Monday, December 31, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys

I just bought The Dangerous Book for Boys the other day when at Toys R Us with a friend. Now 95% of that store is filled with plastic, and I am seriously considering boycotting the store because of this. That said, I was there, saw the book, and bought it. It may well be the last purchase I make there.

The book is an old fashioned one, with a canvas type binding and simple print on the cover. There is no dust cover, and no plastic. The book itself is a fascinating collection of all the stuff a young boy (or tomboy) may wonder about. How to tie knots, pirate flags, nautical flags, how to build a bow and arrow, insect identification, how to build a paper airplane or boat, how to build a tree fort, and other fascinating things. Also added are some poems, stories, history, and grammar lessons. The authors, Conn and Hal Iggulden, wrote they wanted a book that contained everything they wish they knew when they were younger.

I like the book for several reasons. It encourages kids to get outside and play, and use their imaginations. It shows kids how to play without the latest Bionicle, TV or hand held Gameboy. To me, a child who loved to be outdoors is a child who will use less plastic and who will care about the environment.

The book also allows that in general, boys will like certain things, and that is completely acceptable. It does not try to pretend boys and girls are interchangeable. It also does not make a statement that boys must conform to any rigid roles in order to be real boys. It is a great middle ground, and a middle ground is a rare place to be.

I think this is a great gift idea for any boy on your list.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Plastic in board games

We opened a game purchased as a Christmas present last night, called Bafflegab. The game itself was not wrapped in plastic, so it seemed like a good start. Unfortunately, when I opened it, most of the pieces inside were wrapped in Cellophane. Four packs of cards were individually wrapped then placed in a box which was also wrapped. The pencils and the pads of paper were all wrapped too. All the game pieces were placed in a plastic form which filled the box, and another thick plastic sheet was placed over them to keep them in place. The cards were all plastic coated, the timer was plastic, and there was a plastic carrying handle.

Now I would accept the plastic timer, since it would be difficult to make it out of other materials, and we will use it for years. There was no reason to have anything else plastic in that box. The play money which came with the game came wrapped in a thin strip of paper, just enough to keep it in place. Why couldn't the rest be wrapped like that? Or not wrapped at all?

The old games did not come like this. The only wrapping was a strip of paper tape along the bottom of the lid to seal it to the bottom of the box. The things inside were wrapped with a rubber band and placed in cardboard boxes.

Maybe we should be writing to these companies to encourage more sustainable packaging.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Avoiding Plastic Entirely-Is It Possible?

I am afraid the answer is no-you cannot avoid plastics entirely and live a modern life. You probably knew that. But can you reduce your use of plastics? Absolutely.

I searched the web and could not find much practical advice on reducing our use of plastics beyond recycling and avoiding plastic bags. These are easy and obvious things which, dare I say it, are not going to do much about our consumption of plastic. The amount of plastic used in grocery bags is so small a percentage of the whole there are no figures on it. Is it still worth doing? Yes.

I see this journey to living a life of few plastics as having several parts. I'll start with categorizing plastic usage.

1. Disposable plastics- these are plastics which are used once and cannot be recycled. These include plastic bags from food items such as frozen foods, dried fruits, cheese, candy, bagged chips and other junk food, inside cereal boxes, the plastic strip on frozen juice, the plastic windows on pasta boxes, etc. Cellophane and plastic wrap on everything from Cd's and DVDs, books, games, toys, toilet paper and paper towels, appliances, etc. Some plastic containers also are not recyclable such as cake covers. This could also include Styrofoam and plastic containers if you cannot find a place to recycle them.

2. Recyclable plastic containers: Food containers, oil and brake fluid containers, cleaning product containers, buckets, etc. Tin cans also all have plastic films inside.

3. Usable plastics from necessary consumer items: I include needed computers, necessary cars, appliances such as a refrigerators or hot water heaters, telephones, and medical supplies in this list. Some would not. Plastic plumbing, electrical supplies, windows and doors, etc are also on this list, but there may be alternatives available.

4. Usable plastics from unnecessary consumer items: I would include most toys, Cd's and DVDs, fun cars, carpeting, plastic furniture, plastic accessories for home and personal use, TVs, hair driers, curling irons, cameras, fish tank equipment. Multiples of necessary appliances such as phones, computers, cars, etc are included here.

I think that trying to cut out all plastic is too much. It makes the problem so huge we get discouraged and stop trying altogether. My first goal is to cut out most of category 1: disposable plastics. If we can do this, the rest is comparatively easy.