In preparation for International Women’s Day, I began researching women that are making an impact in the eco-responsibility realm. I found handfuls of ocean conservation researchers, NASA scientists working on the impending issue of space waste, and lots of government gals working for the EPA.
I then, like most millennials my age, began to scroll on my Instagram feed mindlessly.
I came across a post from one of my favorite sustainability influencers and started to read the comments sections. I saw tons of comments like, “This has inspired me to bring a reusable bag to the farmer’s market!” and lots of, “Your shoes are made from bamboo?”
People from all over the world were connecting with this woman and telling her their sustainability stories.
Then, I had an epiphany and completely changed the trajectory of this blog post. I wanted to write about approachable, educated and empowered women who have used their online platforms for good. Tackling substantial issues like zero-waste, social justice, and fair-trade products is no easy feat, but these ladies have created online environmental empires while continuously changing minds and touching the lives of millions in the process.
These four women have all turned their insatiable appetite for sustainability into businesses. These women are more than just bloggers, or authors, or “hippies” – these women are entrepreneurs!
Here are four of my favorite influencers for you to follow:
1. Lauren Singer (Trash is for Tossers)
After finishing an Environmental Studies Major at NYU in 2012, Lauren Singer made the conscious and life-changing decision to take on a zero waste lifestyle.
Lauren produces very little, if any, garbage. She sends nothing to the landfill and has adopted strict recycling and composting practices.
With inspiration taken from fellow sustainability influencer Bea Johnson’s book, Singer began her journey of lessening her impact on the environment while simultaneously making a large one on her surrounding community and sizeable online audience. With this life-altering change came the birth of Trash is for Tossers, Lauren’s online outlet to document her intimidating and super rewarding journey. This platform allowed Singer to show all of her followers that leading a zero waste lifestyle is surprisingly simple, impactful, and easy on the wallet. Her content is relatable, reliable, and realistic.
Full of recipes and stories while also equipped with an e-commerce site for her brand (Simply Co.), Trash is for Tossers has become a pillar of the millennial eco-conscious community. All of the products are organic, package free, and fill a household need. Going zero waste can seem like such an enormous undertaking, but Lauren’s gentle approach has miraculously turned mundane chores (such as making your toothpaste or laundry detergent) into the ultimate weeknight stress-reliever.
In addition to her site, Lauren’s social media presence has taken off into a multitude of different directions. She has an impressive YouTube channel and an Instagram audience north of 200,000 unique users. Singer’s voice is very easily digestible and allows readers, viewers, and fans to share in both the successes and failures of the zero waste decision-making process.
With all of the garbage she has personally produced in the last few years fitting neatly into a 16-ounce mason jar, Lauren Singer is successfully squashing the stigma and preconceived notions that go hand-in-hand with sustainability stories like this one; and all before her 27th birthday!
2. Bea Johnson (Zero Waste Home)
Known as the pioneer of the Zero Waste practice in the home, Bea Johnson has been changing lives and minds for over a decade.
With a best-selling book and an entire lifestyle brand under her belt, Bea Johnson has become the face of the Zero Waste Home movement to the media. An inspiration to many, including Lauren Singer (our previous influencer above), Johnson’s lifestyle is simplified into what she calls “the 5 R’s.” Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. When completed in that order, Johnson has created an easy-to-understand roadmap to Zero Waste.
Refusing items like produce wrapped in plastic or disposable silverware will immediately help to eliminate waste. Reducing consumption and minimizing, reusing jars, bags, and cloth, and recycling everything else you encounter will make an instant impact on waste reduction.
The “Rot” stage encompasses all things food waste, composting, and reusable resources – suggesting alternatives toward giving items a new life.
Johnson explains each step in great detail along with real-world examples and best practices to live a sustainable life via her website and popular social media channels. One of the many reasons that Bea has been so successful in becoming the sustainability spokesperson for this crusade is because her approach is straightforward to understand.
Recognized as a global zero waste ambassador, Johnson frequently participates in speaking tours and cyber challenges, encouraging her followers’ waste reduction.
Bea has given more than 200 speeches in over 35 countries on six different continents in the last few years. As an influencer, it’s essential to connect with your audience, and she does so by telling her story: A French woman living in California with her husband and children who decided to leave the earth better than when she found it for her children and next generations of her family.
3. Natalie Chanin (Alabama Chanin)
Natalie Chanin is not only a visionary, but the brains behind sustainable fashion powerhouse, Alabama Chanin.
One of the most renowned sustainable brands this side of the Mason-Dixon, Chanin’s Florence, Alabama compound has become a safe-haven for local patrons of the zero-waste fashion movement.
Chanin got her start by selling one-of-a-kind reconstructed shirts at Fashion Week. After successfully selling out of her “eco-chic” designs, Chanin planted her roots in her hometown of Florence where she began salvaging materials in the hope of creating gorgeous garments. Chanin was focused on creating by-hand designs with an emphasis on community fashion using recycled and reusable textiles.
With a sense of responsibility in every aspect of her business, Chanin has hired an incredible team of local seamstresses to bring her designs to life. In addition to her retail store, the Alabama Chanin kingdom also includes her design studio, manufacturing facility, workshop space, machine manufacturing center, and café. The café boasts a local and organic menu filled with sustainably sourced ingredients. Each recipe is treated with the same care and attention to detail as the designs housed under the same roof.
With a deep passion for continuous education, Natalie Chanin also founded “The School of Making,” an online forum for workshops, virtual learning, and even special events at the Chanin compound in Alabama. Natalie teaches all of the online coursework, with classes ranging from swing skirt techniques to the creation of do-it-yourself sewing kits. Since she teaches the courses, Chanin leaves ample opportunity for her fans, friends, and followers to ask her questions in real time throughout the lessons. She is approachable, warm, and an encouraging educator.
The muse of musician Roseanne Cash, a Council of Fashion Designers of America nominee, and a real community leader, Natalie Chanin has grown her fashion empire like she grows everything else…with love.
4. Natalie Kay (Sustainably Chic)
Natalie Kay’s blog was built on the philosophy that you don’t have to give up style to dress sustainably. Kay, the founder of Sustainably Chic, has created a one-stop-shop for all things sustainable fashion, socially conscious lifestyle trends, and eco-friendly beauty inspiration.
Only four years old, Natalie’s blog has spread like wildfire throughout both the sustainable and online wellness communities. Her approach is incredibly genuine, and she is consistently and unapologetically transparent when it comes to product usage, personal narrative, and the educational pieces.
One of the reasons the Sustainably Chic brand has become so popular on both blog and social media is because of the “brands to love” section of her website. Kay has done all of the grunt work for her followers by curating a promotional platform for sustainable brands in an organized and user-friendly way.
The site is sectioned off into 12 different landing pages for all types of clothing (for men, women, and children), accessories, and a home/lifestyle section. In addition to highlighting her favorite eco-friendly brands, Natalie Kay’s website is also an excellent website for research.
With informational articles, first-person blogs, and engaging podcasts on a bevy of social justice and environmental topics for today’s readers, Kay hits the mark when it comes to sparking a passion for sustainability within her legion of fans. With an emphasis on her five staple categories: sustainable fashion, green beauty, conscious lists, eco-lifestyle, and fair-trade outfits of the day, Kay has more than enough content to keep millennials coming back for more.
The Sustainably Chic Instagram boasts over 70,000 followers and new posts updated daily showcasing the social, ethical, and environmental importance of shopping, eating, and living sustainably. With a background in the fashion industry and an innate passion for changing the way the business was done in the industry she loved, Kay began blogging as an outlet and watched it quickly morph into much more.
Editor Note: References made to businesses/companies in this post are not meant to convey endorsement by Rubicon of those companies in any way.