2020. The year we stayed home. I don’t have to tell you how difficult it’s been. The year has been filled with challenges for everyone.
My sister and I have spent much of our “stuck at home time” these past few months sitting in our living rooms watching TV and listening to audio books as we sew new clothing and fashion hats and handbags for refurbished Barbie dolls. To date, we have created and delivered 21 doll sets to organizations that distribute toys to the needy during the holiday season. We have at least 6 more to complete. We will do as many as we can until Thanksgiving. By then, organizations who distribute to the needy will have started their annual planning.
As I searched the web for ideas of things to add to our donation dolls, I quickly became aware of the Barbie doll overpopulation problem. Not every Barbie lives in a warm home with a loving little girl. Like our human population, Barbie has her own homeless problem.
But seriously, more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold since 1959 when Barbie made her debut. One billion! Being made of plastic, they must still exist somewhere in some form, either cluttering up closets or taking up space in a landfill. Do a search of Ebay and you’ll see what I mean. Page after page of unwanted dolls are offered for sale. Old dolls. New dolls. Body parts you can use to rebuild dolls you already own. Many of these pre-owned dolls are in excellent condition. Nevertheless, the manufacturing of new dolls goes on and Americans continue to buy new dolls for every gift giving occasion.
I’ve long been a proponent of recycling, reusing items we already own, and remaking those things we no longer need into useful items. But our Barbie project has emphasized to me just how important these ideas are. It has spotlighted how destructive human consumerism must be to this planet. Barbie is just one of the permanent plastic items we continue to buy, buy, buy and add to the earth every day.
As more and more plastic piles up, we talk of recycling. But biodegradable products often cost more making consumers reluctant to buy them. Many communities have no easy access to a recycling center and many recycling centers that do exist are inefficient and overwhelmed. We’ve lost the ability, or at least the ambition that our ancestors had, to remake old items into new and useful things. But I think it’s our attitude that most inhibits us from doing all that we can. In America, thrifting and/or “regifting” has been, and in most circles continues to be, frowned upon. Regifters are seen as cheap and uncouth. This attitude is helping to rapidly trash our planet.
It was these thoughts that made me order an addition box of 15 pre-owned and homelss Barbie dolls. If I can keep my sister sewing her fingers to the bone for a little bit longer, we might create a few refurbished doll sets to sell in the Etsy shop. This would give shoppers who care about reducing their own impact on the environment, an alternate option to buying new dolls this holiday season. Will a few less Barbie dolls save the planet. Of course not. But what it can do is bring this critical issue to the attention of others.
While I understand that not everyone will be comfortable regifting or buying a refurbished product for someone else, I encourage you to help reduce planetary junk by being willing to purchase second-hand items for your own use. It isn’t about saving money – although you likely will. It’s about taking care of Mother Earth.
For those who have asked, there is currently one doll set and several clothing options for sale in the Etsy shop (search for Whackyshack on Etsy or see link in the sidebar). If you’ve never shopped Etsy, I encourage you to do so, especially this holiday season. Even if you are not in the market for Barbie, you’ll find all kinds of other handcrafted items. Many artistic people, struggling through this year of illness and unemployment, are using their free time and talents to craft items for sale. I encourage you to step away from the huge online websites for a few minutes and check out these ambitious Etsy sellers. Purchasing is easy and safe and you will be helping out a lot of regular folks who need your dollars more than corporate executives do.
We realize packaging is important. It’s the first thing you see when you pick up a product. Everyone wants to give and recieve a pretty package. Our pre-owned dolls won’t have the fancy official Barbie doll plastic packaging. But we do “package” our doll sets. Many get a unique hand crafted decorative box that is wrapped in cellophane and topped with a bow. Others have been packaged in clear zippered bags (the kind sheets and pillow cases come in) also recycled. Another might be packed into a nice basket. So there is no confusion, each set is clearly marked as being a refurbished doll with new handmade clothing and accessories. No two doll sets are alike. We want the little girl who receives one of our doll sets to think of it as a real gift made by Santa’s elves just for her.