It is sometimes tough to take the “Green” movement seriously when there appears to be no obvious upside in sales. Being ecologically sound has been described as an espoused value rather than an active one. In other words, people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. As a result, toy companies who have attempted to lead with a “Green” value, whether in the product or the packaging, have been met with lukewarm results at best.
That may be changing. According to a New York Times article, “The Plastic Sandwich Bag Flunks,” sales of back to school products that are environmentally friendly are up this year (up 30% at the container store). “The trend makes the schools happy (much less garbage). It makes the stores happy (higher back-to-school spending). It even makes the students happy (green feels good). The article reports that the kids like it because they feel “Green.” On the darker side, the article also mentions that there is an element of shaming that takes place when kids don’t comply.
Who’s not happy; the parents? Here is how the article puts it:
Many retailers and schools are advocating waste-free options for back-to-school shoppers this year, especially when it comes to lunch. School lists call for Tupperware instead of Ziplocs, neoprene lunch bags instead of brown paper ones, and aluminum water bottles, not the throwaway plastic versions…Who’s not happy? The parents; what to do when the Tupperware runs out?
The reasons schools are pushing “Green”, however, are actually more practical than ethical. Using reusable storage vehicles simply cuts down on waste and that saves money for the schools in having to dispose of it. As the article puts it: “Many of the schools are pushing waste-free lunches, where everything must be either compostable or reusable, in an effort to reduce garbage and the cost of hauling it away.”
Parents may not be happy but businesses certainly are. Simply put, Tupperware bowls sell for more Ziploc bags.
Whatever the case, the Back to School Industry is teaching parents a new way of looking at an old standby, the paper bag lunch. It seems plausible that they will, as a result, become more interested in avoiding waste across the board. Smart toy companies may want to begin taking another look at how they package their products.