Teens Turning Green – Eco-Healthy Messages for Youth

Gooding had a great time at the Project Green Dorm store trying on Jane Iredale cosmetics. Photo: Courtesy Teens Turning Green

When Judi Shils’ daughter started wearing makeup in 2005, Shils was concerned about the toxic chemicals the teen was applying to her face. This, as well as the high cancer rates in Marin County, California, where they lived, inspired Shils to launch Teens for Safe Cosmetics.

Project Green Dorm

The group evolved into Teens Turning Green (TTG). Last July they launched the Project Green Dorm store, a pop-up in The Village at Corte Madera mall. TTG’s mission was to sell green alternatives to typical dorm gear. The pop-up store was designed as a short-term venue, and Project Green Dorm now exists as a checklist on the main Teens Turning Green website. There, users get tips on how to green their bedroom, bathroom, closet, gadgets, and more.

TTG recommends using organic personal care products to limit exposure to toxins. Photo: Courtesy Teens Turning Green

Reducing exposure to chemicals is so important, Shils says, because everything we do to our bodies carries on to our children. “We should do the things we can to ensure the health of generations to come,” she notes. “We’re messing with our chemistry — that’s the bottom line.”

Shils recommends getting rid of as much plastic as possible in living spaces and adding indoor plants. Certain plants can eat up bad chemicals, she says. Other important changes include changing deodorants and sleeping on organic sheets.

“It’s endless,” Shils says. “If you do one thing, you’ll do two, because you’ll become educated.”

For clothing, Shils looks for companies that make organic cotton. Some of her favorite eco-clothing designers are Stewart + Brown and Lara Miller. She points out that even Keds makes organic cotton sneakers.

Living green is easier now that stores for the masses — like Bed Bath and Beyond, and Target — are bringing in more organic linen. And, as more people demand eco-friendly products, they will become more available and affordable, Shils says.

“Ooh, This Is Cute”

New York University freshman Erin Schrode, 18, who co-founded the Teens Turning Green campaign in 2005, echoes many of Shils’ ideas.

Schrode, also from Marin County, was present for the opening of the Project Green Dorm store. She says she liked that it was one-stop shopping for college students. People preferred the store to buying online, she says, because they could tell if an item was good quality and if they liked the way it looked.

“It was a blast,” she remembers. “I loved hearing people say, ‘Ooh, this is cute! I didn’t know it was eco-friendly!’ ”

Schrode lives greener in a number of ways. She only eats from glass containers in her kitchen instead of plastic, charges her electronics with a solar charger, and uses post-consumer-waste paper. “I went through every aspect of my life and thought, ‘How can I make it green?’” she says.

She also discusses the impact of non-organic cotton. According to Schrode, it’s the second-most pesticide-laden crop in the world. Ten percent of the world’s pesticides and 25 percent of the world’s insecticides are used to produce cotton. Since cotton fields are sprayed aerially, they also affect workers.

Green Is Trendy

What inspires Schrode to continue her eco-lifestyle?

“It’s how I was raised,” she says. “My mom raised me in what I like to call a little green bubble.”

Schrode enjoys teaching her friends at NYU how to be more environmentally conscious and believes her words are having an effect. Her roommate now replaces her shampoo and other products with eco alternatives. She laughs, saying her roommate is so proud when she shows off the new purchases.

“It’s just so easy being green,” Schrode says. “The information on eco-products is so much more available today. Also, being environmental isn’t ‘hippie’ or ‘granola’ anymore — it’s trendy.”

Turning College Students Green

Morgan Gooding, a 19-year-old sophomore from University of California – Berkeley, initially got involved with the Project Green Dorm store after modeling organic clothing for pictures to be posted in the store. She liked the concept so much that she helped set up the store as well.

Teens Turning Green gear. Photo: Courtesy Teens Turning Green

“The store reminded me how easy it is to be green,” says Gooding, who loved learning about the variety of green products Project Green Dorm offered.

Now, she’s launching a Turning Green club on her campus, which is targeted toward college students instead of teenagers.

The purpose of Turning Green is to educate college students about different lifestyle choices. College is the best and easiest time for this, Gooding says. Young adults are developing their own lifestyles, since most are away from their parents for the first time.

To be green herself, Gooding uses personal care products free of synthetic chemicals. She recommends looking for products with the Premium Body Care symbol, indicating that the products meet strict standards for quality, safety, and environmental impact.

Gooding is health-conscious and environmentally friendly in other ways, too. For example, she had a land line installed in her dorm room because of warnings about the dangers of excessive cell phone use. And around campus, she rides a moped that gets 100 miles per gallon.

When it comes to trying to be green on a budget, Gooding has some wise advice: “The next time you want to buy something, think about if you really can’t live without it. The less you purchase, the better you do for the planet.”

Brigette Fanning

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)