Erin Schrode is an eco genius. Called the “face of the new green generation” by 7×7 Magazine, Erin became the cofounder of Teens Turning Green when she was 13 years old, a student led movement that strives to build education and advocacy for environmental issues. What started as a project at her kitchen table now has a national presence at middle and high schools, universities, and student organizations. As the cofounder and spokesperson of Teens Turning Green, Erin is a nationally recognized speaker. Not only is Erin a frequent speaker at panels and was the U.S. delegate at the One Young World Summits, but also she has been featured in the New York Times, Seventeen magazine, Teen Vogue, and CNN just to name a few. Currently, Erin is a junior at New York University and is studying abroad in Spain. Her latest movement, Project Green Challenge, was a month long initiative in October that challenged college and high school students to become more eco friendly by giving them daily green challenges to complete. Read Amazing Kids! interview with Erin to learn more about Teens Turning Green, how you can start your own chapter, and how you can become more eco conscious.
AK: What is the purpose of Teens Turning Green?
ES: Our purpose is all around education and advocacy. At its core it is to change the world, but in really simple, fun, and accessible steps that young people can take in their daily lives. I think what I press is the power of individual actions, collective efforts, and environmental sustainability at home, at school and in your community.
AK: How did you start Teens Turning Green?
ES: My mother. I was raised in Northern California, which is very eco-conscious place to live, by a TV producer turned grass roots activist mother. There was a study that came out in 2005 linking the ingredients in our personal care products to cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm. Everything in my life was truly natural and organic except my personal care products because that was cool for teenage girls to have these brands. Brittany Spears was the face of Herbal Essences and that is what we all wanted. And I realized my friends had to know (about the harm these products could do), and that it was very simple just getting the message out. That was and still remains my main goal.
People don’t know to know and therefore they don’t know to question. When you provide this information you see massive shifts. I do. And Project Green Challenge is proving it. When you arm people with information just wait and see!
AK: Did you have a mentor or someone who inspired you to start Teens Turning Green?
ES: My mom is my guiding light. A woman named Zem Joaquin is also mentor of mine. She is the founder of Ecofabulous and she has introduced me to all that eco can be. There’s no sacrifice that needs to be made in the way of style or efficacy for eco friendly products. She’s been an amazing influence as has Matt Petersen, who is the CEO of Global Green USA. Matt is just tireless in his advocacy in showing the real power of change on a positive local level from a very environmentalist standpoint. I am true and true an environmentalist, and Matt is that every day.
AK: As a co-founder and spokesperson for Teens Turing Green, what are some of the keys things that you do?
ES: Talk! I talk, talk, talk, talk! And I tweet, tweet, tweet. (Follow Erin on twitter at twitter.com/erinschrode. ) And I write. It’s really a lot of raising awareness. What’s most powerful for me is the anecdotal stuff. It’s like what we are getting from Project Green Challenge with people saying, “I didn’t know that,” or my friend reading something I wrote or hearing a speech and coming up to me and going “Wow, Erin! That’s amazing.” It’s an immediate visceral response of people not wanting to harm their health.
My mom and I’s motto is “Dream and Do.” We are thinking up the craziest ideas and somehow putting them into action. I can’t exactly tell you how. It’s a miracle sometimes. Like with Project Green Challenge we decided that this message had to go out in bit size pieces for one month and we have thousands of participants and hundreds of high schools and colleges across the country. It is unprecedented the responses that we are getting.
AK: What has been one of your most memorable moments through all of this?
ES: So many come to mind. For seven years this has been my life every day. That is a lot of moments. Truly I would have to say it is this Project Green Challenge. The emails that I get and the posts on our Facebook wall are some of the most powerful pieces of work that I’ve ever done.
As for speaking, I spoke this past June at a conference called Sustainable Brands with hundreds of the world’s largest corporations. To have those people come up afterwards and ask for my advice on these issues and to really have it resonate was amazing. For me a conversation in a classroom is way better than giving a corporate talk. But at the same time to see that shift in the market place is incredible.
AK: How can kids get involved with Teens Turning Green?
ES: http://www.teensturninggreen.org is our website. I always ask people “what sparks your interest? What aspect of our work excites you?” We want to collaborate. Launch a Teens Turning Green chapter on your campus. Let it be whatever you want it to be and we will be there to support you, to be your cheerleader, and to provide resources, connections and ideas for campaigns. Get in touch, start a chapter, and change the world!
AK: What advice do you have for kids who want to start an organization similar to Teens Turning Green?
ES: Find your passion! I found mine. I was incredibly fortunate. This (Teens Turning Green) takes up every aspect of my life. I hope that everyone can find that. That’s how you make change. You have to be dedicated.
Once you find your passion, educate yourself. That’s one of the reasons why Teens Turning Green has been so successful and why I have reserved so many great responses from adults. I know my facts. Read articles and research online. Google is an amazing resource and there are tons of data bases out there. And then, spread the word. Find people that are one your side and like minded individuals so that you are much stronger as a team. You can’t do it alone. It’s no fun. Talk, share, and get it out through every avenue possible and don’t stop. Don’t let anybody keep you down, don’t let anybody say no. I’m an eternal optimist and I think that is the only way to go, especially when you are a young person. So many people say you can’t, so prove them wrong!
AK: Why is it important for teens to make a difference?
ES: We’re setting up the patterns for our life. The world is waiting on us. We have to take action. We don’t have the luxury to wait and watch anymore. But at the same time we are really blessed to have so many resources and to have activism be an accepted part. It’s not a crazy hippy thing that it was in our parents’ generation, and that’s beautiful. The activists paved the way and made this possible for us. We have this opportunity so we should seize it.
AK: What easy changes can kids make to become more eco-friendly?
ES: The simplest thing is to reduce. People tell me all the time that they can’t afford to go green, but that is not true! Cut things out of your life. Reuse! It’s sickening how much we waste in our life, and that’s resources and money.
Also, go organic. It’s so vital and over looked. Pay attention to what goes on your body and what goes in your body. People don’t think about it but your skin is the largest organ and absorbs things much faster than oral consumption. When you’re lathering on that lotion that has 37 ingredients you can’t pronounce maybe you ought to be a little concerned about that.
In terms of energy uses, unplug. Flip the light switches, unplug your gadgets. There is so much electricity wasted when you are sleeping.
Tell Erin on twitter what your favorite way to go green is.