Monika Griefahn was born on October 3, 1954, in Mülheim an der Ruhr. After graduating from high school she studied mathematics and sociology in Göttingen and Hamburg, graduating as a sociologist in 1979. From 1980 to 1983 she held the position of co-managing director of the environmental organization Greenpeace Germany, of which she was one of the founding members. She organized campaigns for the protection of the North Sea and - in the course of her work for Greenpeace Germany and Greenpeace International - further campaigns against chemical pollution of the seas and rivers. From 1984 to 1990 Monika Griefahn was the first woman to serve on Greenpeace International's board of directors and was responsible for establishing new offices worldwide, and was responsible for both education and training.