Have a question for Erin? Ask! Or take a peek at this list of answers we have tried to compile…
Where did you grow up?
Marin County, California. I am a proud Bay Area girl – raised on Marin County organic farmers markets, day trips to the beach, and hiking our breathtaking trails.
When did you start Turning Green?
Our first meeting was in January 2005.
Why did you start Turning Green?
A study came out linking the ingredients in personal care products to cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm. The campaign initially focused on raising awareness about the dangers of conventional cosmetics and personal care products and advocating for safer items, as well as legislation to protect personal and environmental health. TG now addresses a wide range of eco lifestyle issues and has a presence at elementary, middle and high schools, universities, and student organizations across the country and globe, as well as a strong virtual platform and media presence.
Where do you live?
San Juan, Puerto Rico has been home, since Hurricane Maria in the fall of 2017, though I travel a great deal. Prior to that, Marin County and New York City.
Do you follow any sort of diet / food philosophy?
I have been a vegetarian my whole life (except for a year or so in my mid teens, following a homestay in Spain), gluten-free since 2006 (not by choice) and vegan since January 1, 2010 (by choice). I try to eat organic, unprocessed food whenever and wherever possible.
How can you put together an eco-friendly wardrobe?
My wardrobe is a mix of eco and ethical designs with lots of second-hand and vintage pieces. I always turn to organic cotton for basics like tanks, tees, and leggings. I adore pre-loved pieces that are made well, tell stories, and have stood the test of time – all without the use of any new materials, dyes, manufacturing, processing, packaging, and such.
Favorite go-to green snacks?
Raw organic nuts, especially almonds and brazil nuts. Fresh fruit. Dried pineapple, apples, and cranberries. Kale chips. And I have been known to pack far too many Nature’s Path organic granola bars to sustain me.
Best quick and easy eco-friendly beauty hacks?
Sleep. Hydrate. Brush your eyebrows. And a little bit of RMS uncoverup that blends into skin so perfectly that no one ever needs to know you are wearing anything at all.
Who/what would you say has been your greatest inspiration?
What is something green you can't go without?
My mason jar. I take it absolutely everywhere with me – which makes zero waste living supremely simple. It acts as my water bottle, my smoothie glass, my tea mug, my salad bowl, my everything-holder.
What is an environmentally friendly organization that EVERYONE should know about, and why?
Well, if you know me, I certainly hope that you know Turning Green, of which I am so proud! Co-founding that organization in 2005 has clearly changed the course of my life dramatically and led remarkable work with youth worldwide.
You should definitely know the Environmental Working Group. EWG conducts vital research around the environment, health, and toxins and makes science relevant, understandable, and actionable for all of us, creating unrivaled resources and ensuring a sound basis to advocate for critical policy and legislative change.
How do you inspire others to lead a zero-waste lifestyle?
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good – in striving for a zero waste lifestyle or most anything else. I believe in leading by example and walking the talk, so I bring my zero waste accoutrements (cup, jar, bottle, utensils, bags, napkin, etc.) with me wherever I go – to demonstrate that it is possible to live zero waste AND be "normal.” I believe in doing whatever I can wherever and whenever I am able, but never purport to be something I am not. Yes, I produce some trash, but far far far less than almost anyone with whom I cross paths. It takes forethought, intention, and speaking up to avoid waste before it is created – but you can do it too! I believe in you.
What is a favorite new product?
Right now, I am all about turmeric. Try it in/on anything. Trust me. Your body and taste buds will thank you.
What is one minor change everyone can make right now that is a major step towards going green?
Buy less! Seriously. We cannot shop our way out of this problem. Our world is one of finite resources – and we must learn to live with less. I believe that is key to a healthier, happier existence. Conscious consumerism is key for what you do buy, but first: reduce the sheer quantity of purchases. I often start by walking into friends’ bathrooms and asking if they really need those 12 body products, the prices of which add up to. Buy smarter!
Should I be drinking from a metal or glass reusable water bottle? Why?
Plastic bottles end up in landfills – end of story. Americans send over 35 billion of the disposable items to landfills each year as trash. Choose reusable bottles to lessen the amount of trash you produce; it is one easy step you can take TODAY that has a great collective impact. Plastics leach hormone-mimicking chemicals, some with proven links to cancer. Perhaps you’ve heard of BPA, deemed by many to be highly toxic and phased out widely in 2008, particularly by plastic water bottle manufacturers. The precise health consequences are still debated, but why not err on the side of precaution? Unlined stainless steel or glass bottles are the way to go for your health and that of the environment.
When buying food, what should I look for? What should I avoid?
Labeling is key: the USDA certified organic seal is a third party verification that you can trust, meaning that food has been grown without toxic pesticides, insecticides or chemical fertilizers. The words ‘organic' or ‘natural’ on packaging are meaningless, so don’t be fooled; it is mere greenwashing, like adding a green leaf, water droplet, or natural landscape. Read ingredient labels: being able to pronounce everything on there is a good rule of thumb.
When buying cosmetics, what should I look for? What should I avoid?
We created two resources when we first started Turning Green: the Dirty Thirty is a list of commonly found egregious chemicals to avoid, where they are found, their purpose, and the health risk. The counterpart to that is Greener Alternatives, brands we vetted for safety, sustainability, and efficacy. Again, learning to read and decipher ingredient labels is key, but as there is no mandatory disclosure, companies can mask formulations or not include hundreds of chemical compounds on packages.
A lot of restaurants have compostable utensils/plates/cups – what does this mean? Are they recycled? Are they ok for the environment? Does this count as zero waste?
Compostable goods are far superior to their single-use, disposable, often-non-recyclable plastic plates. Most are made of corn, sugarcane, wheat or other natural fibers. In the proper conditions (mostly industrial compost set-ups), they can indeed decompose fully into organic materials (soil!), but many end up sitting in landfills as standard waste. If you can properly compost an end product, then yes, I count that as part of a zero waste lifestyle.
What should I do if a restaurant gives me a straw and I don’t want one?
When you order a drink, say NO straw right then and there. Because once a restaurant or food establishment tears the paper or plastic off of the straw, it must be thrown away, regardless of whether or not you use it (though still don’t use it… why would you suck your drink through thin plastic?).
Can I follow you on social media?
Yes! I am on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, the works! My username is @ErinSchrode on everything (and every new social network to come)!. Please follow me, ask questions, share insights, and join the conversation.
What does Turning Green hope to accomplish?
We hope to empower and inspire youth everywhere to realize their potential, take action, and affect change. We work to engage students in collaboration to enact individual and collective action to change their world. Through initiatives like Project Green Challenge and the Conscious College Road Tour, participants learn how to live and act sustainably, while encouraging schools and local communities to do the same! We promote conscious decisions across the board.
Who is a part of Turning Green?
The target demographic is high school and college students, but we work with EVERYONE from elementary school students to graduates, teachers and parents to politicians and elected officials, chefs and school cooks to chemists and formulators, social entrepreneurs to journalists. It is a collaborative, inclusive movement.
How can I get involved?
We would love to have you join us in our mission to promote public and environmental health! Here are some ways you can do just that:
- Participate in a program or event
- Sign up for our e-newsletter
- Start a chapter / join a chapter
- Lead an advocacy campaign / social action platform
- Donate to our organization
- Volunteer or intern with us
Why go green?
Take a moment to reflect on how all of your product use, consumption, and surroundings affect your body. This takes a direct toll on human and environmental health. Products and practices are increasingly untested and unprotected, so by looking at our lifestyles, campuses, and communities through a critical lens, we learn to examine the cause and effects of personal actions. How can we incorporate a thoughtful approach that nurtures, rather than harms, ourselves and the earth?
What topics does Turning Green focus on?
We build programs around themes relevant to the lives of students in high school and college. Our work spans all aspects of life! Some areas of focus include sustainable food, ethical apparel, non-GMO, healthy living spaces, green campuses, industrial hemp, and much more.
Do I have to be eco-friendly to participate in Turning Green?
Nope! TG aims to inspire a transition from conventional thinking to a more conscious perspective. Regardless of current knowledge and lifestyle practices, if you are open to change, ready to learn, and want to make a difference, you are the perfect candidate to participate in TG.
How can my school be involved?
Bring TG to your high school, college, or student organization simply by sending us an email! Hundreds of high schools and universities have joined the movement. Current outreach includes student government, eco clubs, sustainability leaders, Greek life, journalism, community service organizations, environmental studies teachers and professors, national PTA and other youth-centered forums. There are many opportunities to engage your campus, so get involved and be a key part of spreading this message far and wide! Contact us for more information.
Why should I get involved with TG?
There are many reasons to get involved! Here are a few of our favorites:
- Learn the benefits of living eco-friendly.
- Become a leader in your school or community’s environmental initiatives. This is a perfect time to start, complete with tips and resources to guide you along the way.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. Use TG as a catalyst for change. Embrace a new, more conscious lens through which to live your life.
- Start a Turning Green chapter on your campus. For more info, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.