The Zillennial and Gen-Z Creators Conducting Change On Social Media

Fast fashion hauls, sponsored content, inauthentic brand deals—influencer fatigue has likely given us all the blues at one point or another.

No matter if it’s out-of-touch renderings disguised as “relatable content” or the excessive glorification of overconsumption, many social media users are understandably fed up with the unrealistically polished lifestyles of creators displayed with every swipe on their FYP.

This exasperation is dually noted amongst Gen Z, a famously liberal and progressive cohort.

Whether it be exercising fiscal discretion as it relates to only supporting brands that align with their unanimously left-leaning politics or their voting numbers and stances on a wide range of socio-political issues spanning the climate crisis to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. And while the systems that be may never fully represent the poignant spirit of activism coursing through a large majority of Gen Zers, there are some content creators who have successfully and undeniably centered their platforms around educating and informing their audiences looking to be on the right side of history.

From slow fashion dupes to environmental intersectionality, we have rounded up a list of 5 Zillinneal and Gen Z incubators of change, using their followings to push the conversation forward this Earth Month and beyond.

Summer Dean

Known as the “Climate Diva” online, Summer Dean is a sustainable fashion creator based in Los Angeles. Through her online content, she makes sustainability engaging, insightful and relatable.

She breaks down global topics like waste colonialism and the insidious nature of fast fashion in digestible short-form videos for her growing following of 38.4K on TikTok. While informative; her content still encapsulates the lighthearted nature of fashion content creation—just in an environmentally conscious manner. 

So those looking for a Lulu lemon “dupe” can still find a home on her page; just know it will be the slow fashion version.

In an era where thrifting, consignment shopping and second-hand sites are all the buzz, Dean is a guiding light along the path of eco-conscious fashion.

Leah Thomas

Forbes 30 under 30, TIME’s Next-Gen Leader, EBONY Power 100, when it comes to environmental changemaker Leah Thomas, her list of accolades can go on for miles.

This plentiful prestige is well deserved, though, as she has more than made her mark in the climate change space. The Los Angeles native coined the term intersectional environmentalist, an industry-shifting term used to explain the intersection of environmentalism, racism, privilege and how one always affects the other.

She founded a non-profit and wrote a book by the same name. 

The IE platform is centered on environmental justice education and is now a guiding resource for diverse climate research that takes into account the often overlooked role race and privilege play in who is most affected by climate change.

Her platform, which includes over 260,000 Instagram followers, is dedicated to meeting her audience where they are and providing efficacious and practical information regarding the climate crisis.

Nyombi Morris

Nyombi Morris is a Ugandan climate activist focused on climate justice and gender equality after being directly impacted by the devastating impacts of the climate crisis when a flood in his family’s village in Uganda displaced his parents. This very real materialization of climate change puts into perspective just how dire the current climate situation is — something often lost in the jargon used to discuss the climate crisis.

In 2021, he was arrested for joining the global Fridays for Future protest, in which students skipped school to protest the current and imminent dangers of the climate crisis.

He has won numerous awards for his activism, including the Environmentalist of Tomorrow Award in 2021 and the Earth Champion Award in 2023.

Maya Penn

Not many can say they have been making a name for themself in their representative fields before fourth grade. But for Maya Penn, this is just one part of her fascinating journey to becoming a climate-focused entrepreneur, philanthropist and climate change activist.

Penn is an Atlanta native and began her brand, Maya’s Ideas, at just eight years old.

The award-winning slow fashion brand was founded in 2008 with a focus on sustainable, artisan craftsmanship.

Beyond creating garbs that have been seen on the likes of Tamron Hall, Penn also uses her social media profile, which includes almost 90,000 followers on Instagram, to educate and deconstruct misconceptions surrounding climate change, especially as it relates to Gen Z’s relationship to activism.

Genesis Butler

Genesis Butler is an environmental and animal rights activist currently leading Youth Climate Save, a first-in-kind youth-led environmental organization that focuses on the negative role animal agriculture plays in climate change.

This is particularly important to Butler, who became a vegan at the age of six. When she was eight, she asked the Long Beach, California, city council to endorse “Meatless Mondays.” Just two years later, she gave a TEDx talk titled “A Ten Year-Old’s Vision for Healing the Planet.” This talk focused on the tangible impacts of animal agriculture on the planet. 

She is also the founder of Genesis for Animals, which raises money to fund animal sanctuaries. 

Updated: April 22, 2024 — 9:01 am