I'm beyond grateful to be included in this group of amazing North Bay women! My heart belongs to the North Bay and its incredible people.
by Jean Saylor Doppenberg
Women get stuff done. Some receive high-profile recognition for their efforts, while others work under the radar, quietly making a difference in the lives of people who can use a little help. Here are three North Bay women changing the world around them.
“Citizen activist, rabble-rousing optimist, storyteller, enviro policy wonk, social entrepreneur, millennial, global explorer, and Turning Green co-founder.” So reads the Twitter profile of Erin Schrode, a 26-year-old Marin County native with a long list of achievements on her resume for someone still so young.
Schrode was just a young teen when she and her mother, Judi Shils, founded Turning Green, originally known as Teens Turning Green. Their activism was triggered by a 2002 study reporting that Marin County had the highest breast, prostate and melanoma cancer rates in the world. The organization sought to raise awareness about the unregulated toxins and chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products used daily by the average person.
“My mother and I started Turning Green to educate people about mitigating risk in their body care products. Even now, proper legislation has still not passed that would require transparency in product ingredients,” explains Schrode. “We continue to fight this battle with the cosmetics and personal care products manufacturers, because there are tens of thousands of chemicals that have never been tested for human safety.”
Schrode has packed a life’s worth of activism into a few short years. She graduated from New York University in 2013, where she earned a degree in social and cultural analysis. During college she spent terms abroad in numerous countries working to promote environmental stewardship worldwide. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, she traveled there as part of a disaster relief team. She founded The Schoolbag, a program to give Haitian students supplies they needed to continue their schooling. More than 14,000 tote bags were distributed in Haiti, packed with paper, books and other necessities donated by several corporations. The operation was so successful in Haiti Schrode rolled it out in other struggling nations with critical needs.
Her efforts while still in college earned recognition from the United Nations, along with praise from the White House. “Erin is a dynamic, passionate and ambitious young woman committed to creating big change everywhere she goes,” wrote Ronnie Cho, an associate director of public engagement in the Obama administration.
Since graduating from college, Schrode has worked as a consultant to numerous corporations, including Apple and IKEA, on generational trends, responsible consumption and driving positive impacts to improve their businesses. She has written for numerous publications about social responsibility and sustainability. During last year’s campaign season, she appeared on ABC News discussing Millennials, progressive values, climate change and generational trends. Last fall, during the tense stand-off against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, she was shot with a rubber bullet while reporting on the protests.
“Erin is a beautiful example of a young woman who believes service to the world is what life is about,” says Stacy Malkan. Malkan is a longtime mentor of Schrode’s, the co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. “Through her activism and her willingness to speak the truth, Erin has inspired many others in her generation to become actors in creating the world they want––by what they buy, how they can be leaders, and how much power they have to shape politics.”
Not afraid of a challenge, Schrode even tossed her own hat into the political arena last year by running for the U.S. House of Representatives in California’s District 2, seeking to unseat Jared Huffman, the incumbent and a fellow Democrat. Once she decided to run, she had only 11 days to file to be on the ballot, for a primary 70 days away.
“I was well aware when we started that the chances of winning were negligible,” Schrode wrote inGlamour magazine about her whirlwind campaign. “Incumbents win 92 to 93 percent of the time. We ended up with 21,000 votes, and 21,000 votes is no small feat in 70 days, starting from literally nothing––no money, no name recognition, no support.”
Schrode doesn’t rule out another run for political office, particularly because there are so few young women pursuing that course. “The decisions being made by politicians today will affect my generation for decades, and yet we have no voice in Congress. But for me it’s always about purpose, not position. If I run again it will be where I can achieve the most impact, where I can best move the needle.”
Earlier this year, Schrode spoke at several colleges and universities around the country about environmental issues and Turning Green, focusing, she says, “on solutions with real world impacts.” She believes she does her best work when face-to-face with students. “I like to make it a full day of engaging with as many as I can. I tell my story, how it was a journey of activism on a local level that brought me to be standing up there in front of them. I hope to inspire them to discover and activate their own passion, to see where the needs are in their own communities.”
Despite her worldwide travels, Schrode’s heart remains in Marin. “I’m a North Bay girl and plan to stay that way for the time being.”
Read this article and learn more about incredible North Bay women at North Bay Biz...