Q. After being housebound with two antsy boys during last month’s nonstop snow storms, my wife and I learned one vital lesson: Stock up on entertaining board games … Monopoly, Clue and Sorry! will only get you so far. Board games have always been a popular bonding activity in our house since we regulate the time that our sons, ages 9 and 11, spend with their BFF Wii. But when school was cancelled and there was no way to leave home because of the blizzards, we realized our board game arsenal needed some refreshing. This isn’t to say that our collection of Hasbro games is filled with has-beens, but we’re thinking that adding something more topical to the mix might be a good idea. Recently, we’ve been trying to educate the kids about the importance of green living. Are there any games out there that revolve around environmental themes and will hold the attention of two boys and their parents? 


Colonel Marcus in the conservatory with the LED bulb,


Chevy Chase, MD

A: Great question, Marcus. I was weaned on the classics — Scrabble, Jenga, Uncle Wiggily, Connect Four and, umm, Hungry Hungry Hippos — and while I gleaned many valuable skills from these games — teamwork, spelling, strategy, marble devouring and how to lose over and over again with grace — I don’t recall environmentalism ever entering the fold.

Well, times have changed and there are a few options out there to sneak into your Hasbro-heavy mix that won’t leave you or your kids depressed and clutching for Clue … there’s no Barrel of Critically Endangered Monkeys, Candyland: The Climate Change Edition or Chutes & Ladders + Cap & Trade on this list.

For starters, if your family is in a Monopoly kind of mood, there’s a whole slew of Monopoly-inspired spin-offs from Late for the Sky (the folks behind all those collegiate Monopoly games) that could be considered green like Garden-Opoly, DIY-Opoly, Farm-Opoly, Cycle-Opoly, Ocean-Opoly and the grand dame, EarthOpoly, with its recycled chip board, 10 percent recycled pulp money, recycled PET tray, and deed cards filled with green living tips. And, of course, instead of landing in jail you go to the dump.

If you consider altering the Monopoly format to be sacrilege, I recommend award-winning Bioviva, considered by many as the green standard when it comes to environmental board games. This trivia-based game is physically super green, too: All printed/paper materials are made from recycled materials and recyclable and printed using vegetable-based inks while the pawns are made from sustainable birch wood. It’s recommend for players age 8 to 108 so I think it should hold everyone’s attention.

On the topic of attention holding, while the games I mention above are certainly inspiring and didactic, it probably helps to have at least one game that involves less think and more play on hand, especially with 9- and 11-year-olds in the house. For this, I recommend Destruct 3, a Jenga-like game that simply involves building things and destroying them (this could lead to a fatherly chat about demolition versus deconstruction, perhaps). The big difference here? The game pieces are made from sustainable rubberwood and the manufacturer, Uncle Skunkle Toys, is heavily involved with social entrepreneurship.

There are a handful of other games worth mentioning — Play ReThink: The Eco Design Game, Xeko, Endango, It’s a Green Life — so I think you have a solid start when the next snow/game day rolls around. Let me know how the transition from candlesticks and revolvers to carbon credits and rain forest rescue goes over. If the kids don’t bite, there’s always Hungry Hungry Hippos … 

— Matt

Related on MNN: Watch our 'Green Parenting' video series.

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Are there any eco-themed board games that are fun for both adults and kids?
Matt Hickman has a few alternatives to the decidedly un-eco hungry hippos and real estate tycoon games.