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Blog December 1, 2018

Lifetime gift or landfill gift?

I’m telling a holiday gift-giving story in reverse. The ending is at the city dump. According to research (references listed below) approximately 1 percent of plastic toys remain in use six months after giving, because they either break quickly or fall from popularity, The toy business had $20.36 billion in sales last year. Plastic toys made up 90 percent of this amount, and unfortunately they usually can’t be recycled because they contain other materials, like metal.

Let’s flashback to the gift opening moment, with a burst of excitement. The thrill soon fades, accompanied by “Is that all?” and fights with siblings over toys. Now you have a room full of plastic packaging material headed for the landfill, to be followed by the toys themselves six months later.


Rewind further to the, frenzied, manic running around we did to accumulate all this stuff. We searched multiple stores, found the last one left of a popular toy, and then stood in endless lines at checkout.  Buying on line is more convenient, but now we’ve added to our guilt list because of all the trees destroyed to make the shipping boxes.

Time travelling a few weeks further back, we have our kids making wish lists and writing letters to Santa. Even on shopping trips unrelated to gifts, our kids are bombarded with the colorful toy displays, and are quick to grab and point out the ones they want.


Some of this stuff is toxic on two levels. Besides the fact that it’s headed for the landfill, it’s also giving our kids an unhealthy message that consuming is somehow related to prosperity and happiness.  The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of
the world’s resources and creates 30% of the world’s waste.

There is a solution to this downward spiral, and it just requires a little creativity. How about buying kids gifts that are adventures, not more toys?  A trip to the zoo or a children’s museum, lessons in something they enjoy, like art, or a musical instrument, or horseback riding, or even a family camping trip would give them memories that would last a while. Books would be something they could keep in their collection for a lifetime.

I had a surprisingly positive experience when planning for the staged photo shoot of my grandkids, seen above. I took some of them to my library’s used book sale, and gave them a stack of post-it notes, each one with a cousin’s name. I asked them to rummage through the children’s section and find a book they thought each cousin would like, and stick the note on the front. I thought they might consider it a chore, but they spread the books out on the rug, and got down on hands and knees, or sat cross-legged. They thumbed through several, and discussed choices.  Amazingly, they seemed to have a pretty good handle on the other cousins’ reading level and interests. I purchased all the books (very inexpensive) and  when all the cousins were together for Thanksgiving, I bribed them with a gift of a book if they would sit still for a photo shoot, and be sure their faces didn’t show. Again I expected complaints, but they had fun, and really liked the books. As you see on the picture several of them insisted on keeping the post-it notes on. They were so cooperative I was able to take a video for my holiday books -for-gifts video on my YouTube channel. So my point is: giving a kid a book instead of a toy might start a new trend, a new collection and a new passion.  It could be fun, and you’ll be saving the planet!


Rita (Comments welcome.)

Story research resources:


Essay by George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th December 2012



Film by Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff https://storyofstuff.org/wp-content/uploads/movies/scripts/Story%20of%20Stuff.pdf


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Email: ritagoldner@msn.com

Website:  RitaGoldnerBooks.com  

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Facebook Page: Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy

Published books:

Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy in hardcopy available at:  RitaGoldnerBooks.com  and amazon.com at www.amazon.com/ORANGUTAN-Rainforest-Canopy-Rita-Goldner/dp/0983633355

Also now available on amazon.com in a Kindle version at: www.amazon.com/dp/B01B0ZTDQU

Making Marks on the World available at:  RitaGoldnerBooks.com

Jackson’s Aviation Adventure Kindle version at:  www.amazon.com/dp/B00NH0OMUO

Jackson’s History Adventure Kindle version at:  www.amazon.com/dp/B01CRIMHYY



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