On a recent family visit, my sister and I discovered a photo of the two of us at 2 and 5 under the Christmas tree surrounded by newly unwrapped toys. Each of us held a special treasure in the photo. I held a cardboard paper towel roll up to my eye like a telescope and she posed adorned in recycled ribbons and bows from the gifts. This was the fifties, long before recycling was cool. I’d like to claim that we were just natural trendsetters, but I confess that in the early eighties when my son was little, our home was filled with molded plastic houses, cars and slides. We gave little thought to how these eventually ended up in the landfills.
Somewhere between that magical Christmas morning of recycling and my desire to give my son plenty of opportunity for creative play, I’d forgotten all the rainy days my friends and I spent cutting windows and doors into cardboard refrigerator boxes and stacking television cartons to make apartments houses. Or the way we collected old thread spools, hammering nails around the top to make our own little knitting devices. I’d forgotten that imagination is most active when the raw materials are available without instructions for the finished product.
It’s exciting to see the hot trend in eco-friendly toys. I’ve found a few that are both environmentally and socially responsible. Sprig Toys in Colorado makes eco-friendly “Story Builders” that inspire creative play and strong values. Mary Meyer’ “Fuzz that Was” stuffed toy pets are made out of old recycled water bottles. The Green Toy Company, based in California makes toy cookware, gardening tools, sand toys and trucks (including a Recycling Truck) out of recycled milk bottles.
It’s way too early to be thinking about the holidays unless you wholesale your craft but you’ve probably got birthdays and Mother’s day gifts to make and if you are going to give responsibly, you need time to plan ahead. The marketplace is abundant with products that have had another life in a different form. If, however, you are crafty, now’s the time to start looking around for what products you tend to throw away and how you can upcycle those into fabulous gifts.
Do you have ideas for eco-friendly gift projects you’ve made or plan to make that you’d like to share with us? If you have found an artist or product line that uses recycled materials please post your recommendation here-we’d love to spread the word and promote your projects or treasured finds.