GeekMom: Green Toys vs. Greener Toys

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We are a things family. We buy things, lots of things. We each collect something. We each have a favorite kind of souvenir we get when we travel. We’ve never adopted the approach that many of our friends did when we all started having kids, with all wooden toys, no synthetic fibers and the like. But that isn’t to say that it doesn’t tickle me when something meets our requirements and those of our more passionate friends.

We found that very early on in our parenting journey with Green Toys. Marketed from day one as being made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic, this is a company that has proven time and time again that it can create a gift that a grandparent will love to give, and a parent won’t hate to get.

Christmas 2010 All Images: Sarah Pinault

To date they have recycled over 114,000,000 million milk jugs (another parental staple) and counting. And they are counting, there’s a ticker on their website that is constantly changing. This one is far healthier than the one counting the number of burgers sold at McDonalds. The company motto is jokingly “Every day is Earth Day” but it’s not far from the truth. Their commitment to creating basic, enduring toys, out of materials that will help our planet endure is one I wish could be adopted by more of the companies that produce the things I use in my daily life.

We’ve been avid fans since they made only three basic trucks, and now they are into everything from tea sets (which we have) to rocket ships (which we covet). They have a line of Mickey Mouse products to appeal to those of us who are Disney obsessed. My kids have loved the style and durability, and aside from feeling good about not adding more plastic to the planet, I love their color scheme. The muted tones are great, but everything comes in all colors. You can get a pink dump truck, a red tea set, they do not pigeon hole which kids get to play with which toys based on color. All of their toys are for all kids, and I love it.

This year my family took our first RV trip into New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and so of course we had to get the new RV Camper Set from Green Toys. We like things, I warned you, it’s what we do. There are three big components to this new set, a small truck, a camper, and a boat trailer with detachable boat. We are not boat people, just RV people, but this is fun too. Inside the completely recycled packaging is the completely recycled toy. Inside the completely recycled toy, is a completely recycled paper bag containing the small recycled pieces of the recycled toy; the picnic table, some chairs, a camping mouse and a camping duck. It is utterly delightful, and everything I’ve come to expect from this company I’ve known since I was a brand new mom worried about my baby licking things. I don’t worry anymore, they all lick everything.

For my twelve year old however, Green Toys no longer really fits the bill in terms of play, and so I’m glad to see that some other toy companies have over the past several years started venturing into the recycled field. The influence of the popularity and profitability of Green Toys themselves having played no small part in that I’m sure. This year’s toy list from Mattel includes an enormous Mosasaurus from the Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous range, now that is a lot of potential plastic. It is in fact made of one pound of plastic, but thanks to changing demands from parents, instead of traditional plastic, this is made from one pound of “Ocean Bound” plastic. This is discarded plastic generated from the company’s many products, that would otherwise have found its way into a dumping site, that instead of dumping they are now converting into reusable plastic. Now we could be pessimistic about this, and say we need giant moon sized steps in environmental care right now, but I will take any steps towards better use of plastics in my kids toys. Mattel as a whole has made many environmental improvements since I was a kid in the 80s, and since 2019 they have committed wholeheartedly to cleaner toys, with the announcement that they would achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastics materials, products, and packaging by 2030.

Innovation is part of our DNA, and it is central to our work in environmental sustainability. – Richard Dickson, President and Chief Operating Officer, Mattel.

Material aside, the toy itself is super fun, and the perfect fit for that kid who is in middle school, and past the age for which Green Toys are aimed. Not yet a teenager but not quite a kid, the Mosasaurus is a great toy to play with. My twelve year old son had a ball putting this together, and as an avid fan of the movies and cartoon has really enjoyed playing with this. Video games have not yet completely taken over his gift receiving experience, for which I am thankful but I am always looking for big box things for him for under the tree, to compete with the toys in giant boxes that his younger siblings still get. If you are still shopping for that in between kid then this is a great option, and again, for all kids, I would have adored receiving this as a child. Half the time, his sister is stealing this to play with, though thankfully it has not yet made its way to our bathtub.

Whether it be Green Toys or companies like Mattel, with toys that are simply committed to being greener, the amount of plastic we consume at Christmas is definitely a concern that grows in my mind every year, and I am grateful that the producers are attempting to keep in line with the consumers. I’m sure we’ll still consume a lot for Christmas 2021, but I am greatly encouraged this year that we’ll be able to consume less each year, without sacrificing play or function.

GeekMom received some of these items for review purposes.

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