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When Planting Trees is Not Enough

There was an interesting editorial in the NY Times yesterday written by Ken Caldeira, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology. He writes about the current trend of companies (like Dell) to plant trees in an effort to offset carbon emissions made during the production of goods. Yes, tree planting is not enough to save us from global warming, however it is a great activity to do with kids. Every spring, we receive overstock trees from the US Forest Service to plant. Last year, our family planted over 500 trees!
Click here to read the full editorial.

You may be wondering what carbon emissions has to do with natural toys. Besides assuming readers interested in natural toys are also interested in ecological issues, the production of natural toys as opposed to plastic toys is better for our earth. Plastic is made from petrochemicals, and petrochemicals are made from oil. According to plasticresource.com, “The plastic manufacturing process begins by heating the hydrocarbons in a “cracking process.” Here, in the presence of a catalyst, larger molecules are broken down into smaller ones such as ethylene (ethene) C2H4, propylene (propene) C3H6, and butene C4H8 and other hydrocarbons. The yield of ethylene is controlled by the cracking temperature and is more than 30% at 850°C and such products as styrene and vinylchloride can be produced in subsequent reactions. These are then the starting materials for several other types of plastics. Therefore, this process results in the conversion of the natural gas or crude oil components into monomers such as ethylene, propylene, butene and styrene.” Doesn’t sound like something I want my child playing with and putting in their mouth!

Wikipedia states, “Although plastics have had a remarkable impact globally, it has become increasingly obvious that there is a price to be paid for their use. Plastics are durable and degrade very slowly. In some cases, burning plastic can release toxic fumes. Also, the manufacturing of plastics often creates large quantities of chemical pollutants.One of the great appeals of plastics have been their low price as compared to other materials. However, in recent years the cost of plastics has been rising dramatically. The cause of the increase is the sharply rising cost of petroleum, the raw material that is chemically altered to form commercial plastics. As the cost of plastic hinges on the cost of petroleum, should petroleum prices continue to rise, so will the cost of plastic. In 2005, the higher price of plastic drove a number of plastic-toy manufacturers out of business.” You can do your part to help decrease our dependence on foreign oil by buying natural toys!


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