The LEGO® Group is greener than you think, though they still manufacture tons of plastic toys that litter our homes and crunch painfully underfoot at times. Here is the good news about what they are doing as a company and what we can do as LEGO fans to reduce our plastic/fossil-fuel footprint.
Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links from pley.com, which means that if you click on one of the product links and sign up, I receive a commission.
LEGO Group is working towards 100% renewable energy by 2020
To reduce its CO2 emissions, Lego Group has invested heavily in a new wind power farm in the German North Sea. It started producing in 2015 and will have 78 turbines in all, generating up to 312 megawatts. It is also working on reducing its energy use at the same time so that in a few short years it will be producing more energy than it consumes.
LEGO Group aims to build its blocks from sustainable materials by 2030
Just this month, the company announced its investment in 100 employees whose purpose is to find and implement sustainable alternatives to the virgin plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS) it is currently using. The new material may be “sustainable” in that it is bio-based (made from renewable resources), it has a better life-cycle management with clear end-of-life paths to recycling or reuse, and/or other improvements in the environmental and social impacts of the material. LEGO Group is also working on reducing the impact of the production facilities in its supply chain currently, showing that it is looking at all aspects of its business in a quest for greater sustainability.
LEGO toys are now traded in the Sharing Economy
Any parent who faces serious brick storage issues can tell you that it would be great if this plastic confetti could be shared instead of bought. Of course the LEGO Group itself is not going to focus on ways to reduce demand for new toys, though I’m starting to think they could do so profitably. But third parties have already moved into this space.
Pley.com is the first one I heard about. The idea is kind of a “Netflix for LEGO.” You pay a monthly subscription fee and LEGO sets are sent to you in the mail to play with and return. When I looked into this just 3 months ago, it was exclusively renting LEGO sets. Now I see they have expanded to different kinds of toys. This is probably a good move, because bloggers were reporting that it was just too difficult for the company to actually verify that LEGO sets had all their pieces, so people were receiving sets that were missing pieces, and it was kind of a deal-breaker for serious LEGO builders. We didn’t join, because the Duplo sets my son likes only cost $15-$20, and a subscription to Pley is $10-$20 per month. But I’d like to try it when he gets a bit older and starts asking for bigger sets. I think it’s a great idea – they have gift cards available and with multiple kids I think it would make a lot of sense.
We also didn’t join because we pretty much have the same kind of toy-sharing thing going on through our local Buy Nothing Project. We get plastic toys from people for free (especially those Little People sets, like the parking garage, the airport, the school bus, the car transporter, etc.) and pass them on when they lose their novelty. At this point, my son looks forward to getting “new” toys when it isn’t even a holiday, and he’s happy to pass things on when he’s not that into them anymore. He’s a happy member of the sharing economy! Some communities also have physical toy libraries where you can go and check out a toy as you would a book from a library. When you return it, you get another one.
Here’s how to re-use your boxes of hopelessly mixed LEGO bricks
Pley.com has a trade-in program that accepts used, mixed LEGO bricks for a credit of $5 per pound for up to 10 pounds. Bricklink is a kind of E-bay for LEGO, where you can both sell your old bricks and buy whatever you need, from vintage sets to individual bricks and mini-figs. It seems a little better suited to the collector or serious builder than the parent who just wants to buy used LEGO sets. Just tinkering around, I wasn’t able to figure out how to filter results so I wouldn’t be seeing things that are halfway across the world and totally not worth the shipping.
Finally, Lego Africa is a non-profit started by a boy and his Dad in California in 2014 that collects unwanted Legos and sends them to Uganda to schools and children who don’t have any commercially produced toys at all and have never seen LEGO. According to their website, they accept donations of LEGO bricks and will arrange pick-up or free shipping for lots larger than 10 pounds.
LEGO toys are marvelous, and we can now love them all the more knowing that the company that makes them has an eco-conscience. But loving LEGO toys doesn’t mean we should buy tons of them new so we can mix up all the pieces and store them all in cute boxes. If we can share that LEGO love while conserving the petroleum-based material that they’re made of, let’s do it!