Teens Turning Green is an organization that I have long admired. In fact, when I came up with the idea for this blog, these women were on my list from Day 1. I wondered if Judi and Erin would agree to an interview, though, because they’re so incredibly busy doing their good work; plus, Erin is in college and was traveling when I emailed her. Well, they both blew me away with their kindness and speedy positive responses. I am beyond grateful for their time…and very excited to post my first double interview!
Bio: Judi Shils has spent the last 10 years of her life spearheading grassroots community projects. The dearth of answers around Marin County’s high cancer rates led Shils to found the non-profit Search for the Cause, now Teens Turning Green. Moving to the Bay Area and becoming a mother to daughter Erin changed the course of her life. Prior to this, she was an Emmy Award-winning television producer for 25 years with ABC Sports, FOX and Oxygen, founded The Diary Project forum for youth at the onset of the internet, and ran a successful student art show, Celebrate Arts. She also consults for the California Coastal Commission around public education.
Bio: Erin Schrode is a young ecoRenaissance woman. As the “face of the new green generation,” the co-founder and spokeswoman of Turning Green promotes global sustainability, youth leadership, environmental education, and conscious lifestyle choices. After working in disaster response in Haiti, she founded and launched The Schoolbag, a youth education project to provide tools and materials for students in need, as well as initiate active citizenry and environmental stewardship.A “sustainability prodigy” and eco expert, Erin has been featured in the NY Times, Vanity Fair, SF Chronicle, NY Post, Seventeen Magazine, Teen Vogue, National Geographic, ABC, NBC, BBC, CNN, FOX, MTV, E!, AOL, GOOD, Slate… More about Erin
Peggy: Judi, You went from being an award-winning TV producer to a founder of several non-profits. How did that shift happen? Have you always been an activist?
Judi: No, I didn’t even know that that word meant. It has been a wonderful learning curve!
I had moved from LA to the Bay Area in 1989 right when the earthquake hit…I had an awakened consciousness that I had never felt before…sounds SO Marin! Then my daughter was born and on that day I committed to making the world the best place I could for her and her generation. Had no idea where to begin, but I began. In 2002, I went to a meeting in the supervisors’ chambers and they officially announced that our breast cancer rates had risen 60% in 8 years…too many questions, no anwers and no money to do the research to get to the other end. So I decided to do whatever I could to help move the mountain, mobilize our community and policy makers and ensure that my daughter would have a fighting chance growing up in Marin to be healthy. Search for the Cause came to life with a door-to-door campaign taking place in November 2002. 2000 volunteers went to about 65,000 households on that day. Following the walk, which was amazing and mobilizing, Barbara Boxer called everyone in the Bay Area who was working on cancer research together…that changed the lay of the land.
Judi: I live to vision and I won’t take no for an answer. I learned that from my time at ABC Sports. No wasn’t an option and neither is it when you are trying to sustain the earth. We all have to do whatever it takes and commit in a big way.
Judi: Our most ambitious program is Project Green Challenge 2012, a 30-day eco lifestyle challenge to engage high school and college students across the country to transition from conventional to conscious living. My daughter and I built this project last year with the help of 15 summer interns. It was the greatest piece of work we have ever done together. Almost 3,000 students or teams on 510 campuses participated in 48 states and 21 countries. we had no idea if it would work on October 1, 2011 when it launched. It was magnificent and we look forward to year 2! We are heading out on the first leg of our TTG Right to Know College Road Tour to promote the California Ballot Initiative to Label GMO Food and the Right to Know about all that you bring into your life on a daily basis. We will show up at California universities with our Eco Pop Up Expo and engage all the students we can to lead a more conscious life.
Judi: My magnificent daughter and watching her grow into the most amazing and articulate instigator of change. She is passionate, committed, and quite an orator as well as a brilliant writer. She is one of the best communicators I have ever met and uses social media adeptly to change the world. She just won an award from the Organic Center for communication. It was a great honor in both of our lives.
Judi: She arrived amazing and has totally inspired every piece of work that I have done since her birth. And now we do it together even though she has lived all over the world for the past two years. She is a junior at NYU and the abroad opportunities have been a great gift in her life. Luckily, because of our work and her work for a more sustainable planet, she is back and forth quite a bit. We are leaving in a couple days to celebrate her 21st birthday! A lot to celebrate. She is my light.
Erin: I feel incredibly lucky to do what I love and love what I do. For me, conscious lifestyle is second nature. I approach everything in life from a thoughtful mindset, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can only help that in leading by example and using my voice to spread the word, I can inspire others to begin the transition from conventional to conscious, to embark on the path towards sustainability, to join the ever-evolving process of turning green. While exciting, to talk about my accomplishments feels funny for me. In my head, I am just me: an almost 21-year-old girl following her heart. I suppose, I am a young woman on a mission to change the world
Erin: For years, my friends have asked me: Erin, how can I go green? Where do I begin? Project Green Challenge is my answer: thirty simple steps to take your life from conventional to conscious, a tagline I crafted. This initiative has been a beautiful collaboration with my mom, the executive director of TTG, and a coming together of so many platforms and partnerships that we have fostered over the seven-year history of our campaign.
Erin: I sleep too little and travel too much, but somehow, all of the pieces of my life fit together in a beautiful way! New York University has given me an incredible opportunity to study social and cultural analysis, to be a student of the world on five continents, to expand my perspective and knowledge base. I make time for what matters in my life – and my work in the eco / international space is what feeds my soul. I am a proud to say that NYU supports that, recognizing me as a DEANS Scholar with a merit scholarship for commitment to both academics and service. I have been incredibly fortunate to have teachers that support my work both inside and outside of the classroom and have crafted schedules that allow for extended weekends, so I can travel to conferences or speak or shoot or whatnot.
Judi: Barely any…I work typically until 2 or 3am. There aren’t enough hours in the day.Erin: A night person, without question. My most productive hours are from about 2am – 4am. 4 or 5 hours (ish, less according to my mom!) is my average, but I catch up whenever I can, sleeping for fifteen hours straight without any problem!
Judi: This is how I live my life every day…I feel like I am channeling his words: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, Mahatma Gandhi. The book that turned me from a conventional to conscious person was David Steinman’s Diet for A Poisoned Planet. It made me realize that we are all responsible for making choices that will impact our own health and the health of our planet in positive ways. After I read it, pregnant with my daughter, I went to Real Foods in Sausalito and transitioned everything in my house to organic. That was the start of my journey, and hers intertwined - to heal the world.Erin: Many come to mind! I am deeply inspired and learn so much from the wisdom of others. Book-wise, I love Half the Sky by Nick Kristof (one of my favorite writers!) and Sheryl WuDunn), Mountains Beyond Mountains (the incredible story of Partners In Health founder and a personal hero, Paul Farmer), and Three Cups of Tea (a phenomenally inspiring story about the power of educating girls to transform our world). I am a big fan of quotes, especially those that I come across at just the perfect moment. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” is a beauty by Margaret Mead.
Judi: I walk and sit on my favorite bench at Phoenix Lake with my dog, Kasie. I remind us both what a gift it is to look out at the lake, at the trees, at the reeds, at the big sky and marvel that we live here! It is what allows me to do as I do every day. The peace and sanctity of that place gives me so much energy…such splendor!Erin: I hear my mother’s voice in my head saying, “dream and do… find the silver lining.” That is my calm, my peace.
Judi: I smile. I call my daughter. I realize how lucky I am. Not often in funks! Too much to do.Erin: I make lists and I cook. There are always a million and one things running around inside my head, so downloading them onto paper – or my iPad or the stickies on my laptop, as the case may be – is quite helpful in making sense of it all. And cooking or baking is how I offload stress. There are few things that I enjoy more than slicing, dicing or whisking in my own kitchen.
Judi: Dark. I love TCHO because it is fabulous chocolate and because they are “obsessed with creating a better world”…and so am I!Erin: Dark dark dark! It is the only option, in my opinion. Kopali Organics makes the best chocolate covered cacao nibs. These bite sized wonders are the perfect, luxurious balance of everything great in the world. 100% organic, fair trade, pure dark chocolate from Peru. Does it get any better?!
Judi: That each us has the responsibility to be a mentor to one person who is a generation or two behind us. To work with, learn from, teach, and empower youth is a great gift in both directions.Erin: That Haiti has a piece of my heart and I am deeply committed to sustainable development projects that will benefit the next generation! After working in medical relief at a field hospital, being around hundreds of children daily, and speaking with one specific teacher who articulated how a lack of materials prohibited him from returning to a classroom, I came to understand the pressing need for school supplies and educational tools to begin the process that allows children to resume their studies and grow, intellectually and emotionally. School provides a symbol of hope amidst disaster and poverty. Thus, The Schoolbag was born. I launched this initiative to enable children to pursue an education by providing basic school supplies to young people in need. On my forth visit to the country, our team of international and Haitian volunteers reached over 14,189 students with school supplies on our delivery this back to school (Fall 2011)! It was a truly phenomenal experience; to see the impact that a simple pencil and notebook can have on a student, a teacher, a community is beautiful. In addition to implementing successful programs in South Africa and East Timor, we are now gearing up for back-to-school 2012 in Haiti with an even more robust and committed team. There is nowhere on earth that I love more than that island nation – and my work there will continue for years to come, I know.
Peggy:Erin and Judi, thank you for your time and for all you are doing to help make the world a better place. How can interested people get involved with Teens Turning Green?
Erin: Whatever your interest, whatever your entry point, we want you involved in our campaign and we want to support you in your work. Collaboration and partnerships are at the core of it all! We have downloadable toolkits and loads of content on our website for initiatives ranging from food to fashion, paper to GMO, cleaning to dorm, and much more. These are great starting points! Take a look at our website teensturninggreen.org and see what sparks your interest. Start a chapter! Host an event! Join a social action platform! Want more info? Email us at email@example.com or call our office at 415.289.1001. Want to intern or become a campus rep? Have graphic design, video editing, or web skills? Have any thoughts or ideas? We want to hear! And I personally want to know what excites you and help connect the dots to turn your passion into action! Tweet me, @ErinSchrode, I am eagerly awaiting…