Überstix are a construction toy for kids of all ages. What makes them of interest to us is that they are purposely designed to work with common household and office debris like plastic bottles, cups, egg cartons and lolly sticks. The eight different Überstix connectors allow kids to develop their creativity and ingenuity, all the while working with the discards of society. Kinda like K’nex, (which were designed to make stuff from plastic straws), but taking that idea to the next level.
When the materials get past their prime they can be recycled and the Überstix connectors reused on a brand new construction project. What’s more, the UK distributor, Re:creation, worked with carbon consultants dcarbon8 to develop a lifecycle analysis of Überstix from creation to disposal, inclusive of construction and transport to Britain. Re:creation offset this carbon footprint by 110% to make the Überstix carbon negative. And what they believe is thus the world’s first Planet Positive toy. Which got us thinking ...
Type of materials Überstix can work with. Photo: Überstix
Might Lego be even greener? Originally patented in the UK during 1939, the rights to Kiddicraft 'Self Locking Bricks' were bought by the Danish Lego company in 1949, who further refined them until 1958, when the child’s building block that is now so ubiquitous was patented. That’s pretty impressive, a toy that came off the production line over 50 years ago still connects to one you buy in a shop today. See our archived post Lego: Fun and Green! for more. (Mind you the Lego company apparently estimate they’ve sold some 400 billion Lego blocks in the intervening period.)
But maybe the more impressive toy from a sustainability footing is Meccano, the slotted metal construction set, complete with nuts and bolts, pullies and motors. Again designed in the UK, yet way back in 1891, this assembly system has fascinated budding engineers, designers and inventors for over 100 years, being commercially fabricated from 1907.
(NB: A very similar mechanical toy, known as Erector Set, appeared on the US toy scene in 1913 and took the States by storm, but is no longer available.)
A century old toy that develops spatial awareness, creative thinking, with a dash of engineering and rewarding outcomes is not bad going. But considering that it is also durable, can be constantly reused, and reconfigured into an infinite variety of projects, then Meccano can hold its head high in the eco stakes.
Certainly more so that the noisy, soon-to-break plastic, battery guzzling rubbish today that is passed off as toys.
May Überstix prove to be as resilent as Lego or Meccano. And it appears they have aspirations to do just that, because the connectors are designed to also be extensions of those, and other classic construction sets, further enhancing the usefulness and longevity of each different set a child owns.