Plant-Based Powerhouses: 10 Women Working to Heal Our Planet

From fighting for accessibility to changing the food system, these are the women to know.
March 6, 2019 4 Comments 5 min read

International Women’s Day
On March 8th, people from around the globe celebrate International Women’s Day, an annual event that honors the various achievements – social, economic, political and cultural — of progressive women cultivating a more compassionate, equitable world. From marches to rallies, networking events, and online discussions, the day features wins made by outstanding women, and this year, the campaign centers in on one central theme: building a gender-balanced world.

“Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”
— International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day, OMD is spotlighting folks making moves for our planet, from dishing up healthy, fresh produce to communities  to rallying to end animal violence.

lauren Ornelas

lauren Ornelaslauren Ornelas has been active in the plant-based movement for more than 30 years. You may know her from her TedxTalk, but even more notable has been her work with Viva! USA. As executive director, in cooperation with activists across the country, she successfully pushed for  policy changes in powerful companies such as Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, including rallying for the chains to stop carrying duck meat.

Katie LeBlanc

Katie LeBlancLast year we tapped Katie LeBlanc to give us an inside peek at her world, and today we’re celebrating her work with Real Food Challenge, an advocacy organization that works with colleges and universities to shift their food budgets away from industrialized agriculture to purchase more food from local farms with ethical environmental and and labor practices. Katie is fighting to end food apartheid, and for greater access to traditional and healthy food in indigenous communities, demanding and reclaiming food sovereignty.

Francesca “Sol” Chaney

Francesca “Sol” ChaneyAt just 21 years old, Francesca “Sol” Chaney opened a new vegan venture in Brooklyn, making it  her mission to provide healthy, delicious, and convenient food to an underserved community. She believes that people in low-income areas may not prefer fast food over healthy food, but in a world of expensive green juices and superfoods, those with fixed incomes may not have much of a choice. “The wellness community can be really classist,” Chaney said to Essence. Her restaurant, Sol Sips, offers weekly sliding scale brunches, free cooking classes and more to make plant-based eating accessible for all.

Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall Through nearly 60 years of groundbreaking work, Dr. Jane Goodall has not only shown us the urgent need to protect chimpanzees from extinction, she has also redefined species conservation to include the needs of local people and the environment. A leader in raising awareness about the impacts of our food system on climate change and wildlife, she’s become an advocate for meat reduction. Today she travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees and other environmental crises, urging each of us to take action on behalf of all living things and planet we share.

Nancy Weiss

Nancy WeissFighting for better school lunches is no small feat. That’s why we’re feeling the love for Food Service Director Nancy Weiss who’s working to bring healthier, plant-based options to her cafeterias in the Santa Barbara School District. In the course of her career, she’s helped lead the way in nixing unhealthy, meat and dairy-heavy processed foods from Santa Barbara school lunch menus in favor of plant-based, local and organic options. Her department serves more than 2 million meals to kids each year!

Aph Ko

Aph Ko founded Black Vegans RockAph Ko founded Black Vegans Rock after she writing an article celebrating 100 Black Vegans for the website Striving with Systems in June 2015. Hoping to to dismantle the stereotype that veganism was an elite, “white person’s” lifestyle, Ko decided to research and compile a list of influential Black vegans who were doing incredible work. Since then, she to created a platform devoted to spotlighting inspiring Black vegans every day. Give it a look!

Dr. Melanie Joy

Dr. Melanie Joy Dr. Melanie Joy is an American social psychologist and author, primarily known for coining the term “carnism” to describe meat-eating, and founding the organization Beyond Carnism in the U.S. Dr. Joy is working to empower concerned citizens and advocates through education and activism, to help create a more compassionate and just world for all beings, human and non-human alike.

Genesis Butler

Genesis ButlerYou may have heard of Genesis Butler, the 12-year-old challenging the Pope to go vegan for Lent in exchange for a $1 million charitable donation. Doesn’t ring a bell? Genesis chose to go vegetarian at age 3, and vegan at 6. By the time she was 10, she was the youngest person to ever give a TEDx Talk. What’s next? If it’s up to her, it’ll be the presidency. Yes. She. Can.

Chef Babette

Chef BabetteChef Babette has been serving up delicious vegan eats for more than two decades. She is a firm believer that we should all “(eat) live food and live consciously!” A committed and active health advocate, Chef Babette co-founded the Love Ur Age Project, which is intended to make health and wellness accessible to people who may lack opportunities for healthy living due to environmental and economic barriers, or a simple lack of knowledge.

Gwenna Hunter

Gwenna HunterMeet Gwenna Hunter, the founder of VegansOfLA and coordinator of community engagement and events for Greater Los Angeles at Vegan Outreach. Gwenna works to increase awareness through education, community outreach, and making plant-based options more accessible for all — and that’s something we can definitely get behind.


What's Next?

Are you looking to take action in your community? We’re working to expand access and make the case for schools, businesses, restaurants and communities to move toward more plant-based options, and you can help. Download our Restaurant and School Lunch Toolkits and get started today.

About the Author

Jessica Jewell Lanier is OMD’s Communications and Social Media Manager. When not eating plants, you can find her reading spooky dystopian novels, exploring SoCal’s local trails or cuddling her dog, Penny the Rescue Puppy.


  • Connie

    I don’t see Vandana Shiva on this list! She’s been fighting to remove GMOs from the planet for YEARS. She should have been on this list!

    • Jessica Jewell Lanier

      Hi Connie,

      Jessica with Team OMD here. We hear you! It was so tough to pick just 10 women this year. We’re big, big fans of Vandana. We’ll have to add her to the list to highlight.

      Thank you for your passion and feedback!

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    • Jessica Jewell Lanier


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