When I finally pulled my head out of the sand and read up on plastic (beginning with the Leery Polyp's terrific linkage), at least three concerns merged in my mind: economic justice issues, the health and well-being of my kids and a more shallow, but still important dislike of clutter in my living space.
For years I've thought to myself "I really should stop buying things made in China." But I was seduced every time by that low, low price. And I have been a starving (nearly literally) grad student for so much of my adulthood, that I have often felt I had no choice. I didn't buy much of anything in my student days, and what I did buy had to be cheap.
But the expense of these things has to be paid by someone, somewhere, and I knew good and well that when I bought a sweater on sale for $4.99, I wasn't paying, the company selling it wasn't paying and having seen and read plenty about what globalism-gone-mad does to actual workers, I knew that most of the time, a young Chinese girl in a factory somewhere was paying.
I am not proud that it took a bunch of recalled lead-tainted toys (and whatnot) to actually get me to change my habits. Even after marrying into tenure and a comfy middle-class lifestyle, I still bought the cheap stuff more often than I should. But between all the recalls and a bit more education about plastic, I started feeling like the karma bus was headed my way for buying all that slave-made swag.
The toys at Oompa.com and other nifty toy stores/catalogues cost at least three times more than the ones I might have bought before, but that means that I am paying my share of the expense that goes toward paying a worker a living wage and benefits. It also means we can only afford about a third as many toys around here. But that in and of itself is appealing. As for the plastic issue, everything I read about plastic toys said it's okay if children play with them, as long as they aren't putting them in their mouths. But Nat still puts everything in her mouth, so that's no help for us. Wood it is.
I can't say I was sad to just toss a lot of brightly colored plastic nonsense that was overrunning my smallish living space. (We have about 1000 square feet.) And Nat has yet to miss a single thing I got rid of. I think she'll love the dollhouse and some of the other little things headed here for the holidays, and since there will be less stuff, she'll actually be able to find it!
We also recently replaced about a dozen plastic sippy cups with two stainless steel ones. I have been wanting Nat to start using a regular glass for most drinking. But I still wanted something for the car, or to put by the bed at night or to take to the park. So far, two have been enough for those purposes and Nat is getting great at real cups. I am thinking pretty seriously about skipping the sippy stage with Selina and going straight to real cups. But maybe I'll buy another one or two of the stainless steel sippies when she's bigger and they both need them. It will still beat a dozen plastic ones rolling around my kitchen.
I'm not going to claim that I'm completely slave-labor-free in my purchasing these days, but I do feel better and "cleaner" about many things.