The Perfect Pet Rock and More: 7 Weird and Wonderful Eco Toys

photo USB Pet Rock ThinkGeek think geek

Kids love toys. They love unwrapping them, playing with them, cuddling them. At least until the next toy comes. Some toys hold interest longer than others. Many toys these days are made in China, and have been found to contain toxic materials. Not exactly the kind of thing that Bobby or Cindy (Brady Bunch reference) should be playing with, or putting into their mouths.

And so, here's a list of exceptional eco toys, as in environmentally friendly or Earth educational. Some great, some just plain weird. All part of a green culture that seems to be seeping into every product category on the market. That's a good thing if it helps the next generation learn the value of preservation, conservation, stewardship, right? Maybe the pet rock wasn't so bad after all.

1. Pet Rock

Originally a fad in the mid-1970s, the Pet Rock made a millionaire of Gary Dahl, the California ad executive who "invented" these hard-to-forget companions, Time magazine notes.

These days, the '70s garden-variety rock has morphed into a 21st century USB pet rock. Like its predecessor, it does nothing, but includes a USB cord to plug into your computer. What makes it low-carbon? It doesn't need food or water like a real pet, draws no electricity, and brings nature appreciation to computing addicts.

2. Eco Barbie

photo barbie head closeup
Credit: lilivanili via Flickr

Take Barbie, the impossibly proportioned plastic doll, dress her in recycled clothes and call her Eco Barbie. That's what Mattel did, and the attempt was widely panned. Our sister site Planet Green pointed out that the plastic doll, encased in plastic packaging, can't be recycled.

Which brings up a good general point. Shop for toys with a lack of wasteful packaging. An alleged nature toy that comes bound in plastic clam shells and mounted with twist ties in a huge box isn't sustainable. If the end pile of packaging is bigger than the toy, that should be a deal breaker.

3. A Dollhouse Powered by Sun and Wind

photo playtoys green dollhouse
Credit: [re]design via Flickr.

The Green Dollhouse is made by Plan Toys, a Thai company that makes toys with sustainable wood and lead-free paint in factories powered by biomass energy, The Telegraph says. This toy was featured earlier this year at the International Toy Fair in New York City.

The dollhouse boasts a wind turbine, solar cell panel and electric inverter for generating electricity, a rain barrel for collecting rain, a biofacade—which uses the natural cycle of plant growth to provide shading—and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation, according to the company. Recycling bins also are included.

4. Jump Rope

photo greentoys jump rope

Sure, sounds boring and regular. Yet, gives exercise and gets your kids outside (tell them you can't jump rope in the house. It's a little-known federal law). A pink Green Toys Jump Rope is apparently the top selling eco-item at Toys"R"Us. The company has an "Eco-Friendly Toys" area under the "Specialty" section of its web site. Imagine that. The Green Toys Jump Rope is made in the USA from recycled plastic milk containers and all-cotton rope.

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