Why Jaden Smith Epitomizes Gen Z Activism

Jaden Smith wearing a white New Balance sweatshirt

Jaden Smith may be best known as the son of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, but he’s nothing like your typical celebrity offspring. In fact, Smith, 23, has been using his platform to help make the world a better and safer place for more than a decade.

When he was just 12, Smith teamed up with his famous father to co-found JUST Water, which sells mountain-sourced spring water from a watershed replenished by rain and snow in recyclable, plant-based cartons. Since its inception in 2012, the JUST Water brand has removed millions of single-use plastic bottles from the ecosystem. Additionally, each JUST carton creates up to 74 percent less carbon emissions than similarly-sized plastic bottles.

Smith and the JUST team have also done their part to help address water scarcity across the globe especially in Flint, Michigan, which was plagued by a municipal water supply contaminated with lead starting in 2014. In March 2019, Smith, along with the JUST crew, helped create a mobile water filtration device called the Water Box, which was designed and built with the full partnership of First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church. Within six months, the device cleaned 8,500 gallons of water, or enough to replace more than 68,000 plastic water bottles for the people of Flint.

“This has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences for me personally,” Smith shared at the time. “Working together with people in the community experiencing the problems and designing something to help them has been a journey I will never forget.”

Jaden Smith: humanitarian and philanthropist

Smith is no stranger to using his platform to protect the Earth and help others. From providing free vegan food to those experiencing homelessness to promoting vegan fashions and plant-based food, here are seven times the singer has used his platform for good.


He’s feeding the homeless … for free

Not only does Smith understand that vegan food is kinder to animals and better for the planet, but he also knows that homelessness in America is a crisis that needs to be addressed with compassion and actionable solutions. To that end, Smith announced in May 2021 that he plans to open the “I Love You” restaurant, which will serve those experiencing homelessness hearty vegan meals free of charge. 

“It’s for homeless people to get free food,” Smith told Variety at the time. “But if you’re not homeless, not only do you have to pay, but you have to pay for more than the food’s worth so that you can pay for the person behind you.”

The brick and mortar restaurant comes about two years after Smith’s I Love You vegan food truck launched for the first time in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood in 2019. The locale has one of the highest populations of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. As Smith wrote on Instagram at the time: “The I Love You restaurant is a movement that is all about giving people what they deserve; healthy, vegan food for free.”

In September 2020, Smith joined forces with rapper A$AP Rocky to bring the vegan truck to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. The pair handed out more than 500 healthy plant-based meals, as well as cartons of JUST Water and 500 MetroCards.

Jaden Smith's New Balance Vision Racer sneaker
The Pink New Balance x Jaden Vision Racer with Greenhouse. | New Balance

He launched vegan sneakers with New Balance

Smith’s appreciation for the vegan lifestyle also extends into fashion, which is why the young philanthropist launched vegan sneakers with New Balance in May 2021. The kicks in question are bright pink and are a collaboration between Smith, New Balance, and Foot Locker’s incubation hub, Greenhouse. Given their pedigree, the sneaks are called the Pink New Balance x Jaden Vision Racer with Greenhouse.

The shoes feature animal-free and recycled materials, and, according to New Balance, the launch of the Vision Racer collection helped “speed up the brand’s timeline to leverage more sustainable and vegan-friendly materials.” Smith’s version of the Vision Rscer is the eighth iteration overall.

New Balance and Smith first launched their collaboration, the NB for Jaden Smith Vision Racer, in July 2019. The inaugural collection prioritized sustainable construction and used vegan leather and partially recycled polyester for the stylish uppers.

Per New Balance, the NB for Jaden Smith Vision Racer “merges classic New Balance design with Jaden’s unique, bold, fashion-forward aesthetic for a new silhouette that pushes the boundaries for sustainably-led footwear.”


And created a vegan beauty brand with his famous family

In February 2021, the entire family—Smith’s parents Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, along with his younger sister Willow—entered into the beauty world with the launch of their brand, Hey Humans.

The vegan label is a gender-neutral, environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free personal care brand that sells fluoride-free toothpaste, natural deodorants, body washes, and lotions, all of which are packaged using aluminum and paper. The range of products is also affordable, with nothing priced above $6, and is 99 percent plastic-free.

In June 2021, Smith brought dozens of Hey Humans personal care products to the Skid Row community in Los Angeles. At the time, he announced that his family’s brand would partner with The ReFresh Spot, which provides those on Skid Row access to showers, restrooms, laundry, and supportive services, to deliver monthly donations packed with personal care products.

“I’m so pleased to be a part of bringing together Hey Humans and the Refresh Spot, which helps so many residents of Skid Row find comfort in their day-to-day challenges,” Smith said. “Helping support my mom and her vision while providing dignity and self-confidence through personal hygiene is what this partnership is all about.”

Jaden Smith on stage at the Youth Climate Strike in New York City in 2019
Jaden Smith performing at the Youth Climate Strike in New York City on September 20, 2019. | John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images

He’s urging people to “change the world” and help save our planet

In addition to using his platform to help the homeless and promote vegan fashion, Smith has also urged people to be kinder to the planet. The singer performed at the Climate Strike in New York City in September 2019 and told the crowd of 250,000: “We gotta change the world, we gotta do something different. We gotta leave the old world behind now for our children.”

He later added: “The summers are getting hotter and hotter. This is something we really need to pay attention to as a community and be aware. These are the hottest summers ever recorded in human history and we have to know that and we have to understand our environmental impact on this earth and really make a difference.”

Smith is even receiving an award from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability for his environmental justice efforts in October 2021. “There is no doubt Jaden represents the new generation of environmental warriors who understand not only the climate crisis, but also climate justice,” Lawrence Bender, producer and board co-chair, said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to honor him and by doing so, help shine a light on these most pressing issues.”

He’s a fan of going meat-free at least once a week

Smith, who does not eat meat, has used his social media platform to encourage his millions of followers to reduce their meat consumption. In September 2019 he tweeted: “Dear Meat Eaters Let’s Start Doing #MeatlessFridays Where We Don’t Eat Meals That Include Meat For The Entire Day.” The post received over 41,000 likes and 7,800 retweets.

That tweet was shared about two years after Smith teamed up with Impossible Foods to launch a trio of vegan burgers at Umami Burger. “Jaden’s Impossible Trio,” as it was dubbed, included sliders featuring Impossible burgers in three distinct styles: the original Impossible (a traditional American burger style); Korean BBQ, which featured gochujang glaze, caramelized kimchi, sesame aioli, Korean ketchup, and scallion-cilantro salad; and a traditional BBQ slider with Umami’s BBQ sauce, tempura serranos, and smoked salt onion strings.

“From the first time I tasted the Impossible Burger, I knew I wanted to be part of the positive change that Umami and Impossible Foods were creating,” Smith said at the time. “They are at the forefront of food and technology and continue to move into the future of plant based diets. I’m excited to celebrate this social impact and bring the youth with me.”


He co-founded a sustainable water brand

Smith co-founded JUST Water along with his father, Will Smith, when he was just 12-years-old as a way to help the environment and combat single-use plastic waste. 

Unlike traditional water bottles, JUST cartons are 100 percent recyclable and reusable and are made from eco-friendly packaging. Each carton uses 54 percent paper sourced from trees certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, as well as sustainable plastic made from sugarcane. The cartons are also more efficient to ship than standard water bottles, because more of them can fit inside a single truck.

In July 2019, Smith removed 16,000 single-use plastic bottles from the ASICS London 10k marathon by donating JUST water cartons to the event. “We aim to inspire and show that a small change, such as changing your bottled water to a more sustainable option, is something we all can do to create a positive impact on our planet.” Ira Laufer, CEO of JUST, said at the time.


He helped remedy the water crisis in Flint, Michigan 

In March 2019, Smith, via JUST Water, donated mobile water treatment systems to a church in Flint, Michigan to combat the ongoing water crisis. The brand’s “Water Box” is a mobile treatment system that filters out contaminants. 

“This has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences for me personally,” said Smith. “Working together with people in the community experiencing the problems and design[ing] something to help them has been a journey I will never forget.”