Student Activist Creates Business to Help Peers
Erin Schrode was 13 years old when she realized her makeup contained dangerous chemicals and toxins.
Eight years later, her efforts to warn her peers of the danger posed by certain products has resulted in the creation of Teens Turning Green (TTG), a non-profit organization for high school and college students. The group raises awareness about the dangers of certain consumer products, and provides eco-friendly alternatives. It also conducts programs that encourage young people to lead a safe and environment-friendly lifestyle.
“All these programs are what you can look like, living a normal life as a young person, but just thinking differently. It’s a mind shift,” said Schrode, a senior at New York University. Schrode founded TTG with her mother in 2005, in San Francisco. She hopes that through the group, more young people will adopt a passion for leading a green life.
“This is who I’ve been my whole life. I don’t get much sleep, but it all sort of works. I am not compartmentalized, it is who I am,” said Schrode. “For me, I cannot imagine life any other way. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
Originally created to focus on makeup, TTG has dramatically expanded in its short life. The group’s most recent effort, Project Green Challenge, engaged more than 2,600 students on 510 campuses across 48 states and 21 countries in four challenges a day designed “to create more sustainable lifestyles, campuses, and communities,” according to TTG’s website.
Domenic Marcellino, Fellow at the Ecologic Institute, said students like Schrode in the 18-25 demographic will have the greatest impact on the future of the environment. Focusing on Americans’ lifestyle decisions, instead of how consumer items are produced, is a unique way to create a greener culture, he said.
“It is fairly innovative and part of the second wave of thinking about these issues, which involves talking about certain issues and behavior,” Marcellino said about TTG. “I think that whatever sorts of dreams people about an eco-friendly society are only probable from the business side. A lifestyle change is necessary too.”
While in school, Schrode saw the need for eco-friendly dorm options. The place where you sleep and spend many hours a day should be as safe as it can be for you and for the environment, she reasoned.
In response, she began Project Green Dorm. TTG features an online green dorm checklist with eco-friendly room options including shower curtains, towels, apparel, and hygiene items. In Northern California, TTG opened “pop-up” stores, which are seasonal stores that sell a limited amount of items for a particular market. These “pop-ups” sold the environmentally safe back-to-school items featured on the green dorm checklist.
“When you give young people these options, more often than not they will make the sustainable choice,” Schrode said. “Back to school is such a huge market, and when we become educated we make better choices. When we have kids of our own we will start a new generation of eco-conscious people.”
Morgan Abbett, a rising junior at Stanford University, was a customer at the pop-up shop. She was the Teens Turning Green Representative at her high school and heard about the shop through TTG media campaign and school representatives.
“I really enjoyed the pop up shop as a place to buy my face wash and shampoo. Sometimes it is a little difficult to find the healthiest products in a place that’s really convenient. The shop made it easy to get ahold of those products,” Abbett said.
Abbett intends to continue to use green products throughout her life and to use the TTG website and online toolkit to find the best options.
“I am committed to keeping toxins out of myself and out of the environment. It gives me satisfaction to know that some of these choices can be so beneficial,” she said. “I can vote with my dollars to help companies that are doing the right thing, environmentally and socially.”
For the month of August, Schrode will launch a new promotion for Project Green Dorm: A dorm contest. Through Pinterest, students can post “ecofabulous” items for their dorm room. A team of judges will evaluate each Pinterest board, and choose the top designs.
The grand prize will feature all necessary green back-to-school items, including a laundry bag, yoga mat, organic cookbook, environmentally safe makeup, and many other items.
“We are really excited for this challenge and for students to take it on,” Schrode said. “We are excited for them to not only use our resources but also to find what strikes them. Is this about fair-trade? Packaging? Pesticides?”
For more information visit: http://www.teensturninggreen.org/programs/dorm-2/green-dorm-contest/