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Meet the movement making companies show you what they're made of.

Ingredient transparency: It's about a lot more than chemicals in yoga mats.

Meet the movement making companies show you what they're made of.
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Seventh Generation

Do you remember hearing something about Subway and yoga mats back in 2014?

It's the kind of story that really stands out. In January 2014, health blogger Vani Hari wrote about her discovery that the bread used in Subway’s iconic sandwiches contained a scary-sounding chemical named azodicarbonamide.


Yoga mat: It's what's for dinner. Image by iStock.

Azodicarbonamide is used in commercial bread-making as a dough conditioner, helping to keep bread soft and spongy. It’s also used in some decidedly inedible consumer products — most famously, yoga mats.

Hari’s spark caught fire quickly. Her online petition gathered 50,000 signatures and lots of media attention. A few weeks later, a report titled "500 Ways to Eat a Yoga Mat" came out, showing the more than 400 supermarket bread products also containing azodicarbonamide. The outrage grew, and within a few weeks, Subway caved to pressure, announcing it was permanently removing the "yoga mat" chemical from its bread recipe.

Up next: getting the dog to nama-stay on his own yoga mat.

Interestingly, there is no evidence that azodicarbonamide as a food additive is harmful to human health.

A 1999 World Health Organization report on its effects found almost no effects to animals, except in massive doses. In human subjects, there’s no conclusive data, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows its use as an additive in cereal flour and bread-making, along with thousands of other common products.

In the end, all the research in the world wouldn't have mattered. It really boils down to trust and transparency.

Although azodicarbonamide doesn't seem to be harmful, the public believed it was. People felt there was no way to know or agree to the chemicals being put in their food and that Subway was concealing something from them. The only option for Subway to regain consumer trust was to remove the ingredient.

Stories like this seem to happen all the time.

A consumer notices something strange about a particular ingredient in a common product. Companies assure us it's completely safe, but the public doesn't trust them and remains concerned. Eventually the pressure mounts until the company comes up with some fix to regain consumer trust. It's happened before, with "pink slime" in menu items at fast food restaurants, wood pulp in shredded cheese, and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals in makeup and cleansers.

And although those things might be technically "safe," it's clear consumers want to be a part of that decision-making process to select what goes in their food, cleaners, makeup, and other products.

This kitten doesn't know what he doesn't know — but he knows he doesn't like it.

It's clear the public wants to be more knowledgeable about what is in their products and how they are made. But currently, it can be really hard to find that information.

Ordinary people demanding transparency from the products in their lives is a fast-growing movement. To understand why and what they want, I looked to one of the most visible names of the transparency movement — the Environmental Working Group.

The Environmental Working Group, or EWG, knows firsthand how crucial consumer trust is.

Protecting children is a big driver for people in the ingredient transparency movement. Image by iStock.

Started 22 years ago by founders Ken Cook and Richard Wiles, the EWG initially focused its energy on researching the impacts of pesticides on children. But after learning more about pollutants in other areas of modern life, they expanded their efforts to include food, cosmetics, household cleaners — even tap water.

The EWG maintains massive and hyper-detailed databases of products available in the United States. Their food database — containing ingredient lists for most commercially-available foods — is what allowed them to quickly turn around the 500 Ways to Eat a Yoga Mat report. Their world-famous cosmetics database Skin Deep, is so influential that, according to the EWG Deputy Director of Research Nneka Leiba, companies have begun to reformulate their products in order to omit potentially-dangerous ingredients and get higher ratings.

Leiba explains the ingredient transparency movement using body lotion as a symbol of the deep trust consumers place in companies.

"Our relationship with our body lotions is extremely personal. We bring it into our homes, use it twice a day. Over time, it becomes an extension of our personal identity. Our trust in the safety of this lotion is extended to the company that makes it. They can choose to strengthen that with honesty and transparency. Or they can break it by doing the opposite."

In the last five years, massive corporations, including Mars, Kraft, Kellogg's, and Campbell Soup, have voluntarily opened up about the ingredients in their products and removed ones considered unsafe.

When S.C. Johnson & Son Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson announced his company would disclose everything in their fragrances — an ingredient category protected by government regulation as "trade secrets" — he promised complete openness: "Transparency doesn't mean cherry-picking which things to share and which things to hide. It means opening the door and letting people see what you’re made of."

There are, of course, plenty of financial incentives for companies embracing ingredient transparency.

The market for natural products is continuing to expand every year. Companies selling products with very few ingredients are channeling consumer distrust into constructive purchases they feel good about and feel safe about bringing into their home. It's a growing world of products — encompassing everything from organic food to natural cosmetics to household cleaners to clothes — that's likely to get even bigger as millennials start having families and flex even more of their buying muscle.

The much sought-after millennial consumer in its natural habitat. Image by iStock.

"Consumers are demanding change, voting with their wallets and saying they won’t buy products with ingredients they don't trust," said Leiba. "So large companies like Revlon, Johnson & Johnson, and Proctor & Gamble are removing phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde-releasing additives from their products — and then advertising it as a point of pride."

Ultimately, the ingredient transparency movement is about trust — and consumers only have a finite amount of it.

The more companies treat the people who buy their products with respect, honesty, and inclusiveness, the more likely consumers are to take them at their word.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

@SubwayCreatures / Twitter

A man who uses a wheelchair fell onto the tracks in a New York City subway station on Wednesday afternoon. A CBS New York writer was at the scene of the incident and says that people rushed to save the man after they heard him "whimpering."

It's unclear why the man fell onto the tracks.

A brave rescuer risked his life by jumping on the tracks to get the man to safety knowing that the train would come barreling in at any second. The footage is even more dramatic because you can hear the station's PA system announce that the train is on its way.

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