Erin Schrode is a young ecoRenaissance woman who blew us away the minute we met her. We should all have the drive, heart, and passion of this young goddess. As the “face of the new green generation”, the spokeswoman and co-founder of the US-based Turning Green campaign promotes global sustainability, youth leadership, environmental education, and conscious lifestyle choices. After working in disaster response in Haiti, Erin founded and launched The Schoolbag, a youth education project to provide materials for students in need, as well as initiate active citizenry and environmental stewardship.
“The sustainability prodigy” shares her knowledge as an eco expert on television and the radio, in books, newspapers, magazines, websites, podcasts, and beyond. An “incredible synthesizer and orator,” Erin has been featured in the New York Times, Vanity Fair Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Post, Seventeen Magazine, Teen Vogue, and about a billion other publications.
This “juggernaut in the non profit and green world” speaks frequently, serves on panels, hosts events, shows, conferences, summits, and videos to raise public awareness about environmental and social responsibility for individuals, schools, and communities. “A nationally recognized speaker and leader among next generation social entrepreneurs,” Erin is a spokesperson for leading organic brand Nature’s Path, has testified as a lead witness before the California congress, helped to launch a line of green skin and body care, the Teens Turning Green Collection with Whole Foods Market nationwide, and, as an “eco-activist-cum-runway-model,” has modeled in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City and collaborated with top designers on eco fashion lines.
“One of the leading young green movers in the country,” Erin served as United States’ delegate at the One Young World Summits in London and Zurich, addressed senior executives from fifty of the most influential global companies in a World 50 forum, was honored with the 2009 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award for outstanding leadership in community service and commitment to improving the world, elected to the United Nations 18th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (UN CSD-18), named one of JVibe’s 18 Under 18 extraordinary teenagers, given the Natural Products Innovator Award, and chosen as a Green My Parents champion. For her ongoing work in Haiti, the “young green-inspired heroine” was recently awarded the first Sisterhood Support Grant from Euro RSCG Worldwide PR. She just began her third year as a DEANS Scholar at New York University – studying abroad in Europe, after terms in the Middle East and West Africa – majoring in Cross-Cultural Diplomacy and Communications. Having visited over fifty countries, Erin has developed a keen global perspective and hopes to inspire her peers to take action and make the world a more sustainable and just place for future generations.
We got to ask her a few questions after sitting next to her at a particularly glorious wedding;
Who are you?
I’m Erin, a twenty-year-old green girl born and raised in Northern California. I get that sort of response quite often: “You’re how old?” Yup, 20, fresh out of my teens years… And busy as a bee. So let’s rewind… How did I get here? When my mom was pregnant with me, she read a book called Diet For A Poisoned Planet that changed her life. She did not wish to bring her daughter up in a mess of a world, one that was toxic, unsustainable, flawed in many ways – so she set out to make a difference, both through her own personal choices and by spreading the word about the irresponsibility and injustices AND safer and healthier products, practices, and guidelines. I am the way i am because of her, so thank you, momma. I feel so incredibly lucky to have been raised by such a powerful woman with an undying belief in the power of individuals and collaborative efforts to affect tangible and necessary change.
Optimism, positivity: that’s what makes my momma and my approach appealing, I believe. Doom and gloom gets old after a while, right? We live in a world that is absolutely obsessed with the bad, the depressing, the violent, the extreme negativity. So I’m trying to spice things up, to usher in a new golden age of ecoRenaissance. I want to show just how fun, relevant, glamorous, and accessible conscious living can be. a lifestyle that is better for you and our earth is super simple and thoroughly enjoyable! I cannot imagine my life any other way. And the good new is that it really doesn’t require much of your precious time or energy, just a wee bit of forethought. I endeavor to be that spark that inspires people to connect the dots, to take note of the cause and effect of our own personal choices and day to day actions. I have found that people just need that small kickstart, because once you start thinking criitically and incorportating a more thoughtful mindset, nothing can stop you! And nothing should! the resources are out there… ie right here and Teens Turning Green and a million other fabulous organizations, media outlets, companies, and individuals. Take advantage of the internet and all of the leg work that peoplehave done for you, simply because we believe that doing good (in every definition of the word and every aspect of your life) is THAT important.
Spill on how that came to be for you…
Let me tell you a little about my background and my personal mission to prove that apathy is out, that young people are taking action, and that education about – and widespread embrace of – environmentally sustainable and socially responsible living is what the future needs. In 2005, i co-founded Teens Turning Green with my television-producer-turned-grassroots-activist mother, in direct response to a study that had come out linking the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products to cancer, birth defects, productive harm, neurotoxicity, and numerous other detrimental health effects. That was NOTHING I wanted anywhere near by body, especially at age 13 as I was entering puberty. Not one little bit! So, I set out to tell my peers, to spread the word, to raise awareness. But I couldn’t just say “no, no, no;” I needed to offer up actionable steps and concrete alternatives, ways that my friends and peers could take this information and incorporate it into their daily lives. Hundreds of people, mostly teen girls like myself, came to our first meeting in January of 2005, lured by samples and fun dialogue with peers… And our movement was born!
For me, it all comes down to the precautionary principle: why risk your well-being when you don’t have to? And in today’s world, more than ever before, no sacrifice need be made for health or sustainability. Safety, sustainability, and efficacy: that’s the criteria by which I vet products – and more and more enter the market daily (about which I get far too excited!).
TTG began by focusing on cosmetics and personal care products, but we soon realized that we could not limit ourselves to that alone. Our campaign grew to embrace and promote and all-encompassing eco lifestyle: everything we come into contact with 24/7. This includes fashion, school (supplies, classroom products, food, landscape, cleaning, energy), home and/or dorm, you name it. Now, our three main areas of focus are lifestyle (this is the day to day choices: morning til night), schools (using the campus, where young people spend hours each day, as a pallette for exploration), and communities (to allow for collaboration with other organizations and involvement in local initiatives). Everything is built around education and advocacy, empowering high school and college students and the general public to “be the change.” Our messaging is now reaching an even younger audience with our newly launched Kids Turning Green at elementary schools. This grew out of direct demand for, interest from, and desire by kids, teachers, and parents to get involved.
I love watching the organic growth and development of TTG; it is incredibly powerful and energizing to see how students around the country – and now the world – get involved and make it their own. Our work is built around an online-offline approach, combining digital toolkits and platforms with physical events that ground our efforts on campuses and in communities. Some of our most exciting campaigns include Project Lunch, Project Green Dorm, Project Green Prom, Stop the Spray, and Bring Your Own Bag, the latter two of which boasted large advocacy campaigns, rallies, and involvement in political legislation. Testifying for the passage of bills that promote human and environmental health – be it green chemistry, safe cosmetics, phthalates in children’s toys, to name a few examples – has been one of the most interesting parts of our work over the past seven years. Legislation that protects our right to health is vital! We also push for better business, where sustainability and corporate social responsibility are integral to a company’s success and profit. By collaborating with industry leaders, we can for urge improvements in practices and push for responsible innovation. As the emerging consumer base, my generation is making demands of companies and, because of the high profile, rapid communication, global platforms which social media provide, we are forcing transparency and authenticity. Listen up, world!
There are innumerable entry points into green living – and I hope to show people just a few. Through this month’s Project Green Challenge, we are doing just that: offering up thirty simple, fun, and high impact daily steps to transition your life from conventional to conscious. Want to join us, learn a ton, and have the chance to win awesome prizes? You can sign up at projectgreenchallenge.com. Whatever you do, just find something that excites you and go for it! Passion is a key ingredient in making any sort of lasting difference.
What do you care about most deeply?
I am someone who throws myself wholeheartedly into many things. My life is spent pursuing my passions, taking part in things I love with people I respect and admire. What’s at the top of my list?
Haiti, where I am right now with an organization that I started after working here in disaster relief last year. Our mission is to provide the supplies with which a student can pursue an education, as that is opportunity and hope for the future. I’m leading a team of international volunteers and we are out in the field in and around Port-au-Prince each and everyday. I love it! This is my favorite place on earth. And, in my typical greenie fashion, the materials (notebooks, pencils, pens, totebags, and more) are environmentally sustainable to inspire stewardship and active citizenry from a young age.
Food. I’m a foodie, end of story. Spending hours browsing the aisles of markets (preferably local farmers’ markets), reading recipe after recipe (or inventing my own!), preparing fresh ingredients (chiffonading is my specialty), and cooking up a storm (or whipping up fantastic raw dishes!) is simply the best. I’m a gluten-free, vegan locavore that refuses to compromise on health or flavor! Scrumptious, holistic, organic nourishment is the way to go.
Films. There are few things I enjoy more than a great movie. I am a storyteller and a communicator and find moving pictures to be such a wonderful medium, losing myself in reality and fantasy, comedy and tragedy, modern era and historical times. The best!
Travel. My identity as a global citizen is that which I value most. To bring about peace and sustainability, we must foster cross-cultural understanding, beginning with in depth experience and real life interactions. I learn such immense amounts when I travel, throwing myself into the unknown… and so far, so good. My momma and I love to adventure to unexplored corners of the earth – and recently, I have found that solo travel is a beautiful thing as well. I continue to be amazed by the kindness and goodness of people. We truly are all one: interconnected co-inhabitants of our one planet.
What are 5 easy things you believe women can do to make a difference in the world and their community?
“Women hold up half the sky”…. And then some, as far as I am concerned. We are the backbones of this world and instrumental in any changes that are to be made. Here are five things that come to mind as ways that YOU can help your community and the world.
- – Raise your children to be aware, critical, open-minded, global citizens.
- – Incorporate a plant-based diet. Good for you AND the earth.
- – Value other people: friends, families, coworkers, strangers on the street
- – Spread the word! We are might good at talking and transmitting messages… so let’s use that networking ability (dare I say gossip!) for good!
- – Vote with your dollar for conscious consumerism, supporting local companies and those for which sustainability and corporate social responsibility are a part of the core.
What are your top eco-beauty or fashion secrets?
- – Wash your face. Yes, that simple step is magic. No matter how tired you are, taking a minute to rinse before bed is critical. Your skin will thank you in the morning.
- – Less is more. Do you really need shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body wash, toner, scrub, lotion, moisturizer, shaving cream, and bar soap?! That may be a bit of an exaggerated list of products, but my point remains the same. Consume less resources, cut down on packaging, and save money and space all at the same time.
- – Vintage clothing is just the best. It’s ECOnomical – and who doesn’t like that? Buying second hand, consigner, pre-loved items is really just another form of recycling. I love getting quality at a good price, especially when I am purchasing what is already in use! The whole concept of RE: repurpose, remake, rethink, re-anything fascinates me.
- – Coconut oil is magic for the skin.
- – I get more compliments on my nail polish (a simply perfect shade of red) than anyone I know – and I ALWAYS respond with “and it’s eco too! Toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde free” and then people ooh and aah even more. See, ya can’t even tell the difference?! And that’s exactly the way that life should be: everything should be green and good. Harumph. I may sound idealistic, but that is the way our world is progressing; I can feel the paradigm beginning to shift. Transparency, authenticity, safety, sustainability, responsibility… let’s make it happen together, folks!