The toy giant will start using plant-based plastic in their iconic toys, but I have a few more suggestions that would make parents very happy. 

By Melanie Mannarino
Updated March 02, 2018
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Sustainable Legos
Credit: LEGO

Lego just announced that it will start making its legendary bricks with sustainable plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane—but when will they make the blocks so they turn to powdered sugar when I accidently step on them? Because as the parent of a kid who loves to build stuff, I have plenty of experience getting Legos lodged in the bottom of my foot and damn it hurts.

My 8-year-old son has a lot of Legos. And he considers every newly completed set a work of art that must be preserved, intact, from now until the end of time. (He's got a bin of hand-me-down free pieces that he uses to make his own masterpieces—and to make tiny landmines all over the living room.) The attic of my home is packed to the rafters with bankers boxes of the toys, separated by set, completely assembled. Every surface in his bedroom displays his most recent creations—dresser, desk, and two shelves. When he finishes building really big, ambitious sets—like the 2863-piece Lego Minecraft Mountain Cave Santa brought him this year—we’ll let him display it on the dining room table for a week or so. And then to the bedroom or attic it goes.

So yeah: In our house, plastic consumption in the form of Lego bricks is a larger environmental concern than, say, plastic straws. And while right now those bricks are taking up space in our attic, not some landfill, eventually they will have to go somewhere else. I think it’s amazing that the company has decided to do something about that, asap. They plan to start, appropriately enough, by making botanical elements such as leaves, bushes, and trees from the new material (which will look, feel, and connect exactly the same as current plastic bricks, so our little master builders can just add to their collections). Those earth-friendlier pieces will appear in sets this year, 2018—and the company plans to reach “zero waste” by 2030, using sustainable materials to make all their bricks and other elements, as well as boxes and packaging.

This is all great news. But as long as Lego is innovating, there are a few other improvements I’d love to see happen, in the interest of parents and children everywhere:

1. Create crushable Legos. This would be the powdered sugar idea I mentioned above. Parents are tired. We're busy. Our vision get blurry toward the end of the day. And despite the moves we learn at yoga/kickboxing/Pilates/barre class, we are not able to leap gracefully over every stray bush, plate, cross axle, and single brick our kids leave on the rug. Make these things crushable by any weight over 100 lbs and I promise your sales will double.

2. But make them taste awful. If you've got a younger child or pet in the house, you know you'd rather step on hundreds of tiny bricks for the rest of your barefoot life than have a tiny loved one find it and put it in their mouth. That's why Legos should be made to taste horrifically, disgustingly, repulsively awful. Like, spit-it-out-before-you-swallow-and-choke awful. Now, I realize that idea seems crazy, given the new sugarcane-derived plastic they'll be made from going forward, but I think the creative geniuses at the company could figure it out.

3. Make a Lego magnet. I’m no scientist, but if I were, I’d infuse Legos with a material that would allow them to be instantly swept up off car floors, out of couch cushions, out from behind beds and whatever other hiding spots they find. This would solve so many “I can’t find the piece I need” tantrums. And let me read my book in peace for 5. Darn. Minutes.

4. Build Lego community centers. I’ve been to LEGOLAND Florida and LEGOLAND California. My entire New Jersey household is waiting eagerly for LEGOLAND New York to open in 2020. We’re fans. But it’s not enough. The immediate need here is a dedicated space kids can display their newly-built creations that is not the dining room table. These community centers would allow kids to display their castles and spaceships and tree houses and raptor centers, admire others’, and find like-minded friends with whom to have stimulating and creative Lego discussions. From a business perspective, this would a.) Make parents more likely to buy additional sets, without worry of where to display them b.) Inspire kids to want more sets, as they see what their friends and neighbors have built and c.) provide local hubs for Lego classes, clubs, field trips, and more.