Blogging Against Barbie
New York Times
May 10, 2008
MOST of Eco Child’s Play, a blog for environmentally conscious parents, is concerned with tips and advice about products like nontoxic pacifiers and children’s clothing made from bamboo (ecochildsplay.com).
Every so often, though, something raises the ire of the generally positive blog. Usually, the source of anger is some form of greenwashing — the increasingly common corporate practice of making dubious environmental claims that are more about marketing than saving the planet.
When greenwashing is aimed at adults, environmentalists generally find it annoying and sometimes — if it is sufficiently transparent — amusing. But when children are the targets, the environmentalists find it infuriating. So when Mattel recently issued a news release promoting its new line of Barbie BCause accessories for the doll — hats, handbags and the like — it was too much for the blogger on Eco Child’s Play, Jennifer Lance.
“The eco-conscious young girls I know of steer clear of Barbie,” she wrote. “Truly green families will not be fooled by Mattel’s greenwashing.”
According to Mattel’s news release (shareholder.com/mattel), the “playful and on-trend Barbie BCause collection repurposes excess fabric and trimmings from other Barbie doll fashions and products which would otherwise be discarded, offering eco-conscious girls a way to make an environmentally friendly fashion statement with cool, patchwork-style accessories.”
The whole thing is “pretty ironic given that Barbie dolls themselves are made out of plastic and are packaged in even more plastic,” Jen Phillips wrote on Mother Jones magazine’s blog, the Blue Marble (motherjones.com/blue_marble_blog). “And not the kind of plastic you can throw in the recycling bin, either.”
Aiming ads at children is one thing. Using them in advertisements meant to appeal to adults is another. In February, Lloyd Alter of Treehugger.com noted in a post titled, “The Semiotics of Greenwashing,” the use of children in ads for the coal and cement industries.
Citing research finding that children are far more environmentally concerned than adults, Mr. Alter said that such ads were meant to convey the idea that “if the kids are saying it, then it must be green.”