I was born in 1991. Yes, I am a child of the nineties. A millennial, a member of the internet generation, a digital native… but there’s one more crucial element. I’m a part of the green generation.
What does that mean to me?
I like to say I grew up green – in a little eco bubble. When my mom was pregnant with me, she read a book called Diet for a Poisoned Planet that changed our lives (including my prenatal self). My dad went to work one day, came home, and the entire house was “organicized.” Everything was replaced with a truly natural alternative from organic food to toxin-free cleaning products to glass containers and much much more. That is the world into which I was born and raised. My mom instilled in me a belief that anything can be approached from a more environmentally responsible standpoint, a thoughtful mindset. It may be a bit over-cautious at times, but that works for me; I like to live by a precautionary principle: why risk my health and well-being when I don’t have to? I make a conscious effort to reduce the burden on my body wherever I can. Nowadays, it’s so simple to “live green” with the plethora of fantastic green alternatives on the market (and fabulous educational resources – like this one right here!).
Growing up, my eco-lifestyle included local produce from weekly farmers markets, carpooling, glass water bottles in place of plastic (pre-metal canteen craze), organic cotton sheets and towels, no VOC paints… and from there, it took off to encompass all I come in contact with and am surrounded by. But it’s not only me. It’s an entire generation growing up in this time of ecoRenaissance, as I like to call it (and the name of my blog).
Ultimately, it became Teens Turning Green, the campaign I co-founded in 2005. Studies were coming out linking the toxins in the cosmetics and personal care products I used 24/7 to cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm, neurotoxicity, and more. That is nothing I wanted near my body, particularly during puberty. There are so many risk factors and potentially hazardous exposures in the world that we, as individuals, cannot control, but TTG focuses on the choices that are within personal control. When information is available and alternatives are accessible, people begin to think critically and that prompts change. So we developed those consumer-ready easy-to-use resources. Beginning with cosmetics and personal care products, we compiled lists of the most commonly found egregious chemicals to AVOID (The Dirty Thirty) and safer and healthier brands to TRY which we vetted for safety, sustainability, and efficacy (Greener Alternatives).
Now a national non-profit organization, TTG is devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities. Our student-led movement seeks to promote global sustainability by identifying and eliminating toxic exposures that permeate our lives, often unknowingly, yet threaten public and environmental health. What began around my kitchen table now has a presence at numerous middle and high schools, universities, and student organizations across the country, as well as a strong virtual platform and media presence. The TG chapters lead grassroots efforts that aim to raise awareness and work to lessen local and global impact.
The lifestyle component includes cosmetics and personal care products (formulations and packaging), fashion (organic / sustainable fibers and manufacturing processes), home (building materials, energy, bedding / linens, etc.), among many other aspects of daily life. We believe that conscious consumption is critical and has the power to shift mass markets. Our work with schools uses the campus as a palette for exploration through a process of inventory, case study analysis, and identification of greener alternatives in four main categories: landscape, janitorial, food service, and classroom products. The community piece of the campaign allows for grassroots efforts and formation of coalitions around area-specific issues that threaten human and environmental health, examples of which include protesting a proposed aerial spray, pushing for a single use bag ban, water testing, mapping county-wide health trends, removing invasive species, etc.
I have witnessed firsthand the power of young people around these issues – and see a real need to focus energy around personal responsibility and individual local actions: think globally, act locally. It is vital to demonstrate how accessible sustainability is to everyone, for there are near innumerable entry points. We have experienced incredibly positive public response to simple educational resources. Any and all progress is rooted in education, particularly of youth, and communication; when information is available and alternatives are accessible, people think critically and initiate change.
Advocacy is another vital aspect of our campaign, lobbying for legislative and policy change that protects human and environmental health, as well as partnerships with companies to urge and ensure corporate responsibility. We must challenge large entities to consider not only pure formulation and full ingredient disclosure, but also responsible sourcing of ingredients, business practices that respect the earth, fair trade labor policies, human and animal rights, community empowerment projects, sustainable packaging (post-consumer waste, biocompostable, etc.), renewable energy, and incorporation of a Cradle-to-Cradle approach towards an endless cycle without waste.
All of my work furthers a (not-so-simple) personal mission: to inspire a generation of conscious citizens and bring about global health for the environment and its inhabitants.