A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Toy Dilemma

After about 4 1/2 years of owning an eco-friendly business, I have come to realize that being green is about making difficult choices, every day. For example, at 3r Living we are always grappling with whether buying local is the greenest way to go. Selling green products made in China, for example, keeps the cost of going green down for our customers and could (some day) improve the standards of living for Chinese workers (who will then, in turn, demand a greener China). However, the pollution generated during the manufacturing process and in transit leaves much to be desired. Selling only locally made green products drastically reduces the pollution generated by shipping and supports local workers and initiatives. However, these goods often come with a higher cost which could push the middle class away from sustainable goods. We strongly believe that green products should not be for the rich or elite so, as you can see, the choices are tough and the answers are not clear.

I have found that there are similar struggles in my personal life, as well, especially when dealing with our two-year old son Jake. We often wonder whether we should only serve him organic food. Can we afford to? Can we afford not to? We have had similar struggles with choosing his toys. Should we buy Jake new, organic/eco-friendly toys (like the ones we sell in our stores) or should we continue to take the free, used hand-me-downs that our friends and family have been offering us since he was born? On the one hand, there are legitimate concerns about the health and safety of plastic toys these days. Of course, I spent many a day chewing on my Star Wars action figures as a kid and I seem to have turned out fine. On the other hand, we seem to be doing our part in keeping used plastic toys out of local landfills and in the hands of a happy child. Plus, there are some good lessons in recycling, reuse and living more simply that I could share with him when he gets older.

Am I wrong? What's the right answer? Well, for now, the right answer for us seems to be a mix of the two. Jake plays with some of the green toys we sell in our stores (or in one case, has taken a toy from one of our stores and yelled "mine!"). He also has a lot of great, well-loved plastic toys around the house which we will one-day pass on to another family. If you find yourself with similar "green" struggles, just remember that the owners of 3r Living are right there with you!

Mark Caserta has over 10 years of experience in environmental policy and politics. In 2004, he opened an eco-friendly home and lifestyle store in Park Slope, Brooklyn known as 3r Living, with his wife Samantha.

Their products are carefully selected with the principles of reducing waste, reusing unwanted or discarded materials, and recycling in mind. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. 3r. Mark is also a regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama.