An Eco Mom’s Dilemma

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It is not easy to be an “eco.mom” and, however hard I try, I cannot make ours the uber-virtuous green household of perfection. No matter how many times I remind my husband and son about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the limits that should be put on certain toys, they haven’t quite gotten the message. I’m guessing I’m not alone amongst eco.moms and, if there isn’t already, I think there should be some kind of green family therapy that addresses these very challenges.

If my son has money in his pocket and I take him to the store, I hound gently remind him to consider the packaging, how long he’s going to REALLY play with the toy or game and how much plastic is involved. I toss in an eco.fact or two and, ultimately, the decision is left to him. And I struggle with this–he’s 8. Is pointing out all the facts and letting him make the final decision right? Sometimes he takes my rantings suggestions into consideration, sometimes not.

A trip to the store with my husband, on the other hand, is an entirely different experience for Ethan. I imagine the words “environmental impact” don’t even come up in conversation. More times than not, they’ll breezily return with more Legos, another Bakugan and possibly a couple packs of baseball cards. Part of the problem is that my husband has always been a Legos addict and the nifty kits–pirate scenes, Star Wars ships, entire cities–were not around during his childhood. The pictures on the box (I’ll have to check, but I’m pretty sure the box has zero recycled content) draw them in to adventure, new worlds and battles. My husband also finds sorting baseball cards a relaxing activity. And don’t even get me started on Bakugans.

My son, Ethan, has LOVED Legos from the day he could snap two of them together. He and my husband can get lost for HOURS in the hundreds–possibly thousands–of plastic pieces they’ve collected over the last 8 years. I’ll find them in the dryer, the junk drawer and once, under my pillow. Maybe it wouldn’t bother me as much if they were made from recycled plastic, considering, Lego cranks out 20 billion Lego bricks a year.

I’ve had the conversation with my husband numerous times. Before Christmas, I said–only one Lego set . Of course, one never knows what Santa may bring from his toy factory–years prior, before he could even read directions, Ethan received 3 to 4 new Lego sets. This last Christmas, Ethan received one set of Legos and Santa was kind enough to throw in another bigger, better Nerf gun that shoots very non-eco-friendly bullets that are probably making their way downstream as we speak to eventually end up in our oceans.

“Santa’s not being very earth-friendly this year,” I couldn’t help saying, a sideways glance at my husband who snuck the extras in.

Then recently, Ethan had saved up some allowance with plans to buy a Bakugan board (the last Bakugan item I would allow since these circular plastic things seem to otherwise lack purpose–just another gimmicky plastic toy that kids like to trade on the bus). Craig happily took him out and they came back with–can you guess? Another Lego set (correction–two sets) ! Why does one need more Legos? Their rationale: Each set has different people and parts you wouldn’t otherwise have. What I see: the set gets built and eventually (within a week at best) dismantled with a very good chance of never being re-built as that set again. Becoming just another bunch of anonymous Lego pieces. But the more pieces they have the greater the building possibilities, they claim.

I question myself, “Am I robbing him of his childhood by limiting the number of Legos and other non-sustainable toys he could purchase?”  I’ve suggested on occasion that they check out ebay–maybe even a garage sale– for used sets. But those would most certainly be outdated. Ugh!

One thing I do know, every Lego that we’re able to find in this house will be saved for Ethan’s kids. I just hope they’ll be deemed good enough that far into the future.

Ethan sometimes calls me the “psycho-earthmender”, which does not come without consequences, believe me. But when we’re out in the world, he notices people accepting the plastic grocery bag for just a few items (he used to point and make a loud comment) and he’s the first to tell a cashier, “No thanks, we can carry this” even if it’s an armload and we’ve left our bag in the car. He chose the smallest tree from the 12″ leftover Arbor Day trees, saying,  “I know it’s the smallest, mom. It needs the most care.” I could have cried.

So there is hope.

I just have to figure out how to get through to my husband.

My newest piece of ammo: Learned recently that the plastic used in Lego is mostly acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS. Acrylonitrile is produced from propylene and ammonia; butadiene is a petroleum hydrocarbon and styrene monomers are derived from coal. It’s quite a chemical and fossil fuel cocktail.

How You Can Help

  • Sign the Care2 Petition asking Lego to switch to sustainable materials – or at least recycled plastic.
  • Leave a comment if you’d like to offload some used Legos, especially if you live around Chicago!

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5 Responses

  1. I feel your pain! My son is only two and a half but is already addicted to Legos. I have to admit that I am partly to blame as I was just as enraptured in the Legomania when I was a kid too. But I have to say that I’ve been pretty good about keeping our Lego collection to a respectable amount (knock on wood). When my husband gets the urge to buy more Legos, I try and redirect his attention to something that is a little more active like a soccer ball or engaging like books. Overall, I try and ease my eco-mind by reminding myself that these toys will not end up in a landfill. We always make sure toys and clothes are shared with younger friends or donated to Goodwill for someone else to enjoy. And hopefully they will do the same down the road.

  2. […] p.m: My son is back to cleaning his room. It’s taking a long time because he’s a Lego maniac, his floor is a sea of plastic (another story). Who am I to […]

  3. […] that I’m older, I scold my son when he tries to use his teeth to separate LEGO pieces. I tell him the story about the quarter and how I almost died. He recently choked on some […]

  4. […] that I’m older, I scold my son when he tries to use his teeth to separate LEGO pieces. I tell him the story about the quarter and how I almost died. He recently choked on some […]

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