grocery cartBackground: We know that our laws on toxic chemicals are seriously broken. Daily we are exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals from our homes, workplaces and the products we use every day. Meanwhile, decades of peer-reviewed research shows that some of these toxic chemicals are linked to health problems like cancer, early puberty, learning disabilities and infertility. When we head to the store, we face an impossible challenge of finding products that are safe for our families.

What is the Mind the Store Campaign?

This campaign was launched in April of 2013 as a way to work with the nation’s leading retailers to address toxic chemicals. Most companies have corporate policies on a variety of topics, but it is rare for them to have an internal chemical policy. As a coalition, we are asking the retailers to work with us to create a corporate chemical policy and address the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals.

What would this look like? The idea is that the retailers can work with their suppliers (the people that provide products for their store shelves,) to move their product lines away from toxic chemicals. Some consumer product companies are already doing the right thing; we know it’s possible to create products free of toxic chemicals. We’re not asking retailers to throw everything on their shelves away, but rather work with us to transform the supply chain over time, to move away from the Hazardous 100+.

How would this help me? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that walking into your favorite retailer meant safer products? You wouldn’t need to play the role of chemical detective, trying as best you can to read labels (and most products don’t label the ingredients) or resorting to complex databases.

Most important of all, it levels the playing field. It takes tremendous time, education and resources to try and shop your way to safety. And even if you have all of those things, you still can’t fully protect yourself from toxic chemicals. By asking retailers to clean up the supply chain, we can protect everyone, not just the people who can afford safer products.

How can I help? Below is an action toolkit you can share with your friends and family. We know that if we all get involved, we can make massive improvements to the status quo. Retailers are responsive and sensitive to the needs and desires of their consumers (that’s you!) and it’s important to use your voice.
Join parents, students, and families across the country in taking action. It’s simple, doesn’t take a ton of time and has a HUGE impact.

shopping bags

Plan a Retailer Rendezvous

Get a group of a few of your friends together and visit a store to talk to the manager about why you want the retailer to Mind the Store. This is very powerful, and doesn’t take too much time to plan.

pointer1. Send an email to your friends (or call them) and ask if they would be interested in joining you for a Retailer Rendezvous.

Here is a sample email:

Jenny,

As you know, I’ve been concerned and frustrated by trying to find safe products free of toxic chemicals for my family. We’re routinely exposed to toxic chemicals in our homes and places of work. Cancer-causing chemicals in our couches, hormone disrupting chemicals in our cosmetics and personal care products, dangerous heavy metals in building materials, the list goes on.

I’m inspired to take action and am planning a friendly trip to Walgreens to ask the store manager to get involved in a new wonderful campaign called Mind the Store. This campaign is being led by a coalition of 450 public health, environmental and parent groups called Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. The campaign is asking retailers to move away from the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals in the supply chain.

I would like to get a small group of our friends together to visit Walgreens and tell the store manager how hard it is to find products free of toxic chemicals and ask for their leadership. This will be a friendly, low-pressure and empowering visit. Kids are welcome to join us!

Let me know if you’re interested and we’ll schedule a time.

Thanks!

Lindsay

2. Once you get a group together…

Print off a few copies of the letter to retailers and the Hazardous 100+ chemical list. This is what you can leave with the store manager.

3. Talk to your friends ahead of time

See what they would like to share with the store manager. Let everyone know that you’ll have about 10 minutes, so if each person wants to speak, keep it to around two minutes. You really want to develop a relationship with the store manager, so be sure to leave time for him/her to respond and ask questions.

4. Open up by thanking the store manager

Acknowledging the steps the retailer has already taken on toxic chemicals. You can find this information here.

5. If the store manager asks questions you don’t know the answer to…

Please refer them to the Mind the Store website, where we have resources for the retailers to make this task manageable.

6. Ask the manager to tell his/her superiors that they are hearing that customers want the retailer to work with us on the Mind the Store campaign.
7. Be friendly.

If you are angry or rude to the manager, you will diminish your message and they won’t want to talk with you. This is a friendly campaign, so be sure to reflect that in your meeting.

8. Thank them for their time.
9. Give your friends a high five and thank them!

Doing something like this is inspiring and invigorating. Let your friends know you appreciate getting involved in issues as important as this; a simple thank you email goes a long way. Encourage them to take the Mind the Store online action in your follow-up email.

10. Let us know how it went.

We can feature your story on our website! If you have a chance to take a picture of the group that met with the manager, send that picture along (please get approval from everyone in the picture to share it online before sending to us.)

store manager

Photo credit: Watershed Post (cc)

 

What do I say to the manager?

Here are some points you could make when talking to the store manager, the important thing to remember is the store manager may not know anything about toxic chemicals in consumer products or this campaign. Speak from the heart and tell your story, no need to be a chemical expert.

  • Thanks for taking the time to meet with us today, we’re here as concerned shoppers, moms, dads, students, nurses etc.
  • As a loyal customer, I’m finding it increasingly hard to find safe products, free of toxic chemicals and we’d like to talk to you about a new campaign called Mind the Store.
  • A lot of toxic chemicals are ending up in the products we use everyday.
  • Parabens, hormone disrupting chemicals are in our shampoo, lotions and children’s soaps.
  • Toxic flame retardants, linked to cancer are found in 85% of the couches in American homes.
  • Heavy metals are lurking in our electronics and building materials.
  • As a consumer, I have limited access to safe products and things aren’t clearly labeled. Often times the “safer” products are more expensive.
  • We’re here to ask that Target (Walmart etc.) get involved in the Mind the Store campaign.
  • It’s being led by a big coalition called Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
  • They want to work with you to clean up the supply chain, and phase out some of the worst chemicals.
  • Their website has a list of the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals and useful information for retailers.
This is a good place to stop and ask the store manager if they are familiar with the issue of toxic chemicals in consumer products. Feel free to share stories, like what it’s like as a new parent to try to navigate a complex, toxic-chemical laden marketplace.
  • As a consumer, it’s really frustrating trying to find safe products and I think you can play a major role in moving the market away from toxic chemicals.
  • Will you Mind the Store and work with your suppliers to move away from the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals?
The store manager won’t have the authority to make a final decision for the company, but can share your concerns with their superiors.
  • Will you ask your corporate headquarters to Mind the Store and work with Safer Chemicals to move the market away from toxic chemicals?
  • I would love to be able to know that you’re doing everything you can to protect your consumers from toxic chemicals.
Get inspired – here are a few bloggers (and moms) who traveled to their retailer:

shopping with a toddler

Frequently asked questions:

Which retailers are you focusing on?

We’re focusing on the top ten retailers in the country; pick the retailer where you most frequently shop:

  • Walmart @Walmart
  • Target @Target
  • CVS @CVS_Extra
  • Walgreens @Walgreens
  • Best Buy @BestBuy
  • Home Depot @HomeDepot
  • Lowes @Lowes
  • Costco @CostcoTweets
  • Kroger @Kroger
  • Safeway @Safeway

Have you heard from any of the retailers so far? Yes, we’ve heard positive things from several of the retailers. We are in the process of setting up meetings with their sustainability teams to talk about how we can work together. Since we launched the campaign, both Target and Walmart have adopted corporate chemicals policies. We’re calling on those retailers to expand their policies, and other retailers to join them!

What are some examples of toxic chemicals in consumer products? On the Hazardous 100+ section of our website, you can find examples of toxic chemicals, their health effects and products they are commonly found in. Some of the chemicals featured include: triclosan, BPA/BPS, toxic flame retardants, formaldehyde and heavy metals.

How much impact does a meeting like this have? A huge impact. We know your time is precious and we wouldn’t ask you to do something if we weren’t confident that it would move the retailers to act. They listen to their customers!

How can I spread the word after I’ve done a Retailer Rendezvous?

  • Email your friends and encourage them to take our Mind the Store action.
  • Send us a follow up email with how it went, pictures, etc. and we’ll feature you on our website, inspiring others to take action.
  • Share information about this campaign on social media. You can share our Facebook image and action here. You can also tweet about it. Use this for example: I’m planning a fun trip to @Target asking them to #MindtheStore, learn more here: http://bit.ly/mts-action
  • Encourage your friends to set up their own Retailer Rendezvous at their favorite retailer, by sending them this toolkit.

Where can I find out what good steps the retailers have already taken? On our website there is great information on some of the baby steps retailers have taken on toxic chemicals. It’s good to read this information ahead of time and be sure to thank the store manager for what they’ve done, and ask them to do more.