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The confusing pile of government departments in charge of that soap you just bought.

The interesting — and kinda confusing — way your cleaning products make it to market.

The confusing pile of government departments in charge of that soap you just bought.
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Seventh Generation

Congratulations! You've just bought a brand-new cleaning product that's going to revolutionize the way you clean your home/car/workplace.

It's been a long time coming, but after years of development, testing, and marketing, this game-changing clean-making innovation is now available to the world. This time next year, the person who invented it will be on stage receiving the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and Jennifer Lawrence or Michael Keaton will be getting ready to play them in a movie.



J-Law on her way to collect more award nominations, this time for playing said cleaning-supply creator. GIF from "Joy"/20th Century Fox.

In the meantime, though, it's sitting on your shelf. Getting it home from the store was easy, but its journey from future Nobel-Prize-winner's brain to your grocery store was not.

If you've ever wondered who makes sure your cleaning supplies are safe, well ... the answer's a little complicated.

According to the International Sanitary Supply Association, who oversaw a product on its way to the shelf depends on what you're planning to use it for. Let's say, for example, that your incredible cleaning product is a new type of sanitizer.

In general, hand sanitizers are considered "drugs," so it would have been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Can you see the drug in this photo? Image via Ann Godon/Flickr.

The FDA regulates and oversees food safety, medical devices, cosmetics, animal feed, and everything in between. Like eating food that won't make you accidentally sick? Then you love the FDA.

Say, though, that you're a commercial janitor and plan to use this sanitizer for work. In that case, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had a word with the product's makers.

This man's job is safer because of OSHA. Image via iStock.

The wonderful people at OSHA ensure working Americans have safe and healthful working conditions. They're responsible for making sure janitors don't use chemicals that could give them illnesses like cancer or respiratory problems.

Maybe you work in a hospital? If this product's going to assist in cleaning that hospital, it's considered a "medical device" and went through both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the FDA.

I'm in favor of anything that makes hospitals cleaner. Image via iStock.

The EPA follows rules and laws developed by Congress to protect human health and the environment. Their regulations, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act have forced companies to build environmental safeguards into their operations and remove harmful pollutants from our air and drinking water.

Who is ultimately responsible for governing cleaning products depends on whether they're considered critical (something that enters the human body and touches blood), semi-critical (something that touches the human body and mucous membranes like eyes or the mouth but not blood) or non-critical. Critical and semi-critical are governed by the FDA, non-critical by the EPA.

Oh, while we're here, does this product make any statements about being able to kill bugs, pests, or microorganisms?

If so, it's been registered with the EPA, like all products that claim to "prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate any pest," including harmful microorganisms.

Does it contain a known hazardous material? Then someone ran it by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

No babies were boxed in the making of this label. We hope! Image via Danny Norton/Flickr.

The fine folks at the Consumer Product Safety Commission are in charge of protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of certain consumer products. In this case, they've reviewed the potential health effects of chemicals used in the product.

Confused yet? Maybe a little defeated? Understandable. But you're one step closer to being an informed consumer!

For a product creator, this can be a complicated (but supremely necessary) process. For a consumer standpoint — it's even more so. Without one overall governing body for cleaning products, it can be hard to know where to look for info about about how the things that keep us clean are keeping us safe. Don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful all these regulatory bodies exist. I just wish they all had one website. With pictures!

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.