"Kids my age have to think of how we're going to create a better future for ourselves, and that starts now," the up-and-coming model, 16, tells PEOPLE

By Kaitlyn Frey
April 22, 2021 10:56 AM
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Leni Klum
Credit: Max Montgomery

Leni Klum's modeling career may just be getting started, but she's already using her paychecks to give back in a meaningful way.

Leni, 16, who is the daughter of supermodel Heidi Klum, has partnered with the nonprofit organization Plant-for-the-Planet in honor of Earth Day. The teen donated $50,000 of her own money to the cause, which inspires children all over the world to plant trees (13,500 billion have already been planted).

"I'm only just starting my career, but I've seen the huge impact giving back has made firsthand through my mother's charitable work throughout the years. With that in mind, I have put together $50K of my own money to donate to Plant-for-the-Planet," Leni tells PEOPLE exclusively.

Leni Klum
Credit: Courtesy Plant for the Planet

"Kids my age have to think of how we're going to create a better future for ourselves and that starts now," she continues. "I encourage you to please take it into your own hands, plant a tree, support organizations like Plant-for-the-Planet or do one good thing for the planet today."

When Leni announced her donation (and the news that she planted 1,000 trees herself!) on Instagram, her supermodel mom Heidi said how proud she felt in the comments — and revealed that she would be matching Leni's donation.

"@leniklum I love this and I love YOU 😍 We need more trees! Consider your donation matched! #proudmama," Heidi, 47, wrote.

Heidi and Leni Klum
Credit: Heidi Klum/Instagram

Leni skyrocketed into the spotlight in December when she made her modeling debut alongside mom Heidi on the German Vogue cover. Since then, she's hit the runway at Berlin Fashion Week and landed her first solo cover with Glamour Germany in honor of the 20th anniversary issue.

Heidi told PEOPLE earlier this year that she couldn't be more proud to see her daughter's modeling career blossom.

"She's been doing fantastic. She's been wanting to model for quite some time. And I finally said yes because she's now old enough, she's almost 17. She started with the German Vogue cover and she has another cover that's coming out in two months," the proud mom raved.

"She opened Berlin Fashion Week where I saw her walk for the first time, in heels like as a real fashion model," Heidi added. "It's mindblowing to me to watch her work, especially the first thing I did together with her and now she's doing things by herself, even though I go to the set."

Heidi gave birth to Leni in May 2004, following her split from Italian businessman Flavio Briatore. In December 2009, Leni was adopted by Heidi's now-ex-husband Seal.

When Leni landed her first cover, Heidi wrote on Instagram: "This Vogue [cover] is the best first step [in] the career you dream of. And even when it's a little hard for me to let you go off into the world, I will always do everything for you to be happy and fulfill your dreams. I am so proud to be your mama."