J500 Media and the Environment

Has Barbie Really Gone Green?? by paulineah
June 24, 2009, 6:32 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 2, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

Green…I think this word has undergone some abuse in the last few years. Today, we are constantly bombarded by company advertisements that tout green practices and products. While I do believe that some of these efforts are genuine, my cynical side also tells me that a lot of companies are making these claims solely to increase profits and gain greater market share.

I found Mattel’s Barbie™ BCause collection to be particularly guilty of this. The BCause collection repurposes excess fabric from other Barbie collections. According to the company news release, “Barbie is always a reflection of current cultural trends and issues, and girls are increasingly aware of making a green statement,” said Richard Dickson, Mattel Senior Vice President of Marketing. Okay, so they’ve tightened their manufacturing by reusing some materials, but let’s not forget that Barbie is a plastic doll, sold in plastic casing.barbie

And Mattel is not the only company that is committing this sin. According to a recent study by TerraChoice, an environmental marketing agency, the number of “green” products has increased by 79 percent from 2007 to 2009.

So, what do I think about green? Well, I don’t view it as a mere trend, as the Mattel news release suggests. And I don’t feel I’m making a statement when I use my cloth bags at the grocery store. It’s not about veiling Barbie in reusable materials and slapping an “environmentally-friendly” sticker on her. I don’t claim to know all of the answers or do all of the right things, but making a concerted effort to live green just feels right to me. It’s about making conscious, thoughtful decisions that have a positive impact on the world in which we live.

~Pauline Horton


5 Comments so far
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I agree that many companies are participating in the green movement because it’s the “in” thing to do. This still frustrates me to no end. One thought that I’ve found comfort in, however, is that once you begin green practices, you tend to get sucked into the ideals behind the activities. I will admit, I originally started using my cloth grocery bags because they were A) Free and B) Being used by everyone else at my HyVee. In the first couple months after acquiring my bags, I forgot them at home when I went shopping more often than I remembered them and continued to collect plastic bags. Now, however, after realizing the point behind the bags, I refuse to shop without them and rarely forget. Maybe this will happen on a corporate level as well. Wishful thinking, but ya never know.


Comment by TreyW

Hi Pauline,

Sounds like greenwashing. Your point about the reuse of left over materials is on target. It seemed disingenuous for the VP of marketing at Mattel to play us for fools. Are they interested in the bottom line or in the environment? The answer to that question is obvious. Equally, I am not sure the last time I ran into a five year old that was environmentally conscious.

I have a question for your TerraChoice statistic referenced in your blog. I understand and agree with your point about Barbie BCause. Do you think that the dramatic increase in green products from 2007 to 2009 is mostly greenwashing as well? In the article you referenced from TerraChoice they state that 98% of the products were greenwashed. Is there “Seven Sins of Greenwashing” criteria to stringent?

Jason Merckling

Comment by jasonmer

Agreed—and I appreciate your sound reasoning on social responsibility.

We are teaching children that’s it “cool” to be “green” by taking some scraps fabric off the floor of a under-paid-labor manufacturing shop in China and sticking it on a piece of plastic and throwing in more plastic. Now that I type-out that statement it actually seems all the more absurd and comical. If Mattel really wanted to “make a difference” maybe they should research some biobased materials to pour into Barbie molds.

It’s little known, but all manufacturers have access to a database of biobased materials and raw goods. USDA’s has a relatively new BioPreferred program. The federal government offers procurements for biobased products and raw materials—and the Web Site list all maker/manufactures of bio-based products and raw materials. BioPreferred could do a better job promoting this program, but a consumer we can do a better job demanding biobased products.

Beth Davis

Comment by bethd

Trey & Beth, thank you for your comments. In response to Beth, I certainly agree that us consumers can do a better job in demanding bio-based (and other earth-friendly) products. Consumer demand can spark innovation within a company. If we continue to pressure companies to provide greener products and services, we can have an incredible impact on major industries.


Comment by paulineah

If they start selling Barbie in bioplastic containers then that’s newsworthy, but recycling cloth sounds like cost-cutting. If not bioplastics, they can use eco-friendly bags with Barbie’s face plastered all over – good for advertising, not that Mattel needs it considering Barbie’s popularity.

The USDA is also establishing a voluntary labeling program under which makers and vendors of biobased products can attach USDA-approved labels. These labels will have logos to help consumers easily spot the products off shelves, as well as a statement of the product’s and/or its container’s biobased content. More information is found here – http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-17610.htm
This labeling program is necessary to dispel misleading claims.

Comment by ASTM D6866

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