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More Barbie Greenwashing: Sustainable Dream Home


Yes, I played with Barbies as a child, even though it is one of my favorite toys to bash on Eco Child’s Play.  Of course, having the dolls was not enough…we needed accessories!  My sister had the Barbie Corvette, and I had the Barbie Swimming Pool.  I still remember its toxic vinyl smell.  One thing we always coveted but never owned was a Barbie Dream Home.

Last year, we ranted about the Computer Engineer Barbie, which is part of the career series. This year’s career is architect.

Barbie I Can Be… dolls and accessories empower girls to play out different roles and “try on” fabulous careers, including architect, the 2011 Barbie profession chosen by popular vote! Capturing the spirit and style of young architects, Barbie I Can Be… Architect showcases a symmetrically stylish outfit featuring the bold colors and clean lines of the city skyline, with essential on-the-job accessories to design her newest Dream House®. The inspiring set also comes with a special code that unlocks career-themed content online for even more digital play!

One of our most popular posts that even caught the attention of the New York Times, busted Mattel for greenwashing with its Barbie™ BCause, a line of accessories for girls made from excess fabric and trimmings from other Barbie products.  This token green gesture hardly fooled anyone, but apparently Mattel thinks it can do it again by throwing around the word “sustainable” with its newest doll.

As part of the release of the Architect Barbie, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is hosting a contest to build her dream home:

My Dream HouseTM should reflect the best sustainable design principles and also be a stylish space that I can live in comfortably.

A sleek, smart home office is important for any doll. With more than 125 careers, I need a spacious office that can accommodate my hi-tech gadgets for meetings, client visits and presentations.

I love to entertain so I need living and dining areas that are open and connected allowing for mingling and easy entertaining from one room to the other.

The kitchen should be functional and fabulous with top-of-the-line appliances—large countertops and lots of space to cook. I also love natural light in my kitchen so windows are critical. I am quite the chef you know!

As the original “fashionista,” you can imagine how large my closet needs to be! I have unlimited fashions and accessories, so I need lots of shelving, shoe racks and a closet that can be easily organized—getting ready can’t be a chore every day.

My dream bathroom: a large, stylish space accessible from the master bedroom and other areas.

I love animals and I have as many as five pets (including a giraffe) around at any given time. A big backyard is very important so they can roam and play!

As the ultimate “California girl” from Malibu, I am all about location, location, location! My house must have fantastic views of my fabulous backyard and overlook the ocean.


There are so many contradictions to the word “sustainable” in this description, it’s hard to know where to begin!  Mother Jones reports:

I’m actually quite interested to see what a bunch of trained architects come up with while working (playfully) within above design guidelines. How will they incorporate green into a conceptual home that’s most likely going to be pink (and going to have a 3-car garage!)?

The large closets certainly symbolize overconsumption, and a pet giraffe certainly isn’t a sustainable pet.  Where’s the mention of being LEED-certified, solar panels, organic garden, recycled building materials, recycling bins, etc.? It appears sustainable was just thrown in as a key word, another token gesture by Mattel to show Barbie is hip to the green movement.

If the winning design is ever built as a toy, it will surely be made from the plastic crap of all of Barbie’s homes.  How about including sustainable materials into toy production as part of the guidelines?

There are several eco-friendly doll houses on the market.  Wonderworld’s features a wind turbine and photovoltaic panels on the roof, as well as recycling bins and tree planting accessories. Plan Toys’ Green Dollhouse also features alternative power on the roof, is made from organic rubberwood and vegetable dyes, rain barrels, and even an inverter for the off grid system.

To be fair, it may have been AIA that threw the word “sustainable” into Barbie’s Dream Home contest guidelines. Whatever the source, I don’t know why a real architect would waste their time on this clear example of greenwashing.


  1. Barbie’s measurements
    With regard to the ongoing claims that Barbie Dolls have outrageously unrealistic proportions that could never be obtained by a living human, I am continuing to get discrepancies between my measurements of a Barbie Doll and the measurements claimed by others including those who are taking their own measurements, so I have decided to do new measurements for which I will document my methodology for taking the measurements and the exact design year and model of the Barbie I am measuring.
    Barbie’s REAL measurements can be found on my site at http://www.toyboxbitch.com/files/PAGES/BARBIESIZE/BARBIESIZE.html

  2. Rachel C says:

    I began my career in design studying at art school at the beginning of the “green” movement and incorporated sustainable design into every one of my projects. I studied hard and at my graduation portfolio review I was hired on the spot by an industrial designer to work on her Fort Lauderdale beachfront penthouse condo. I cannot tell you how excited I was! Not only did I get to work on an amazing project I get to introduce sustainable practices to my clients! We don’t always get to pick our clients, in fact if you work for someone else that is not even an option. You don’t get to say “No, I will not work on this project because it is in direct opposition to my morals”, not everyone has the luxury to turn away work . Architects and designers who practice green design strive to incorporate these principles into every part of the project from the textiles, finishes, floors, walls, insulation, windows, doors, you name it there is a better alternative! Instead we should embrace the “mainstreaming” of sustainable lifestyles to encourage more people to green their lifestyles. And for the record, I despise Barbie and everything she stands for. I would however be more than happy to discuss green design w/ my client, Barbie, and all the wonderful ways she can clean up her act!! And it is decided to build a Green Dream House I absolutely hope that is not made of plastic!


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