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upworthy

environmental protection agency

"Hi, I just wanted to urge you to resign because of what you're doing to the environment and our country."

Teacher Kristin Mink didn't hold back when confronting Scott Pruitt, the controversial head of the Environmental Protection Agency. When she saw him eating lunch at a Washington, D.C., restaurant, she knew she had to say something. She just didn't know what.

Then it hit her: "His actions are the source of so much of my despair for my child's future and frankly the future of humanity," Mink wrote to Splinter afterward. She decided to make it personal.


Mink walked up to Pruitt and introduced her toddler son — just so Pruitt would know whose future he was affecting.

"This is my son. He loves animals. He loves clean air. He loves clean water. Meanwhile, you're slashing strong fuel standards for cars and trucks for the benefit of big corporations," Mink said as Pruitt's face dropped into a deep and nervous frown.

"We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us, including our children," Mink continued.

And then she repeated her first request: "So, I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out."

That's when, according to Mink, Pruitt rushed from the restaurant, his security detail in tow.

EPA head Scott Pruitt was 3 tables away as I ate lunch with my child. I had to say something. This man is directly and significantly harming my child’s — and every child’s — health and future with decisions to roll back environmental regulations for the benefit of big corporations, while he uses taxpayer money to fund a lavish lifestyle. He’s corrupt, he’s a liar, he’s a climate change denier, and as a public servant, he should not be able to go out in public without hearing from the citizens he’s hurting. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. EPA Administrator Scott PruittETA: You don’t have to wait til your next Pruitt sighting to take action! Click here to help Boot Pruitt! https://www.addup.org/campaigns/boot-pruitt

Posted by Kristin Mink on Monday, July 2, 2018

Protecting our environmental future is more important than ever.

Pruitt, a Donald Trump appointee, has been courting controversy since he arrived at the EPA. While only there a short time, he's already begun to undo over 20 Obama-era regulations. He has made himself the final authority on The Clean Water Act, is rolling back emissions regulations for cars and trucks, and is revising fuel efficiency standards, taking away incentives for cleaner cars with a lower carbon footprint.

That's nothing to say of Pruitt's questionable conduct: Since being in the role, he's refused to let his schedule be known to the public, demanded a 24-hour-security detail (a cost of $3 million a year), and built a soundproof phone booth (which cost upward of $43,000). Other ethical concerns include that Pruitt hired his own banker to run the Superfund program and is allowing EPA employees to moonlight as political consultants.

We should be worried. And, like Mink, we should speak out whenever and wherever we can.

It's easy to forget that public servants don't work for themselves: They work for the public. It's incumbent on us to push back and speak out when their policies and actions are corrupt.

"Our children's future is at stake," the end of Mink's video states. "As citizens, it is our responsibility to confront corrupt, unethical, and immoral government officials whenever and wherever we see them."

She's using her voice. We should all raise our own. Elections are coming. Are you registered to vote?

In defiance of President Donald Trump's gag order preventing Environmental Protection Agency organizations from tweeting about climate change, the Badlands National Park Twitter account began doing just that.

Within hours of the bold move, those tweets disappeared. For the rest of the day, the account was eerily silent, leaving people to wonder what befell the courageous social media manager in charge of the park's account.

Thankfully, Twitter users anticipated that the tweets might not survive for long. As soon as the tweets disappeared, a slew of accounts began posting them as screengrabs, proof that they had once existed.


With the @BadlandsNPS account quiet, other Twitter accounts picked up where it left off, tweeting out other facts about climate change along with actionable ways to support government-run climate research.

One particularly noteworthy account that has doggedly continued tweeting climate facts is @AltNatParkSer.

There are a few theories as to who is behind the account: It seems most likely to be the same staff who ran the NPS Badlands account, but another common theory is it's run by a few active and/or former employees of the entire National Parks Service. Based on their tweets, they're vehemently against government censorship of a prevalent and important issue — climate change.

Or, as their bio states, they are "the Unofficial 'Resistance' team of U.S. National Park Service. Not taxpayer subsidised! Come for rugged scenery, fossil beds, 89 million acres of landscape."

Just one day after the account started tweeting, it accumulated over 450,000 followers. On the second day, it had reached 985,000. Obviously the mission to keep science facts alive is significant to the world, at least on Twitter.

Freedom of speech is part of the First Amendment of our Constitution. Even though that is currently being threatened by the government, thanks to the power of the social media and groups like this, the gag rule will not stand.

Here are 14 tweets showing how it all went down:

1. First, @AltNatParkSer replicated the tweets that had been removed from the official Badlands National Park account.

2. Then it got honest about what likely happened to Badland's social media manager.

3. Next, it quoted a president who actually understood the threat climate change poses to humanity.

4. Then, knowing the power of a strong visual, it posted a scary photo.

5. Then it tried sending out a not-so-subtle theory as to why the Trump administration — and Trump in particular — doesn't want government organizations tweeting about climate change.

6. It also directed people toward other organizations fighting the good and true science fight.

7. And it retweeted this tweet — a dark joke from the original Badlands Twitter account.

8. Those behind @AltNatParkSer also responded truthfully to people who were curious about just what the heck they were hoping the account would do.

9. It also broke the tension with a bit of humor.

10. And it clearly explained what's at stake for the national parks.

11. As such, it needs your help to preserve vital scientific information.

12. And it empathized with the overwhelming frustration over reinvigorated pipeline projects.

13. It even created fun chants for upcoming science marches.

14. And finally, it's helping its environmentalist friends who are also running rogue accounts and fearlessly keeping science facts alive.  

It's scary to watch in real time as something as innocent as a handful of scientifically accurate tweets about climate change are deleted, seemingly censored by an administration that refuses to acknowledge the danger it poses to us all.

As more and more government groups find that what they can or cannot say to the public is restricted (the Sunlight Foundation is keeping track of them here), it's up to everyday concerned citizens to help keep the truth alive.

You can easily help @AltNatParkSer by following them on Twitter and doing all the things they've suggested above. Call your representative and demand the gag rule lifted and EPA grant funding unfrozen. March for science in the Scientists' March on Washington. Donate, if you can, to the science research organizations at risk of losing their federal support.

This is not a battle that's going to be won with several rogue tweets. It's going to take time, dedication, and considerable efforts on behalf of civilians. But this a fight we can't afford to lose. For the sake of the planet and everyone you know, if you believe in science, don't stay silent.

This post was updated 5/4/2017.

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Seventh Generation

Bad news, folks. Your house? It's kinda dirty.

But you're not alone. The world is a dirty place, and every time we step into it, we bring home morsels of its muck.


GIF from "Chappelle Show."

As do our housemates.

Image by Nikolas J. Britton/Wikimedia Commons.

And all that dust? That's the dirt we track in, our hair, fibers from carpet, bedding, clothing, and upholstery, food crumbs, dander, bug poo, and who knows what else.

GIF from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

And sometimes we're just clumsy, messy, germ-y people.

Maybe just ... get used to hard-boiled.

That's why we clean. But we don't just do it to keep our homes sightly. It's also good for our health.

There are billions of bacteria living in our homes — some potentially harmful. And they love gettin' cozy on the surfaces we come into contact with the most.

Photo by Rachel Zack/Flickr.

Cleaning doesn't just protect us from disease-causing germs — it can even boost our health.

An Indiana University study revealed links between home cleanliness and physical fitness. Researchers found that the tidier the participant's home, the more likely they were to lead healthy and active lifestyles.

Ironically, a lot of the products we use to clean are potential health hazards.

It can be hard to determine at times because under current law, companies that make cleaning products don't have to print full ingredient lists on their packaging.

Photo by Maz Ali/Upworthy.

You can squint your way through tinily printed precautions, but vague references to "other ingredients" aren't very helpful with choices about our health or the environmental impacts of our cleaning products.

The EPA thought we needed a better way to find safer cleaning products. So they started their own label.

Yes, like the Berry Gordy of the cleaning aisle, they scouted top talent from both environmental groups and conscious companies in the industry to launch Safer Choice.

Image via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/YouTube.

The Safer Choice label means every single ingredient in the product was reviewed by EPA scientists and cleared as being safer for public health and the environment.

They don't only evaluate products for chemical toxicity. The agency's criteria also covers labeling transparency, energy- and water-saving potential, packaging sustainability, and even products' ability to make a long-term positive difference.

Image via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/YouTube.

Oh, and seeing as how they're cleaning agents, they also test them for performance so consumers can get exactly what they expect.

Sure, cleaning's a chore. But if we can do it without potential risks to our health or the planet, well, that's worth a little jig.

So fresh. So clean.

Watch a quick primer on the EPA's Safer Choice label:

More

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.

True
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!