Making wooden toys has been an interesting venture for us. A lot of what we do is re-educating people that wood is actually safe. We have to convince people to trust in what God gave us to work with. I’m realizing that we have come believe that plastics are safer than wood. I can’t tell you how many times a day we get questions about splinters, about how hard or soft the wood is on baby’s gums, about sanitation and durability. How is it that we’ve come to trust in man made plastics full of God knows what over the natural, God-given materials of our planet? I get it, I do. Plastics look smooth and new, they come in friendly colors and can be molded into just about anything. But when you stop to think about it, why am I more comfortable with something made in a factory than something made by the hand craftsmanship of a skilled artisan working with materials naturally given from the world around us?
Plastics were first invented in the late 1800’s and production exploded during the 1940’s and WWII with needs for lightweight airplane parts as well as the invention of petrochemicals. The world gasped, we wondered how we had ever lived without these marvels and we adopted them into every nook and cranny of our lives. Though some plastics today are made from plants (like corn and sugarcane), they only account for a small proportion of the over 300 million tons of plastic per year produced (The Globalist, 2015). The vast majority are derived from oil and natural gas (and we know the dangers those resources pose). Plastics are cheap, they are moldable, they are convenient, but are they worth the real cost? Why do we automatically assume newer is better?
If you’re reading this, you are probably already aware of the many dangers of plastic to our bodies, our babies and our planet. I’m not going into that (though Wellness Mama has a great, comprehensive article that articulates much of what I believe). What I’m thinking about today is changing our attitudes and comfort levels. I’m asking you to question your comfort levels. We have literally become accustomed to plastics. We feel safe with them. And this has happened in a relatively short amount of time. Plastics have only been around for about 200 years. Glass and metal for thousands of years. But wood has conceivably been around since the beginning of time (I mean, Eve ate an apple from the tree, right?). So why is it that we hold so tight to a material that is so relatively young? We’ve had wood, metal and glass around for thousands if not millions of years, but somehow the new guy in town has taken over.
I would argue that much like the genetically modified crops, the petrochemicals, the nuclear power, the antibiotics that our grandparents and our parents adopted as saviors, plastic is being revealed by my generation (X, Y, Millennials? I’m never sure what I am!) as a fraud. Though it definitely has its conveniences, the dangers far outweigh the risks. Why subject ourselves to the toxins that change our body chemistry, the waste associated with its’ creation and the millenia for which it will clog our oceans, our freeways, our forests and our farms? I believe when my parents and grandparents were raising children, these things were so new and untested that they seemed like miracles. All we knew were their up sides. Society was quick to adopt them as the gold standard for quality and usefulness. Without the time to test their effects, plastics were mass produced and implemented everywhere. Just like an untested drug released too soon, we have been the guinea pigs suffering the side effects. Just like phen phen, they sold us skinny and we got heart failure.
Think about it. Plastics are EVERYWHERE. Over the past few years our family has tried to reduce our dependence on nonrenewable resources in general, but on plastics specifically. The problem is, we can’t practically do without them. They invade our homes and our lives no matter how much we try to avoid them. I’m looking around my living room right now at the electronics, the lotions, the rugs, the drapes, the shoes, the diaper pail, the diapers (even our “cloth” diapers have plastic shells and snaps) the toys (yes, the plastic toys– the horror!), the furniture, the clothing, the radio, the diffuser, the light fixtures, the outlet covers, the mail, the magazines, the books- it all has plastic parts. Not to mention the kitchen- my God, the entire refrigerator is made of plastic- ahhhhhh!!! I’m overwhelmed when I stop to think about it. How is it we let these materials into every facet of our lives without fully knowing what was in them or what effects those materials had on us and the world around us? Why are/were we so ready to adopt something new over something that had worked just fine forever?
So I’m asking you to question your thinking. When you ask yourself- well, what about splinters in my wooden toys? Think about when those plastic toys break and become little daggers. Think about the tiny shavings sharp teeth carve out and little bodies swallow. Every time you pull a teething toy out of the freezer and put it in your babies’ mouths, think about what they are sucking out of it. When you buy a cheap plastic toy, think not just about the $9.99 pricetag, but about the price our planet will pay when it’s forever in our landfills. Just like antibiotics, like petrochemicals, like nuclear power, plastics have their uses and their downfalls. It’s time we gave them their fair consideration. All around us, people are questioning how necessary these great inventions of the 20th century really are, what their true costs really equal out to be. I urge you to question your notions of safe, of normal, of comfort and look at where they were born. In my heart, I know I feel closer to nature when I’m surrounded by it. New is nice and I see its appeal, but there’s something about manufactured housewares, toys, homes and products that just feels fake. Because they ARE fake. We have so much that nature has freely given us to work with. It’s right here. It’s cheap, it’s renewable, it’s dependable and IT IS SAFE. So stop your worrying and go back to your roots. Mother nature provides, man. It’s time to trust her and to think twice about what man is providing in her place.
Still worried about splinters? Check out this Tough Love Wooden Teether that’s taken more than an average beating.