one of Americas most prominent sustainability activists and the co-founder and co-executive of the US Youth Climate Strike. From uniting organized activism with self-care, to leading marches and TikTok educational entertainment, the daughter of congresswoman Ilhan Omar is determined to change the future towards sustainability innovation. Leading climate strikes, Isra works to ensure that activism is safe for young sustainability advocates of all backgrounds, all while finishing theater classes in high school.

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A post shared by isra hirsi (@israhirsi)

3. Afroz Shah

Best known for being the man behind the world’s largest beach clean-up project of Mumbai’s Versova Beach, removing around 30,000kg of plastic in one day, Afroz Shah was named Champion of the Earth by the UN in 2016.

Beach pollution ranges from plastic litter to pesticides and oil and destroys unique habitats used by animals and plants. Afroz is a High Court Lawyer from Mumbai, India, and one of the global environmental leaders dedicated to end plastic waste. He’s been actively working on fighting marine plastic pollution for over 5 and a half years, supporting the removal of 45 million kgs of plastic from beaches and is a huge advocate for keeping plastic in a circular economy.

To reduce waste and avoid new littering, he organizes beach clean-ups and builds educational collaboration with plastic suppliers and local governments.

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A post shared by Afroz Shah (@afrozshah_)

4. Marie Beecham

With communities of color often disproportionally subjected to pollution and less access to healthcare, education about environmental racism globally has become crucial.

Marie Beecham, ‘Waste Free Marie’, is a racial and climate justice advocate. Her work goes beyond the area of most environmental leaders as she pushes for intersectional environmentalism, which is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet.

It describes the ways in which injustices that happen to marginalized communities and the Earth are interconnected. Watch out for more from Marie and learn how to unite the fight for racial equity and environmental action.

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A post shared by Marie Beecham (@mariebeech)

5. Chris Thaller

As of 2020, more than 1 million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction because of human activities.

To stop biodiversity decline, Chris Thaller and his team from adidas Runtastic partnered up with the UN Environment Programme. Their goal: to unite 1m runners to raise their voices for 1m threatened species. After their incredible creativity in uniting athletes around the world to Run for the Oceans, the RUN WILD campaign is now advocating for runners to compete with endangered species.

Whether you want to compete with Tendrel, a wild tiger from Bhutan, Adjany, an iconic elephant from Angola or with Pamoja, a pangolin from Kenya, this running challenge creates a meaningful connection between urban people and wild nature through sports. Follow Chris and the adidas Runtastic team on their journey as environmental leaders.

6. Hanli Prinsloo

At least half (50-80%) of the oxygen produced on Earth comes from the ocean, mostly from plankton, algae, and bacteria that photosynthesize. Record-breaking freediver Hanli Prinsloo understands this essential connection between the life in and outside of the oceans more than most:

In 2014, Hanli was selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders in recognition of her contribution to ocean conservation.

The South African athlete, speaker and writer is definitely one of the environmental leaders to look out for in 2021. Hanli founded I Am Water, an ocean conservation trust dedicated to conserving and protecting the world’s oceans through human experience. Much of her work involves educating the next generation on the importance of preserving our marine ecology.

From clean water advocacy in First Nation communities, to wildlife and ocean preservation, these environmental leaders are role-modeling the change coming generations need us to fight for.

Do you know other environmental leaders who can inspire us on our sustainability journey? Share the names we should look out for in 2021 in the comments below.


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by Nina Weihrauch 11.12.2020
What a lineup of inspiring people :) Thanks to all of you for pushing the boundaries and inspiring all of us!
by Jana Kerkhoff 16.12.2020
Great overview of these amazing and inspiring people.
An addition to the list would definately be Germany´s "Greta" Luisa Neubauer! Such a role model in her young age. Maybe our future president one day?
by Hannah 19.01.2021
Thank you. Incredibly inspiring to see the impact every person can have.
by Nathaniel Yusuf 15.10.2021
my name is Nathaniel Yusuf I will like to partnership with you on supply of raw materials like plastic nylons polythene
by Our Endangered World 12.11.2021
Thank you for sharing this great list. To have a new generation of environmental leaders means that we have more chances to achieve a cleaner and greener future for all.

First time here?