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A big thanks to Savannah at Sustainable Directions for spreading our #ErinForUs message! I was thrilled to speak with a fellow young mover-shaker environmentalist!

Erin Schrode could be the youngest person ever elected to Congress.

This year, more than ever, politics is breeding pessimism. From Flint, Michigan to Aliso Canyon, California, to Washington, DC, and on through to our hometowns, we are witnessing our policies and infrastructure crumble. It’s easy to feel hopeless and unrepresented.

But Erin Schrode demonstrates that it’s just as easy to stand up and do something. Yes, she is 24. Yes, she loves acai smoothie bowls, travelling, and Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream. And yes, she is running for Congress.

Marie Claire Magazine investigated the steps to run for Congress while interviewing Erin earlier this month. Erin needed to get 60 signatures, open a special checking account, and file with the Marin County registrar. She has since worked with her friends to develop her website and logo, and, last but not least, she needs to turn 25 (the minimum age of candidacy for a seat in Congress) which, luckily she’ll celebrate next month.

Erin never intended to be a politician; however, grassroots community organizing is hardwired into her DNA. It’s almost inevitable when growing up in Marin. But more specifically, she learned how to become an advocate from her mother. When Erin was a child, her family discovered that Marin County had the highest breast, prostate, and melanoma cancer rates in the world — despite its famously high concentration of organic farms and protected lands, and promotion of active lifestyles. Her mother immediately found her boots-on-the-ground call to action. Through research and campaigns, Erin learned how to investigate, create a stakeholder community, and coalesce hard fasts with compelling stories. “Eco-consciousness forms the lens through which I view my entire life,” she states.

She since co-founded Turning Green at age 13, which is a national non-profit organization devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally sustainable and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities. Her student-led movement focuses on eliminating toxic exposure and creating eco-awareness. Her work has led to her consulting and speaking in 70 different countries, and in front of a variety of organizations and corporations, including Apple, IKEA, the US State Department, the Coca-Cola Company, Chipotle, United Nations, EPA and more. The White House called Erin “a dynamic, passionate and ambitious young woman committed to creating big change everywhere she goes.”

And now, she believes that it’s time to deliver on the promise of her generation.

So who are you, Erin Schrode? What’s your deal?

It’s that you can make a difference. No one person is too young, too small, too insignificant to matter. And especially us young people; we have the tools at our fingertips. We have the information accessible to architect ourselves a new reality. And yes, education is important, and yes, with age comes experience and wisdom. But don’t wait. Start now. As Helen Keller said, “just because I cannot do everything, does not mean I cannot do something.”

And you’re also not doing anything alone! When you hear the ills of the world today, it becomes overwhelming. But the power of mentorship and collaboration is invaluable. There are people out there that have already blazed these trails, and although we should continue to pass on the torch, we are much stronger collectively.

What is the main platform of your campaign?

There are three main components of my platform that align with the three lines of my life:

environmental health, the future of education and work, and human rights.

Environmental health represents the greatest challenge to our collective future. We need to enact policy that prevents and mitigates environmental damages, but also prepares for future climate change, and educates citizens on exposure.

We are also all students, if at least students of life. We currently have this idea that you go to school, you graduate, you work, you retire. But life doesn’t work that way anymore. So how do you set up a lifelong cycle of learning? We need to assure that knowledge is accessible to everyone, and that higher education is affordable to everyone. **student loans, cough cough** I know that despite some scholarships, I had to work through college, and have friends who will take decades to pay off their debts. And on top of this, students are graduating with no transferrable skills. Our industries are disappearing, and our peers are revolutionizing the workforce at every vertical. We need to create an economy that reduces inequality across the board, a government that invests in its people, and a culture that is enterprise-friendly. Individuals alone can become the economic engines of the future.

And lastly, I believe strongly in human rights. And to quote Hillary, “because human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” Equal pay? Come on! Paid leave? Come on! Access to healthcare? Absolutely! And are we really going to put the right to choose in the hands of states? We can’t.

And what do you suggest to those pushing environmental advocacy outside the Marin County haven…such as the Deep South? What tips do you have in communicating environmental advocacy as a bipartisan, people’s issue?

I think of the power of communication tools and mechanisms. I would suspect that everywhere, there are people that are your friends and allies. When I go around the country, when I speak to people, I walk into the vegetarian restaurant, and I’m so excited and they’re so excited, and the energy is infectious. Reach out to your stakeholders and hold a meeting. With our Turning Green initiatives, we always offer our networks a meeting to ensure that these connections are there and that you’re not alone.

Then, focus your efforts. We all want to heal the world, but you have to find something you’re passionate about and then prioritize these initiatives. Then you’ll do your research, get the facts, convince policymakers and businessmen and consumers, create media campaigns and info-graphics, draw in the high profile individuals, break down the numbers game, promote what works, develop a return on investment, and create action! But most importantly, never forget the power of education. The “trickle up” effect of young people is so much more powerful than any kind of trickle down.

And in the end, it’s fun! Let’s make eco-awareness fun, and make it sexy!

How on Earth do you remain so positive and so energetic?

I find that hope carves more allies! People don’t want to talk to you if all you say is that the Earth has gone to nothing. Like I said, energy is infectious. And ultimately, this is for the people—for there is nothing that we, as committed citizens, cannot accomplish together. How exciting is that?

A few more words from Erin’s campaign:

Change does not roll in on the heels of inevitability – and when too many of us are being ignored, excluded, or discriminated against, we cannot afford to shun the political arena. I seek to redefine civic engagement, reinvigorate a culture of public service, expand the definition of who can be a politician, and infuse meaning into the very act of running. I believe that we can harness the power of innovation and collaboration to deliver strong, practical solutions on today’s most pressing issues, like global and environmental health, learning and the future of work, and human rights (which are women’s rights) domestic and abroad. It would be my honor to earn your support and vote on this Erin For Us journey. This is for us – a generation, a people, a common humanity!

I hope that you will join me in supporting Erin Schrode’s campaign and mission! Please follow her on Facebook at Erin For Us, on her website, twitter at @ErinSchrode, and through her hashtag #ErinForUs. Because it is for us, all of us.

Make sure to read more of Sustainable Directions!


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