No generation has faced the harsh reality of our climate crisis more directly than Gen Z. We’re staring down rising sea levels, islands of plastic waste, rising temperatures and increasingly erratic weather. Yet in the face of these doomsday predictions, by and large, young people are stepping up to the plate. If you look to hip-hop, you’ll find the unlikely environmentalist Jaden Smith. Not yet old enough to legally drink in the US, Jaden already boasts an impressive portfolio of environmentally-focused business ventures, from water in a box to what might be the world’s most sustainable denim. His climate crusade is more than talk and Tweets.
The 20-year-old self-proclaimed Indigo Child is an archetypal millennial creative, moving seamlessly between disciplines—acting, rapping, and now, design—in the public eye since age eight. First appearing with father Will in the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness, a string of Hollywood roles followed—until 2014, when Jaden renounced his big screen aspirations to release Cool Tape Vol. 2 an eight-song collection of lyrical rap. Of course, no profile of the free-spirited artist could go without mentioning his Twitter account, where he offers all-caps musing on everything from chemtrails, to the Illuminati and crying in the back of Ubers. Until recently, column inches dedicated to Jaden’s social media antics often eclipsed coverage of his artistic catalogue, but his 2017 debut album SYRE proved he was a rap force in earnest. Around the same time, he made a low-key return to acting, starring in Baz Lurhman’s Netflix original The Get Down, and voicing the lead character of Ezra Koenig’s Netflix anime Neo Yokio. This year’s streaming success ‘GHOST’ came with a video clip shot in Japan, which—unbeknownst to viewers at the time—teased Jaden’s next big venture, with he and his crew throwing Monopoly money outside a Harajuku G-Star flagship. But if you asked Jaden what he’s most proud of, he’d likely skip over all the chart hits and Hollywood premieres, and instead tell you about the work he’s less known for: his dual environmental initiatives—JUST Water, the Smith family’s boxed water brand, and his brand-new sustainable denim collaboration with G-Star RAW.