Meet AMY ZIFF
What is the MADE SAFE™ seal and what do you look for in order to give a company certification? Can you walk us though the process to become MADE SAFE™ certified?
MADE SAFE™ is America’s first nontoxic certification program for a wide-array of household products. We vet all the “stuff” in your life. The concept for MADE SAFE™ started with the simple notion that the things we use each and every day should not lead to disease. Plain and simple. And yet…when you learn what’s in all that “stuff,” and you learn that there is no government regulation in place to control the use of harmful ingredients, you’d be horrified. I was – and that led me to create a solution.
I knew we needed a solution that used the market as a reward. Thus, the MADE SAFE™ seal which is instantly recognizable, calling out products that are Made With Safe Ingredients. But our premise is so much more than that. We actually work behind the scenes with companies to find safer solutions, to clean up the supply chain, and to force transparency. A lot of good can happen if you harness the power of the marketplace.
What kind of “greenwashing” are you most aware of and concerned about in the industry that our readers may not know of?
Greenwashing is due to a lack of definition around terms like “eco,” “green,” and “natural.” Many companies use these terms, but there is no one common definition so when used on a package the real question is – does that company define “eco” or “green” or “natural” the same way I do? I see a wide gap, which has created a problem for consumers seeking these kinds of products, as well as for companies who legitimately want to use those terms to describe their practices. Nobody wins.
At MADE SAFE™ we approach this issue from a different viewpoint. For one thing, we aren’t an eco seal. While we are very concerned about the environment we put human health first. We are using human health as our yardstick for whether or not something is made from a base of safe ingredients.
How do we measure that? First we make sure all ingredients contained in a product are not known behavioral toxins, carcinogens, developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, halogenated fire retardants, GMOs or synthetic biology, heavy metals, synthetic nanoparticles, neurotoxins, high risk pesticides, reproductive toxins, toxic solvents or harmful VOCs. We also make sure the ingredients themselves don’t contain sub, secret or invisible ingredients.
Usually people say, well of course those things don’t belong in products. And that is when I have to explain that while we are in agreement, without the MADE SAFE™ Screening Process there is no formal way for companies to ensure that harmful ingredients aren’t ending up in their products. People are often shocked to learn that no government entity oversees all of these chemicals being used in a variety of consumer goods – they didn’t before and they certainly aren’t going to in the near future.
And we don’t stop there. We go deeper, using a chemist to evaluate for bioaccumulation risks, environmental degradation, off-gassing, general and aquatic as well as animal toxicity. If an ingredient passes all of those qualifications, THEN we say this is a MADE SAFE™ ingredient.
This kind of rigor is important in a technological age where innovation is advancing so rapidly it’s hard to keep up with ingredients and VERY hard for consumers, most of whom do not have PhDs in Chemistry or Toxicology to read and understand a label. (And of course labels are only as good as they are transparent…)
What can you advise our readers to do to be sure they are not exposed to unnecessary chemicals in their products?
People can shop for products bearing the MADE SAFE™ seal, and support brands that commit to third-party validation to certify the ingredients they are using are safe. If a brand is working with us, they are working very hard to change how products are made today. But of course we haven’t certified everything the public may need (yet!) so I’d urge people to ask themselves, do I really need this item? We live in a world of such mass consumerism. Sometimes we fall into the trap of buying things we don’t need because of marketing. A little awareness goes a long way. If the answer is yes, I’d follow these three tips:
1. Do more with less. For example, I bet half the cleaning products under your sinks right now aren’t necessary. Regular soap and water will clean almost everything (I buy an organic castile soap in one gallon jugs). Disposable dryer sheets? They create unnecessary waste, and the scent is derived from chemicals that can contain really harmful ingredients. Instead you can use a wool dryer ball and a few drops of essential oil – the same effect for a fraction of the cost. Now I can take the money I saved from all of those other non-essential items and buy better, safer, healthier versions of what I actually need.
2. Make the items you do buy count. Meaning, make sure they are useful and effective but also made from a base of safe ingredients. Look for products that are made simply, look for products that are responsibly packaged, look for products that you could safely eat, look for products that expire if they contain water. (These aren’t absolutes, but they can help point you in the direction of better products as a first step.)
3. Get to know the companies you purchase from. Look beyond unsubstantiated claims for third-party validation to ensure they are doing as they say. MADE SAFE™ is the most rigorous seal in the marketplace – but don’t take my word for it. Learn our process so you can decide if it’s a good measure for you and the products you use with your own family.
What would you like more consumers to become aware of?
Consumers should not presume that just because something is on a store shelf that it has been vetted for their health. Products on store shelves can and do contain potent neurotoxins, carcinogens and much more – and they’re not always labeled.
What would you like manufacturers to be more aware of?
At MADE SAFE™ we envision a world where manufacturers are part of the solution. If they tested their raw ingredients for human health we could really clean up the supply chain! If they don’t know where to start, they can come to us.
What’s next for MADE SAFE™? And how can we help support your cause?
MADE SAFE™ is a small nonprofit with a mission to change how products are made in order to eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in our everyday things. We have a scalable business model that is self-sustaining once we reach a certain size. Help us get there. If you like what we are doing, please donate to our cause, follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter, then share us with your friends.
What are some “must-avoid-at-all-costs” ingredients you see out there?
There are over 80,000 chemicals in use today. Thousands of those are known to be harmful to human beings and the environment. About 700 new ones are added to the market each year. In general I would say avoid known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and things containing heavy metals.
What is your definition of beauty now? Has it changed over time?
Ah, beauty. When I was young, I had bright red hair and freckles. I hated being teased for my red hair so I would pray at night for my hair to turn brown so I could just be “normal” – I just wanted to “fit in.” At some point in college I realized standing out could be an asset. But when you’re young beauty (and so much else) is about conformity. Hopefully, eventually, we all find our own path for building the life that is right for us uniquely. I’m lucky to have a mission and a purpose and to be living my life on my own terms. If you can get to the point where you are able to live your own particular truth I think the beauty just comes from the inside out. I couldn’t have understood all of that without some life experience. So that is probably what has changed. Now I see women who I think are stunning and it has a lot to do with who they are and what they do.
What are some of the social and beauty paradigms that you see women being hooked into that you would like to see change?
I wish that we didn’t compare ourselves. Why am I not this? Why do I have too much of that? Why aren’t the questions aimed at society – why aren’t we a more accepting population? If we know that, we can start to change it. It’s also important to identify whose definition of beauty you are chasing. Once you know that, then I think you can look in the mirror and be content.
As a mother where do you feel the industry could use the most change?
As a mom who works on nontoxic products I just really wish I could get rid of makeup, personal care and so-called beauty products that are made from ingredients that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as parabens and phthalates, or harmful dyes and heavy metals also fragrance loaded with toxic ingredients and so much more. My little girls are in Kindergarten and second grade and they already want makeup for days when they want to be “fancy.” As you can imagine, I police what is used pretty heavily. That’s a drag. We go to the store and I often feel like Captain No. They ask, Can I buy this? No. Can I buy that? No. Can I use this? No. The answer is always No, because of the toxic ingredients. My kids know the routine but it would be so nice if stores contained sections where we could easily shop or if the balance of things found in the store were instead MADE SAFE™. In fact, I can’t wait for that day!
How do you keep a healthy balance between taking care of yourself and being a functional/social being in the modern world?
Hmmmm. I need to think about this one. Maybe I should do more to take care of myself. But time is short and there is a lot to do. I try and eat well, work-out, be present in the moment, and to laugh everyday. I try to lead with love. My kids are young. I want to enjoy this time. I also want to create change in the world for a safe and sustainable future. There aren’t enough hours in the day! If there was one thing I would do more of – it would be meditation.
What is the most important piece that humanity is facing today? How do you suggest we keep balance and adjust to the changes taking place?
Where do I start? Things seem pretty dire these days. But for me, I think about the fact that humans are amazing and capable of things we might never have thought possible except for one person’s dream and determination… If we would all think a little bit more about others before ourselves, if we gave more attention to protecting future generations, and if we practiced consideration and kindness each day – I think we’d live in a different world. But this doesn’t happen overnight. There needs to be a cultural values shift. But we moms, we are the ones who can make this happen. What are our priorities? How do we manifest the mind-shift?
How would you describe your philosophy about food and living well?
When you start to look at all the ways that toxins come into your life you realize that you can’t just look at things. You must look at your diet as well. Our food is amazing! Food can be protective as well as nutritive. Good, tasty, delicious, whole foods that come gorgeously colored straight from nature and in season – those foods are packed with free-radical fighting antioxidants and nutrients that can help our bodies do what they are designed to do – detox the bad stuff. I’ve found eating that way makes me feel better, look better and be physically and mentally stronger. I love food! I make colorful plates at mealtime and I try and make almost every meal my children eat from scratch. I’m not a fancy cook but I believe food is medicine and it’s the foundation to a healthy, well-lived life. We gather for meals, we prep, talk, play and prepare. Then we eat.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be…
I’ve walked away from a lot to do this work – and spent years to put together and build a program that can create real change. MADE SAFE™ officially launched one year ago and while we are still small, we are making a difference. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
Note from Jasmine:
Hairprint’s entire line is MADE SAFE™ approved including our Hair Color Restorer.
We are very grateful to Amy Ziff and her work in the industry. As a consumer if you are interested in supporting industry in raising their safety standards please request that they be MADE SAFE™.