Mark Rossi’s life mission is to advance safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. In 2006, Rossi founded BizNGO, a collaboration of more than 500 business, environmental, and government leaders. After codirecting the Clean Production Action for 10 years, he cofounded the Chemical Footprint Project in 2014. The project, administered by CPA, uses a benchmark system to raise awareness about harmful chemicals. Rossi, who earned his PhD in environmental policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently spoke about his projects, safe everyday products, and why he did not complain about the record snowfall.
1. Rossi, 52, was living in New Mexico with his girlfriend, now wife, trying to get his life together when he decided to move to Massachusetts in 1987 to attend graduate school at Tufts University. His interest in chemical safety began as he worked with a professor on toxic chemicals and the life cycle of products. Rossi followed professor Ken Geiser to the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute as a researcher, and has not stopped learning from peers about improving the chemicals in products.
“I want to have a say in the products I use. It’s highly motivating to be able to change the products we use every day, to make them safer and healthier for people and the environment. My work is a way of creating an expression of what we want in our products.”
2. A self-proclaimed “pollinator” because he spreads information from business to business, and business to consumer, Rossi has knowledge that’s global. As a contributor to the UN Environmental Program, Rossi attended a conference in China in July and has attended UN meetings in Geneva. His most frequented European country is Sweden, a leader in chemical management.
“In Sweden, there is much more of a willingness to engage in conversation, be thoughtful of the chemicals they use, and what they might do to change. Here, we tend to be very polarized between companies and environmental groups. I’ve brought a willingness to listen to find common ground to BizNGO and Clean Production Action.”
3. Rossi works with many well-known companies, including Seventh Generation, Staples, and Partners HealthCare. As Partners, one of the state’s largest nonprofits, relocates its administrative offices to Somerville, the company is purchasing furniture that does not use flame retardants but still meets fire codes.
“I can’t say I was directly the one responsible for that decision, but our organization worked with them in evaluating their products and making a selection of safer alternatives.”
4. Admittedly, his two children were deprived of certain toys and chairs because of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, plastics and flame retardants. To determine safe products, Rossi likes Good Guide, an online website and mobile app. When asked about his favorite product without hazardous chemicals, his seat is the answer.
“I really like the Aeron chair by Herman Miller because it is incredibly comfortable and doesn’t use any foam. I don’t have to worry about flame retardants or PVC plastic.”
5. A Somerville resident, Rossi can be found with his family at the Sunday River ski resort in Maine on the weekends. He is an avid skier, enjoying downhill, cross country, and Telemark skiing, a combination of Alpine and Nordic.
“I loved this past winter. While others were suffering, I was out enjoying myself.”