Seventh Generation's Jeffrey Hollender: The BP Spill Is a Wake-Up Call

The tremendous environmental disaster that has resulted from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a singular event, but Seventh Generation CEO Jeffrey Hollender thinks it's emblematic of how we're abusing the environment—we're polluting the Earth in a variety of ways, but for the most part it goes unnoticed because it happens in ways that aren't immediately obvious.

"It's really no different than the way we handle chemicals," says Hollender. "We have an open spigot through which millions of pounds of toxic chemicals are dumped into our society into the air, into the groundwater, through our products—it just happened to be invisible.  The effects are still there—increased asthma rates, increased cancer rates in children—but we have many oil spills, whether they’re chemicals, whether they’re petroleum."

In his Big Think interview, Hollender talks about how some companies tout their sustainability in their PR, but then don't live up to the standards they've set. He points to Toyota, in particular, which touted the gas mileage of its hybrid Prius while at the same time lobbying in California against lower emissions standards.

Hollender also talked about the strange disconnect in pricing between sustainable and non-sustainable products.  "We have created an economic construct through rules and regulations and tax codes that allows businesses to escape from most of their negative impacts," he says. He suggests, instead, that if companies were held accountable for all of the detrimental environmental effects of their product then organic and sustainable products would become, comparatively, much cheaper.

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