In our never-ending quest to have a more positive planetary impact, I’m constantly looking for ways to reduce waste, especially on the front end, before stuff even comes into our home. And, often, it isn’t until after the stuff has come in that it shows up on our radar. Cheap plastic toys and games from fast-food restaurants are a prime example.
We had this annoying collection of small, plastic choke hazard toys scattered about. Often based on a movie character, which yields a couple of strikes already, these pesky little ‘toys’ often flash light or emit some sound akin to nails on a chalkboard. They are small enough to seem somewhat harmless; after all, they don’t take up much space, but they end up squashed between couch cushions, entangled in blankets, and under feet when one is racing across the floor to answer the ringing phone.
And while all of the aforementioned are all sound reasons for purging them, it’s the ridiculous use of plastic that pushed me over the edge. Not just in the toy itself, but the plastic casing that holds the toy inside of the little plastic bag. The thought of millions and millions of these being stuffed in with meals and eventually being discarded into landfills gave me pause.
So, I sat down and talked about it with the kids. They’ve always been fans of the fast-food experience and it comes as no surprise that the main reason is the toys. But when we talked about how plastic is used to make and package the toys and what happens (or doesn’t happen) to the plastic once it’s discarded after they become disinterested, they felt like they didn’t really ‘need’ the toys after all. While they aren’t quite of the mind to appreciate the role the petroleum plays in the creation of plastic, they have a really healthy respect for Mother Nature and usually seek to do what’s best for the planet. And so, my kids decided they would say no to the little plastic toys the next time we ventured out, though they still love the concept of the Happy Meal.
It wasn’t too long before we found ourselves at a McDonalds over the summer. Imagine my delight when they ordered their Happy Meals, declined the toys, and my six year old took it one step further… She also declined the Happy Meal box. The server was utterly confused and dismayed. Why would we order the Happy Meal and decline the box and toys? When we explained that we were trying to reduce waste, the server, sadden and confused, offered free apple pies in lieu of the other stuff. While the kids didn’t like the apple pies, they did seem to enjoy taking a stand on behalf of the planet and didn’t mind not getting the other stuff.
One side benefit of saying no to Happy Meals – they rarely ask to eat at McDonalds anymore!
What’s a hot issue for you when it comes to waste, especially that targeted at kids? How do you involved your children in addressing eco-active issues?
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