Spotlight On: Teen Eco-Beauty Erin Schrode


At just 20 years young, Erin Schrode has traveled to over 40 countries speaking on various environmental issues, and started Teens Turning Green, an bath and body line at Whole Foods. We had the opportunity to learn more about this eco trailblazer.

B: How did you first get involved with environmental issues?

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which directly influenced everything I've accomplished so far. While my mom was pregnant with me, she read a book called "Diet For A Poison Planet" which changed our family's life. We went from living conventionally to living based on precautionary principles. We began to shift the way we purchased and consumed food, but that soon included personal care products. I remember going to the store to buy bulk shampoo, conditioner, and soap whenever we could to save packaging.

B: As a teen growing up, did you use still use conventional makeup?

Absolutely—I confess to using Maybelline Full'n'Soft Mascara daily. Then, I read a study about cosmetic ingredients and cancer, yuck! I decided there and then that I didn't want any of that in my body. At the time, I didn't have many good alternatives, but I was idealistic. I immersed myself in research and knew there were solutions out there waiting to be discovered.

B: How did you get started with Teens Turning Green, your bath and body line at Whole Foods?

"After reading more studies on cosmetics and personal care with my mom, we decided to start Teens For Safe Cosmetics, a small group of teens concerned about their beauty products. We met once a week to talk about the current beauty market and how we could change it for the better. We felt empowered because we had purchasing power even as teenagers. As a 14 or 15 year old, you can't exactly splurge on a Prius, but you can buy an environmentally conscious eye liner. We collaborated with chemists and discovered so many harmful ingredients listed in products we use every day.

We decided that we wanted teens to have a more active voice in the market, so we founded Teens Turning Green, a bath and body line based in Whole Foods Market on the west coast. We co-branded with seven companies on all-natural lotions, creams, and scrubs. It was a great opportunity to raise awareness and direct teens to a green shelf in the supermarket. The products are great—I use and love them. However, it's incredibly difficult to manage a product line, so we're phasing it out. I'm still glad I was involved in this project because I learned so much. I have deep respect for truly ecological companies out there, it's much harder than you think."

B: You've accomplished a lot at such a young age—how has the media treated you?

"In the beginning, the media was hesitant to take me seriously. 'Cute young kid involved in an issue'—cut me a break! As I became educated on legislative platforms and forged partnerships with industry experts, the media started to realize that green beauty and fashion can go mainstream. I've been interviewed for both Teen Vogue and National Geographic. Beauty definitely straddles the line between superficial and scientific, but that's what I love about it. You can model in an eco-fashion show one day then talk to a chemist about Dibutyl phthalate in nail polish another day, it's that widespread."

B: Have you gotten any attention from the male beauty market?

"Most guys don't realize that their products are also filled with yucky ingredients just like a conventional lipstick is. Axe, Old Spice, toothpaste—these are all personal care products men use on a daily basis! Beauty is a universal platform and you can't escape it."

B: With so many corporations now catching onto the "eco" craze, are you afraid of "greenwashing" and false natural marketing?

"AB-SO-LUTELY. It's become a prevalent issue lately. In the first few years of our campaign, none of the big brands had eco lines, and no one was even thinking about recycled packaging! Then, as celebrities got behind bigger green issues, companies knew they could capitalize. While most brands have a lot of work to do on their environmental footprint, this eco-revolution is kind of a blessing and a curse at the same time. In this natural marketing craze, consumers need to educate themselves now more than ever."

B: You've traveled to over 40 countries, where are you now and what's your favorite country?

"I'm lucky that I get to study abroad a lot through my college. I'm just finishing up my semester in Israel, but I can't decide which country I love most. I get to travel a lot for various conferences, seminars, and events—my passport's had a lot of action in the past few years. I spent last summer in the Middle East, last fall in Ghana, my Sweet Sixteen in Havana, Cuba and my 18th birthday in Buenos Aires, Argentina—it's been a pretty wild ride."

B: How on earth does your skin manage to stay so gorgeous with your jet-setting lifestyle?

"My skin's been pretty dry and problematic in Israel, not fun. I drink a ton of water on the plane and actually don't wear any makeup on the flight. I've always got my oil-free moisturizer on hand and wash my face every night. I constantly think about best beauty advice my grandma gave me: If you do it right, no one should know you're wearing makeup. I remember she'd sit in front of the mirror for 45 minute straight and come outside looking like a better version of herself, no makeup detectable. That beauty philosophy really stuck with me, so I tend to keep things very natural and well blended for the day-to-day."

B: Have you noticed radically different beauty ideals in your travels?

"You see commercial beauty products no matter where you go. In Syria, women are wearing headscarves that cover everything but the eyes, but you can tell their whole face is completely made up. It's bizarre and fascinating."

B: What advice would you give to people who are looking to make positive environmental changes to their beauty routine?

"Reduce, reduce, reduce! You don't need shower gel, liquid soap, body wash, and a bar of soap. It's unrealistic to think that everyone can completely change their habits, but you really can have it all and still respect the environment. I hope I can inspire people to think critically about what they buy as we shift to a more global economy."

B: What are your beauty staples?

"When I started, it was impossible to find earth-friendly cosmetics that didn't come in 14 shades of brown. A couple of years ago, being environmentally conscious meant you didn't wear makeup or you smelled. I'm a teenage girl who is obsessed with beauty, fashion, and the environment—I want it all!

Jane Iredale is my ultimate makeup line, I'm loving her brow kit. If there's one thing I do before I run out the door, it's my brows. Jane also created a lipstick after me called Erin, a sheer bubblegum pink. I've tried many eco-friendly polish lines and I keep going back to Priti NYC for her 3-Free formula and amazing color range. Queen of the Night Tulip, a medium red wine color, is my favorite shade. I can't live without my RMS Living Luminizer, it's the most fantastic cream highlighter with an all-natural formula. I put this bad boy on the high planes of my face and it makes my skin so radiant. My go-to line for skin care is Astara. Their products are based on raw botanicals and nutrients and make my skin feel incredible. Their oil-free moisturizer, tea tree oil mask, and refining pore scrub are absolute must-haves."

B: What's next for you?

"I'm staying in the Bay Area for a few months to relax. I'm not good at stopping or saying no, so it'll be good to see old friends and go watch some baseball—go Giants! I'm excited to study in Spain in the Fall. I'm a gluten-free foodie who loves beauty, politics, and baseball—who knows what's next? I'd like to pursue international journalism and politics in the future, but I'm just enjoying what life has to offer right now. I'm happy with my lifestyle and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, even lipstick."

As the “face of the new green generation” (7x7 Magazine), Erin Schrode, spokeswoman and co-founder of the US-based Turning Green campaign, promotes global sustainability, youth leadership, environmental education, and conscious lifestyle choices. After working in disaster response in Haiti, Erin founded and launched The Schoolbag, a youth education project to provide materials for students in need.