Erin Schrode

26 March 2013 — Talking to Erin Schrode is like being caught up in a whirlwind of sustainability, green and the environment.

The 21-year-old Californian, who co-founded Teens Turning Green, when she was just 13, was in Australia last week to give the keynote address at the Vision 2020 Youth Symposium at Swinburne University in Victoria.

She also took time out to visit Bentleigh College, named last year as the most sustainable education institution at the International Green Awards in London.

Erin said visiting the school had been a real eye-opener with a talk to Year 5 and 6 students proving “they get it”.

“I spoke for an hour about ‘in you, on you and around you – so were talking about bodycare products and their home and school surroundings.

“I had them bring some lotions, dishwashing detergent, hair products, and I put up some science – I’m not a scientist but having the support of science strengthens (the message) immensely.

“And the fifth and sixth graders – they get it. The labelling, the ingredients – they have a sense of outrage from ‘wait, I thought someone was out there looking after me and my health.

“They were mobilised, activated, making connections and they asked questions.”

Erin said she was then taken on a tour of the campus by two sixth graders “who knew more about the sustainability of schools than 99 per cent of adults”.

Erin, who hails from California, said she was born in 1991 and “raised in a world where climate change is real”.

“It’s not about my children, it’s my world.”

Erin said her parents moved to California when she was a child and built “an eco bubble” in their house.

“She organised the entire house one day when my dad was at work and from then we were cleaning with lemon and vinegar.

“That was my norm, it made sense and it worked, it was my lifestyle.”

Erin got involved in her own campaigning in 2005 when she realised how high cancer rates were and what was in personal products like soap and shampoo.

She and friends made a list, Greener Alternatives, with products that were safe, good for plants, good for health and effective.

Erin now spends her time travelling the world, 60 countries so far, helping teenagers through tangible steps to help save the planet and themselves.

Her hope is to inspire people, educate them and then give them the opportunity to take action.

“Digital media, social media, it can all amplify the message but if you are not grounded in your life then there is no point.

“It’s slactivism.”

And there’s nothing slack about Erin.

She has been described by the White House as “a dynamic, passionate and ambitious young woman committed to creating big change everywhere she goes”.

Erin consults with corporations on millennials, social consumption, and sustainability, serves on panels, hosts events, shows, conferences, summits, and videos to raise public awareness about environmental and social responsibility for individuals, schools, and communities.

Add to that addressing some of the most influential global leaders at The White House Summit on Environmental Education, honoured with the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award for outstanding leadership in community service and commitment to improving the world, elected to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, named a Young Challenger at Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’ Global Social Business Summit, given the Natural Products Innovator Award and chosen as a Green My Parents champion.

For her ongoing work in Haiti, Erin was awarded the first Sisterhood Support Grant from Euro RSCG.

And all this while she finishes her fourth year as a Deans Scholar at New York University – after terms abroad in the Middle East, West Africa, South America, and Europe – majoring in Social and Cultural Analysis.

Erin says she is also “really enjoying corporate sustainability”.

“They (the CEOS) are fascinated with my demographic.

“And I really believe business has the power to save the world.

“Politics takes a long time – business is much faster.”