I first met Gregor Barnum at a class entitled "Intro to Sustainable Development" at UVM where he came to tell us about his company and how it fit into a sustainable mold. He was giving a presentation on Seventh Generation
, a Burlington, Vt.-based company that produces household goods that are more environmentally friendly than your typical big-corporation products.
Seventh Generation started out as an environmental catalog in 1988, showcasing environmentally safe products that customers could buy, such as certain types of paper and energy efficient lighting. Eventually, they put their name on a cleaning supply, sold the catalog and continued forward with producing their own products.
The company's name
stems from an Iroquois law, which states that "in our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." This law and its contribution to the name was an obvious nod to consuming, using and waste that Seventh Generation seeks to change, such that the household products we all buy should not affect the earth and the generations that come after us.
To do this, however, it is the role of the consumer to realize the power each of us has. Gregor acknowledged during our chat that many people don't know that a lot of chemicals in packaging are harmful not only to the environment but also to the purchaser themselves. A consumer must realize before buying if the company is a good one, one that treats its employees well and is responsible and green. Knowing what you buy can make all the difference, he states, that everything that is rung up at the cash register is a vote you make.
This "conscious consuming" is something of which we all should take note. Do we really need that extra container? Do we need the cheese puffs in aisle three? To do this, being educated about what you're buying is a great start. Knowing what's in what you are buying, how many chemicals are used in the packaging, and the fact that what you buy can make a change is the first step. Just look at the organic revolution, as well as farmers markets and other such local specific trends that have popped up in recent years. Knowing what goes into your household is key if you want to start living in a environmentally friendly fashion.