Natural Foods Merchandiser

Industry Innovator Award: Judi Shils and Erin Schrode of Teens Turning Green

The spirit of activism captured Shils’ heart in 2005, when she founded Teens Turning Green, a national network of teenagers working to spread the gospel about healthy product and lifestyle choices. Since then, Shils and her teenage colleagues—including daughter Erin Schrode—have won policy-changing power and developed a line of natural, teen-safe products in conjunction with partner manufacturers, such as Alaffia, EO and Astara. The collection debuted in Whole Foods in 2008.

Innovation means changing the world, really stepping so far outside of the box that there is no box anymore.

I live to come up with crazy ideas.

My daughter was at the age when she was starting to use makeup and skin care products, and I knew if I said, “Don’t use the Maybelline Great Lash Mascara,” she’d probably get her allowance and go and buy it anyway.

The kids made a grid of chemicals in the products they used every day and looked to see what showed up over and over again—those were the Dirty 12. Now we’ve expanded it to the Dirty 30.

We took the opportunity to galvanize girls around something they were doing every day, and they became the empowered youth changing their world.

The kids worked with each company to create a product, coming up with a brand, figuring out what it would look like, smell like, feel like, its efficacy, how much should it cost, understanding the restraints of ingredient price points.

I said to Whole Foods, “We want to create a line with whole bunch of partners in skin and body care, and we want you to carry it.” In five minutes they said, “OK let’s do it.” And I thought, “Oh great, now we actually have to do this.” I didn’t imagine they would say yes that fast.

When you start to talk about beauty every single teenager wants to be involved.

The kids went and met with Schwarzenegger’s staff, and the bills ended up getting passed.

When a kid comes up with an idea, I’ll say, “Let’s do it.” You just look at their faces because everybody typically tells kids, “You can’t, it’s too much, do your homework.” Whatever.

You’re on a walk with me and my dog­—if you hear her in the background.

If it weren’t for the budget, California would probably have the first green-chemistry policy in the world. I think our administration is poised to help and I think there are a lot of people who can ensure that.

Natural products shouldn’t have to be named natural products. Everything should be done that way.

It’s incumbent upon everyone to educate and to have a sales team that gets it.

–Interview by Katy Neusteter

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