For most of us, there’s a defined ah-ha! moment we can point to when we started making the switch from conventional products to cleaner, greener options. But not all of us take that moment and turn it into a nonprofit organization that helps regulate said products. That’s what makes Amy Ziff, founder and executive director of MADE SAFE®, stand out.
After her newborn twins demonstrated allergies to “practically everything,” Amy used her master’s degree in journalism to dive deep into what was in the products she was using in their home. Her research revealed what too few of us know: “There are all these toxins, everywhere, and no one regulates them!” says Amy. “We make assumptions that each of our products underwent scrutiny, but that’s just not the case. We can’t assume that there are no carcinogens in our products.”
Instead of being overwhelmed and paralyzed by this discovery, Amy took action. “I had all this information,” she says, “and I wasn’t going to stop! There was no one looking out for consumers—it’s absurd! We deserve better.”
So she set out to make things better by founding MADE SAFE®. The nonprofit certification is a rigorous process that brands sign onto to test their ingredients for toxicity. “We wanted to come up with a term that was self-explanatory,” Amy says. “The masses don’t yet understand the ‘body burden’ concept of toxicity, but in general, people want to buy safer products. MADE SAFE® literally means ‘made with safe ingredients.'”
How the MADE SAFE® Certification Works
What makes MADE SAFE® different from other certifications and regulations, says Amy, is that its process starts from a different point of view. “Most organizations have approached it from a toxicological standpoint—at what point does this ingredient become a problem for humans or the environment? What’s the tipping point?”
But MADE SAFE® regulations are built around the idea that if something is a harmful ingredient, why are we using it at all? “Who’s to say we’re even getting it right when we try to figure out the dose for nontoxicity?” Amy asks.
Instead, MADE SAFE® looks at the entirety of the animal kingdom when considering ingredients. “We’re all impacted by bio-accumulation,” says Amy, “whether it’s in our bodies or in our water or in the environment.” MADE SAFE® asks these questions:
- -Does it bio-accumulate in humans?
- -How does it impact the environment?
- -How does it impact animals?
- -What’s the aquatic toxicity?
And the certification answers those questions by relying on larger organizations established to do well-funded research, meaning MADE SAFE® isn’t setting the toxic levels of ingredients. The process defers to entities of the world like the state of California, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Minnesota, all of which specialize in different areas of toxicity levels of ingredients.
We operate on a ‘everything is guilty until research can prove its innocence’ idea, says Amy.
The MADE SAFE® team is also comprised of passionate individuals who have backgrounds in research and environmental studies. They partner with scientists across different industries and categories, from flame retardant specialists to cosmetic chemists, to compile the best information on the safety of individual ingredients. “We need experts in all different areas,” says Amy. “There are more than 80,000 ingredients being used worldwide, and we need scientific specialists to decipher their safety.”
How MADE SAFE® Works With Brands
What can be tough about some certifications is the high expense for brands—they have to have funding to buy into the proof that their ingredients are organic or ECOCERT. With MADE SAFE®, brands still have to buy into the process, but it’s on a sliding scale. “We wanted to make it possible for all brands to access it,” says Amy. “We wanted to bring in brands of all company sizes—small, medium, large.”
That’s one reason why MADE SAFE® is set up as a nonprofit. It can receive funding from individual donors, foundations and grants that allows for outreach, education and expansion, while brand fees cover the science and research needed to demystify ingredients.
Once brands sign on, they have two options for certification:
- 1. MADE SAFE®: A product is made with safe ingredients, and has undergone a rigorous certification process.
- 2. MADE SAFE Nontoxic Certified™: A product, in totality, is not toxic. This product not only starts with safe ingredients, but it goes through lab testing to ensure that its ingredient mixtures won’t cause harm. It’s the best way to ensure that an item as it is sold, is nontoxic.
When Amy lauched MADE SAFE®, she intended for all products to go through the lab testing of the MADE SAFE Nontoxic Certified™ process. But, “the world’s not totally ready for nontoxic testing,” she says. “It’s incredibly expensive and not quite perfected yet. MADE SAFE® is the first step to MADE SAFE Nontoxic Certified™ and when the world is ready, we’re ready.”
Either way, brands are supported through the entire certification. “We create a support system for brands that want to do better,” Amy says. Brands work with MADE SAFE® under a non-disclosure agreement, so researchers and scientists can see all ingredients, sub-ingredients and “secret” ingredients, she says. “This helps brands take full responsibility for their products and ingredients. They have to be firm with their suppliers to get all the information we need—it’s a different way of thinking. If you’re a brand playing in the green space, you need to know about your ingredients.”
Sometimes, she says, this creates issues with suppliers, who want to “bully” brands into not asking questions. “But MADE SAFE® can help give brands a backbone to stand up for their right to know.”
And when MADE SAFE® has to give brands bad news about an ingredient they’re using, she says it’s usually met with a desire to do better. “Because it’s all backed with science, brands want to know and want to improve.” MADE SAFE® can even help with those improvements by recommending substitute ingredients and ideas for reformulation. “We continue to work with the brand through the whole process,” Amy says. “It’s ongoing.”
“We’re trying to provide not just a certification, but a civil service, to be a catalyst for a safe and sustainable future,” she says. “You use the organic seal to guide you in the grocery store. What do you use for everything else in life? MADE SAFE®. We’re reaching across the aisles, from baby mattresses to personal care products, so that when you see our seal, you recognize it and know it’s safe for you and your family.”