Barbie might not be good for little girls’ self esteem, or for teaching children to ‘play nice’ (our Barbies, for instance, received several unfortunate haircuts, lost appendages, and had a tendency to catch on fire), but who would’ve thought she could be harming the environment? Sally Edwards, a researcher at Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at UMass-Lowell, knows that Barbie — and a slew of other toys — can. And that’s why she set out to make toy production more environmentally friendly — from manufacturing to the landfill.
In an article in the Boston Globe, we read that Edwards thought of the idea when she saw her daughter playing with dolls:

Edwards, 49, has made a particular study of dolls. She has studied factories from China to Germany to Peru, examining differences in materials and design, and in how they put their dolls together.

She found that in a village in the Andes Mountains, toys are made with wool and natural dyes; elsewhere, many toys are made with pliable plastics (think Barbie’s head) that can be harmful to human health.

Edwards’ studies lead her to spearhead a new effort, the Sustainable Toys Initiative, “to try to bring together manufacturers, designers and government with the goal of building toys that do not harm children, workers or the Earth,” according to the article.

Maybe they should make Environmental Activist Barbie, too.

Story by Susan Cosier. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2007. The story was added to in July 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2007

Crisis in toyland
What materials are your children's toys?