One of my favorite toys as a kid was a model of a human called “The Visible Man”. It was made of plastic, and like model airplanes, pieces were glued together and then assembled with the organs in their respective places. It was see-through so you could view all the parts on the inside. I always thought that if people were ‘visible’ in this way they wouldn’t smoke. Now, as I reminisce about this toy and the many others, like our Legos, Lite-Brite and Atari Video game, I have to wonder where they are today. It’s been 30 years since I made that model. I hung on to it for a few years. It may have subconsciously inspired me to become a massage therapist, as I am fascinated and respectful of the human body. But, unfortunately it still has about 473 years left to decompose.
That toy seems like a lifetime ago to me. But, it will take more than 6 lifetimes to degrade. When I think of all the generations of children and their siblings and their friends who have these plastic toys, I can’t help but cringe. The amount of plastic in the landfill is staggering. And these are just the toys I’m talking about! Now, kids need toys. Play is a child’s work – and I loved my toys. That “Visible Man” was worth it, in my opinion. But can’t we still do better?
We are working very hard in our home to break the plastic cycle in our family. Are we completely plastic free? No. We couldn’t find a slide for our redwood and metal swing set that was made of anything but plastic and some of our son’s plastic toys were gifts. We have since informed friends and family of our favorite non-toxic, earth-friendly stores for future gifts. That, in itself, is a hard thing to do. I mean, a gift is a gift. It’s not very gracious to give your input where someone should purchase their generous gift. But our conviction to lessen our footprint required us to speak up on earth’s behalf.
I became very disappointed today when I threw out some Play-doh that dried out beyond re-hydration, when I noticed it was lacking the little triangle and number on the bottom. What! The containers are not recyclable?! You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you know how many kids have this stuff! I think I’ll make some homemade dough. If anyone has a good recipe with non-toxic food dyes, I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, I will hold onto the containers to store my homemade dough in them.
As I scan my toddler’s play room I can see the two camps. One of wooden, beautiful toys and one of bright, plastic, noisy toys. I envision a battle where I line up his hand carved woodland creatures just behind the brown play silk posing as a mountain. MegaBloks’ Construction Joe, as we call him, is all alone, until Tad from Leapfrog’s plastic learning game joins in. They face off. The wooden animals throw wooden fruit and vegetables at the plastic soldiers. They fall down due to the weight of the substantial timber. But in the end, Construction Joe can’t die. Not for 500 years, anyway.
Fortunately, most of our son’s toys are from the first camp and I feel good about them. Although lately all he wants to do is play with my bronze Buddha statue. Not really a toy at all – but how can I refuse. What a great image to be drawn to. But I digress. I think we need to spread the word about some of the wonderful, handmade, crafted toys available today so we will consume fewer plastic toys – better for your child and the environment. Etsy has some great eco-friendly, non-toxic toys for children. I love all the felt pretend play food these artists offer. My favorite online store for my toddler’s toys is Nova Natural. And Sarah’s Toy Box lists a slew of other stores that sell toys that are earth and child-friendly and will last for years. These types of toys help develop imagination and encourage problem solving.
Even if you don’t have children, if you are purchasing a gift for a niece or nephew or friend’s child, why not get them started with something other than plastic? Include the catalog from the store where you purchased the toy so they may be encouraged to add to their child’s toy box with better options. Most people just don’t know these toys exist, because they are not sold in mainstream stores like Toys ‘R Us. Most of these stores are online and I am happy to say that the ones where I have ordered don’t use plastic or Styrofoam popcorn to package them.
Kids need toys and let’s face it, we love to give them to them! Let’s make some better choices and support some wonderful artists around the globe who are committed to helping our planet too!
*This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival. This month’s carnival is all about plastic and will be hosted by your plastic-free guru, Beth Terry, of Fake Plastic Fish. Check out her site on Tues, April 14th for more plastic related posts!