There has been so much in the news about ‘sustainability’ in the last few months hasn’t there?
Documentaries like Blue Planet II, showing sickening images of plastic pollution; closely followed by Stacey Dooley with her hard hitting report on cotton production and the fashion industry.
I feel as though there’s been a real shift in public awareness recently.
We, as a family, took part in a sustainability challenge a couple of months ago.
Attempting to go plastic free for just one week demonstrated to me how hard it would be to totally eradicate plastic from modern living.
We were lucky that in the week we attempted our challenge, we didn’t need to buy toiletries or household detergents; loo rolls or staples like rice or pasta.
We managed to not buy anything for an entire seven days that was wrapped in plastic of any kind.
But once the challenge was over I went on to purchase all my usual goods; most of which come in plastic wrap or boxes.
Believe me — it wasn’t with joyful abandon because the challenge was over.
Oh no. Definitely more like sheepish embarrassment. With a big dose of desperation, that I couldn’t find good alternatives for my usual favourites.
Nevertheless, the challenge certainly wasn’t in vain. It absolutely made me look at how we live — and what we buy — with fresh eyes.
I am choosing plastic free where I can and am definitely trying to turn my back on the throw-away culture so prevalent in today’s modern society.
Buy Cheap, Buy Twice
In some respects, my boy and I have been shunning throwaway products for years.
We’ve always gravitated towards preloved when it comes furniture.
Some of our most cherished pieces were second-hand, when we bought them, and they’ve been with us in every home we’ve owned. Our Chinese cabinet has been with us for 20 years!
And whilst I do still LOVE modern retailers (IKEA, you know you’ll always have a special place in my heart), there’s nothing like the thrill of stumbling across a beautiful, old piece that you know you won’t find in the majority of homes across the length and breadth of Britain.
I’m the same with clothes. Whilst I do love a modern bargain, some of my favourite clothes are donkey’s years old. And some were vintage even before they were mine.
There’s a lot to be said for the age old adage ‘Buy Cheap, Buy Twice’.
Products from days gone by were constructed to last. Things were made with quality materials — often by hand, rather than machine — and the proof of their quality is that they stand the test of time. They’re still being used today.
That said, there are definitely modern day retailers who are bucking the ‘throwaway’ trend and building things to last.
One of my favourite brands — and a company that I’m so proud to be an ambassador for — the Great Little Trading Company, produces not only beautifully crafted furniture but also sells wooden toys.
These have been such a big hit with my boys over the last few years. They’re more tactile than plastic and — from my perspective — they look a lot better too.
Who wants a hulking great lump of gaudy plastic sitting in the corner of the sitting room? Anyone?
We have a fairly gigantic toy taking up residence in our sitting room; the twin’s GLTC Festival Van.
Although — as it’s made of wood and is lovely to look at — I’ve accepted it’s presence and actually quite like it.
Having it out on a permanent basis means that the boys play with it very regularly. It’s been a theatre, a shop, a police station — even a rocket.
Granted, it’s actually a kitchen but when you’re 5 — and have a gigantic imagination — a toy, as versatile as this one, gives fantastic scope for lots of role play.
Plus the cat likes it.
It’s her favourite place to sit and watch the birds.
Old Fashioned Misconceptions
I think there are lots of misconceptions about wooden toys. Perhaps that they’re old fashioned – or boring? Or too expensive?
But apart from Lego — which is is the only plastic toy that I truly love (apart from my old Sindy dolls) — the wooden toys are the ones that the boys play with again and again.
They feel substantial and are good to hold. Plus they’re colourful, without looking cheap and gaudy.
And, most importantly, they provide a catalyst for endless entertainment. Good job that they’e so durable really — a lot of plastic toys have buckled under the sometimes quite boisterous play that the boys have subjected them to.
And there’s nothing more depressing than having to take a load of broken plastic to be put into landfill. It makes me feel ashamed, if I’m totally honest.
Wooden toys can last a lifetime. They can be put away once they’ve been outgrown; saved for future family members or handed down. The boys loved their workbench — and this has since been passed on to their cousin. It’s lovely to be able to share a much loved toy with the next generation.
But ultimately in this time of change, as we consumers are beginning to realise that our actions are having catastrophic effects on the environment; by choosing products that last a lifetime, we’re reducing our impact on the earth.
And — whilst the initial outlay for a wooden toy may be a little more than a plastic one — that is priceless, isn’t it?
GLTC are currently running a #BuyWoodBuyOnce campaign. To read more about it, head over to their Facebook page.
I am proud to be a GLTC testing team member this year but all thoughts, words and images, as ever, are entirely my own.