Plastic-Free Under the Tree: My Case Study

I found a lot of great brands and unique companies that I am going to continue to follow. There was this whole world that opened to me.

This past fall, with the holidays approaching, the Playper team came up with the Plastic-Free Under the Tree Campaign, and in “practicing what you preach,” my wife and I set out to do just that. Well, a “Santa mishap” involving the kids getting into a closet they weren’t supposed to hindered us a bit, but overall, we were able to get about 75 percent there. The big take-away for us is that going plastic-free is a journey, not a destination; and it’s a valuable and satisfying journey at that.

Here’s our story.

Wonderful, Imaginative Discoveries

We discovered some wonderful non-plastic alternatives for our captive audience/lab rats who consisted of Leo (6); twins Miles & Nora (3); and Owen (9 months). It was a tremendously rewarding experience, but I’m not going to kid you: It was a bit of work as well.

Plush toys were an obvious choice, and all the kids got some. Leo got a wonderfully huggable Star Wars Yoda Hugger. He also got this really cool White Porcelain Rocket Lamp from World Market. I think my personal favorite – the one I most want to play with! – is Miles’ wooden Pirate Ship Set from Plan Toys. It’s well-constructed, and the realistic features (sail, treasure chest, canon, small boat with paddle) truly inspires imaginative play. His twin sister also received a family favorite: an old-fashioned Porcelain Tea Set. It’s porcelain, glazed by hand, easy to clean, and 100 percent BPA and lead free. We’ve all had the pleasure of getting invited to tea parties.

Nora proved the biggest challenge because she wanted Barbie. In the spirit of “you can’t do everything, but you can do something,” we did discover Barbie Loves the Ocean, which was made from ocean-bound recycled plastics in FSC-certified recyclable packaging. It was interesting to learn that Mattel has launched a The Future of Pink is Green campaign. In their press release, there’s this:

…the new campaign will leverage the brand’s iconic association of pink—alongside the iconic association of green with protecting the planet—to communicate our next step toward a greener future, and to educate kids on the importance of sustainability in an easily digestible way for fans of all ages.

For the baby, there was another discovery: Wonder and Wise Activity Baby Push Walker. We found this at Crate&Kids, and like the other wooden toys we discovered, it’s well-made and will last a long time.

And of course … books. Lots of books. Magic Treehouse are particularly popular in the house right now.

“Best Laid Plans ….”  

We have converted our attic to a combination office/playroom, and days before Christmas, I was working at my desk while Leo and the twins were playing. I ran downstairs to check on the baby, and when I came back, those three had opened the “magic” closet door where all Santa’s presents are kept. Yup. Boy, were they excited to grab all our hard-earned plastic-free gifts. Fortunately, they didn’t see everything, but this caused us to run out to the store and get some undiscovered Santa gifts which were, inevitably, mostly plastic. If I had thought to lock that door, I think we would have had a 95 percent plastic-free Christmas.

So what have I learned? (Besides to make sure the closet door is locked.) Plastic-free gifts take more work. It’s like being on a diet in that it takes more planning and discipline. If you’ve clicked through these toy links, you’ll also see that going plastic-free can cost more. But plastic toys are like fast food – inexpensive and easy, but ultimately unsatisfying and not good for anybody. Knowing that the toys we got will last a long time helped justify the extra expense; also, committing to fewer, better toys is just a good stance to take.

There are two additional benefits that I realized during this process. One, I found a lot of great brands and unique companies that I am going to continue to follow. There was this whole world that opened to me. We’re not just limited to the big toy companies that fill up the aisles of the big box stores. And one of the most fun and fulfilling parts was involving the kids in the process and the conversations around why we’re trying to not buy plastic. It was good to instill in them the values and habits of being good citizens of the planet.

Of course our “lab rats” already have Playper products, but looking forward to having some new sets for them under our tree next year as we’ll be continuing our Plastic-Free Under the Tree campaign. Hope you can say the same, too!

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