20 Women Saving the Planet with Tech and Sustainability

Girl and Woman Planting Trees


Sustainability is a crucial issue today, and women in tech are helping us face this challenge. Worldwide, women are building a bridge between technology and sustainable development and making a positive impact on the environment. This women's history month, we wanted to spotlight some famous and less-famous women activists who are saving our planet with technology.

So, what is environmental activism anyway? 

Environmental activism is the actions of individuals, groups, or organizations that support environmental protection and sustainability. It is when people or companies use their power to make the planet a healthier place. 

There are many forms of environmental activism:

Environmental activists focus on different issues, from climate change to animal rights. Their goals vary depending on the activist. Some want to raise public awareness, like the climate activists vandalizing famous artworks. Others promote changes in individual behavior. Some even pressure governments and corporations into adopting eco-friendly policies and practices.

Women and Sustainability Go Hand in Hand

In many countries, women are responsible for the management of natural resources such as water, food, and energy. They understand the importance of sustainable development and see the impact of climate change on their communities. Particularly in underdeveloped countries, women feel the impact of climate change firsthand.

Women around the world lead the sustainability movement. Earth rights are also similar to women's rights, as they both often go unprotected. Because of these similarities, they understand that taking care of the environment is connected to many other things, like social justice and economic development.

As the world faces increasing environmental challenges, we must include women's voices and perspectives in decision-making processes. By empowering women and promoting gender equality, we can create a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change wrote an article on Five Reasons Why Climate Action Needs Women, which gives an international perspective on women's involvement in sustainability activism. 

A List of Influential Women Climate Activists from Around the Globe

  1. Greta Thunberg: The Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, has become a global icon for climate change activism. She has inspired millions of young activists worldwide to take action on climate change.

  2. Christiana Figueres: She was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-2016. Ms. Figueres continues to accelerate the global response to climate change. Today she is the co-founder of Global Optimism, co-host of the podcast “Outrage & Optimism” and co-author of the recently published book, “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis." 

  3. Wangari Maathai: Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental and political activist who is best known for founding the Green Belt Movement, an organization focused on reforestation, conservation, and community development. She was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work in promoting sustainable development, democracy, and peace. She believed environmental conservation and sustainable development were essential for alleviating poverty and promoting social justice.

  4. Dr. Vandana Shiva: The Indian feminist, environmentalist, and anti-globalization activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva, is the founder of Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers’ rights. She is also the founder and director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy (India), an organization devoted to developing sustainable methods of agriculture. 

  5. Rachel Carson: Rachel Carson was a renowned American biologist and writer who is best known for her groundbreaking book "Silent Spring," which was published in 1962. The book documented the devastating effects of pesticides on the environment, including the decline of bird populations due to the widespread use of DDT. Carson's work helped launch the modern environmental movement, leading to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States. She was a strong advocate for environmental conservation and responsible use of natural resources.

  6. Mari Copeny: The American environmental activist, Mari Copeny, also known as "Little Miss Flint," has advocated for clean water in Flint, Michigan, since the age of eight. Her young age has not stopped her from starting the conversation around environmental racism and confronting the country with the reality of environmental injustice. 

  7. Isatou Ceesay: The Gambian environmentalist, Isatou Ceesay, founded the Women's Initiative Gambia, which promotes sustainable waste management and recycling. The organization began by recycling plastic bags into crochet, taking trash, and turning it into products like bags, balls, and wallets. They now train groups of women to process plastic and sell the products they make.

  8. Elle Evans: Designer and founder Elle Evans had been working in the fashion industry for five years when she had enough of the waste. She decided to create a brand of sustainable swim and activewear products that look good and do good. Her company uses sustainable materials like Econyl, organic cotton, and Tencel. Elle Evans is also committed to ethical production practices. The brand works with a factory in Bali that provides fair wages and safe working conditions. The brand also minimizes waste by using recycled packaging materials. She is just one of many women leading the charge in sustainable fashion.

  9. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim: President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), She is a member of the Mbororo pastoralist people in Chad. She is an advocate for including indigenous people and their knowledge and traditions in the climate change movement. 

  10. Sylvia Earle: The American marine biologist, Sylvia Earle, is a National Geographic Explorer and founder of Mission Blue, which aims to protect the world's oceans. She has spent over 7,000 hours underwater, researching marine ecosystems. 

  11. Severn Cullis-Suzuki: Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke at the United Nations Earth Summit at the age of 12 calling for action on climate change. She continues to advocate for future generations. As a teenager, she was appointed to the Earth Charter Commission, a group that developed a set of guidelines for human conduct that respect the planet. Today Severn’s focus is the decline in diversity of biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and identity.  

  12. Sheila Watt-Cloutier: She advocates for the Canadian Inuit people and speaks out about the impact of climate change on Indigenous peoples in the Arctic. She is one of the many women who helped cement climate change as a human rights issue.

  13. Majora Carter: With a background in real estate development, she has firsthand experience pioneering sustainable economic and technological development in the South Bronx and other cities across and beyond North America. 

  14. Winona LaDuke: A Native American activist, economist, and author, Winona has devoted her life to advocating for Indigenous control over their lives and land. The activist works to create a thriving and sustainable community for her own reservation and Indigenous populations across the country. She is also leading the fight against oil pipelines in native territory.

  15. Ellen MacArthur: British sailor and environmental activist Ellen MacArthur founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a group that aims to create a circular economy and reduce waste. On top of fighting for less waste, she spent 71 days alone at sea to become the fastest solo sailor to sail the entire globe. 

  16. Elizabeth May: Canadian Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and has been a longtime advocate for environmental protection. She was called one of the leading female environmentalists by the United Nations and advocates for environmental education.

  17. Marina Silva: The Brazilian environmentalist and politician, Marina Silva is a former Minister of Environment and a longtime advocate of sustainable development in the Amazon. She has overcome incredible challenges to campaign for gender equality and sustainable development. 

  18. Shobha Philips: After climbing Mount Everest, this female entrepreneur started Proclaim, an inclusive lingerie line. The brand’s pieces are made from earth-conscious fabrics (think wood pulp and recycled plastic bottles) and cut and sewn by workers in Los Angeles. Her textile workers are paid fair hourly wages rather than per piece (a practice that often promotes wage exploitation and unsafe work conditions).

  19. Lisa Ann Pinkerton: Founder of Women In Cleantech & Sustainability, a group in San Francisco dedicated to promoting women in environmentalism and tech. Women in Cleantech and Sustainability advocates for women's inclusion in the green economy. Members range from students and entry-level professionals to founders, executives, and investors. The group hosts discussions on renewable energy, water, carbon reduction, sustainable transportation, and more. They promote clean technologies that aim to make our world a cleaner, more sustainable place.

  20. Xiaoyuan Ren: She founded MyH2O, an app that tracks water quality in rural communities. MyH2O helps residents find clean water and connects people with organizations that provide drinkable water. It relies on a nationwide network of volunteers who test water quality and log results in an interactive platform. 

Major Impacts Made by Women Climate Activists

These female climate activists have been at the forefront of the fight against climate change. Here are some of their biggest impacts:

Christiana Figueres played a crucial role in achieving the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to below 2°C. 

Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement has helped to combat deforestation and desertification in Africa. 

Dr. Vandana Shiva's work on organic farming has helped to promote sustainable agriculture and protect biodiversity. 

Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring led to the banning of DDT and helped launch the modern environmental movement.

Greta Thunberg leads the youth climate movement and inspires millions of young people worldwide to take action. 

Mari Copeny's advocacy for clean water in Flint, Michigan, has brought attention to the water crisis affecting many communities in the United States. 

Isatou Ceesay's work on sustainable waste management and recycling has helped to promote a circular economy and reduce waste. 

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim's advocacy for climate justice has brought attention to the impact of climate change on marginalized communities.

In conclusion, these 20 women are just a few of many who have impacted the world of tech and sustainable development. Their work highlights the crucial role of women in the fight for Earth rights, as well as the importance of women in technology. During Women's History month and throughout the year, we should look to these women as examples of leadership and inspiration.

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