ByMadeleine Somerville

Sep 10, 2015
Lego me | 5DIII

Lego is one of those rare toys that has managed to remain popular for decades, outlasting many of its contemporaries and even surviving the onslaught of tech-based games in recent years.

If I’m completely honest, I haven’t always been a big fan of Lego. First, it’s made of plastic and as a devout hippie I have solemnly sworn to abstain from buying any and all plastic toys for my daughter. Second, there was that whole “Lego for girls” debacle a few years ago, which, as a thinking woman drove me absolutely nuts. (My apologies to anyone and everyone who started a conversation with me during that week, for lo, they were forced to listen to a mighty, MIGHTY tirade. [But seriously, the company creates products specifically for little girls, only to make them all pink and centred entirely around shopping and beauty salons? It’s the 21st century! COME ON.

Ahem. Sorry.

Lego Photographer
Image courtesy of Nathan Rupert.

Given my prior feelings toward Lego, I was surprised then when they recently made an announcement that brought a big ole grin to my face. In late June, Lego brass announced that they were assembling 100 experts and spending $1 billion to find a sustainable, plastic-free material from which to manufacture all those iconic little bricks.

This announcement is notable for several different reasons. First, the obvious one:  Since 1958, Lego has manufactured over 650 billion individual pieces.  That’s a whole lot of plastic. Choosing to manufacture Lego from a plastic-free alternative will have an incredible effect on the amount of plastic being produced and cluttering up toy bins, landfills, and oceans the world over, not to mention a significant reduction in toxic emissions and by-products from the manufacturing process.

This announcement is also important, however, because it was voluntary. No one forced Lego to research a plastic-free alternative, no sanctions were imposed, or external deadlines levied. This is a for-profit company, choosing to spend $1 billion of that profit for researching and developing an Eco-friendly alternative to an already-popular product. Although I’m sure many will appreciate it, it’s not exactly as though Lego consumers were marching in the streets demanding this change.

This type of initiative from a company is incredibly promising, as is this statement from Lego CEO Ole Kirk Kristiansen,

“Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. We believe that our main contribution to this is through the creative play experiences we provide to children. The investment announced is a testament to our continued ambition to leave a positive impact on the planet, which future generations will inherit.”

I can only hope that this bold forward-thinking move will be noticed, and emulated by other companies. And if Lego does indeed find a sustainable alternative to the hard plastic used in kids toys, they might kick-start a chain reaction of other companies choosing to use it to manufacture their products, too.

There’s no official word yet on what this new sustainable material will be – but I’d be willing to wager that parents everywhere are crossing their fingers that it spells less agony when unsuspectingly stepped on with bare feet in the middle of the night.

Feature image courtesy of Ben Harrington

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.