When 25-year-old Erin Schrode looks around her campaign office (yes, she's the one running), she doesn't see stacks of fliers or overflowing trash bins. Instead, the Cali-bred environmentalist who hopes to become the youngest woman elected to Congress gazes at reusable water bottles, soy-based ink cartridges and organic cotton T-shirts.
From the mason jar she carries around on the campaign trail—"It's another member of our team at this point," her communications director, Lauren Angueira jokes—to the vegan food she serves up at all of her rallies, every aspect of Erin's political crusade reflects her green values.
No stranger to public service, Erin has spent the last decade at the helm of Turning Green—a sustainability nonprofit she founded with her mother at the ripe age of 13. The work has brought her all across the country, teaching young people about every aspect of the environmental movement from waste recycling to energy-saving retrofits.
But it wasn't until a recent speech on her home turf of Marin County California that her aspirations turned political. After listening to her impassioned words, a few community members asked Erin what it would take for her to run for local office. Hesitant at first, she ultimately decided to take their encouragement as a sign that it was time to carry her messages onto a larger, more public stage.
"I never thought I'd be a politician in a million years," Erin explained. "This is something that crossed my path in a very concrete way. It's a lesson around listening to what the universe gives you and realizing when you can be of service."
She began campaigning in late March, traveling up and down the coast of California speaking with small business owners, local policy makers, farmers and families about her vision for Marin.
Though the county is already an environmental marvel (it has largely banned single-use plastic bags and touts impressive green building ordinances), Erin sees more work to be done. She's pushing for stricter environmental toxin reforms to protect vulnerable, low-income communities and more advanced farming systems that pull excess carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soil. The positive feedback from constituents is what has carried her to the campaign's finish line at the voting booths tomorrow.
"I have been so privileged to sit and hear about the challenges people are facing, and collaborate on solutions that really benefit us all," she said.
Though the words of others have helped her through the campaign's more grueling moments, she's also pulled a fair amount of strength from within.
"I thought I was a busy person before I started this campaign. I didn't have a clue," she said. "Thank goodness for my 20 minutes of meditation a day. It helps me remind myself to get centered, think about what really matters, and remember to focus on purpose, not position."
A vegan, tree-hugging millennial who believes in fate and sees the value in meditation and self-reflection? She's got my vote.