While still a kid, Erin Schrode co-founded Teens Turning Green with her mother, Judi Shils. The Bay Area native is now completing college abroad while she continues to work with the organization, including their recent Project Green Challenge. She has also made time to serve on our jury for the Green School Makeover competition and recently talked to us about her work. What would surprise us about you or your work?
I think what would surprise people most is the fact that everything I do is while I'm still in school. People say, Oh are you taking time off from school? But, no, I’m still in college. The age thing knocks people out. I entered the green space when i was 13 -- well, actually when I was born. Thank you, Mom!
Who is your hero?
My momma. She is my rock, she is my great inspiration. One of my mom’s greatest traits is her optimism. She sees the best in anyone and any situation. "No" is not a word that exits in our home. Our motto has been: "Dream and do." Teens Turning Green is testament to that. If I am half as fulfilled as my mom is, then I will have succeeded.
What is your greatest success so far?
Project Green Challenge [a 30-day green lifestyle challenge for high school and college students]. We had over 510 schools participating in this -- that is a dream for us. There were 48 states represented and over 2,600 people coming to the site everyday. I see the impact, I see people thinking more critically and having a positive impact on the world. It's exposing people to knowledge and giving them resources -- and having a ton of fun in the process. I worked on this all summer with 15 interns. We built it and they came! And it’s just the beginning.
What is your biggest failure or challenge?
When we started, we were a sort of David and Goliath story: tiny nonprofit goes up against the multi-million dollar beauty industry. Not a pretty picture! I heard, Oh, you’re a silly little girl, go do your homework. I was like, are you serious? You're putting poison in your products and you're saying that that's not true? It's difficult. But to keep up your morale, you have to celebrate your successes and believe in it wholeheartedly.
If you could make one global and green change, what would it be?
I would implement environmental education at every school around the world. I would say I'd like to take the greenhouse gases out of our air, but that's not sustainable -- you have to teach people.