Barbie, the iconic doll known for her fashion and careers, is making a splash in Hollywood and embracing eco-friendly and sustainability aspirations. Mattel, the parent brand of Barbie, is taking steps to reduce Barbie’s carbon and plastic footprint. This shift comes after a fake news story about a “plastic-free Barbie” stirred up controversy. The hoax, led by climate pranksters the Yes Men, aimed to draw attention to Barbie’s plastic consumption. With nearly 60 million dolls sold each year, Mattel uses a significant amount of plastic. Since Barbie’s creation in 1959, over 1 billion dolls have been sold globally, resulting in approximately 39,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
A study conducted by Greenly, a carbon emissions calculator, found that a 180g Barbie doll made from plastic derived from crude oil emits 648g CO2e over its lifecycle. Comparatively, a Lego Star Wars toy emits 537g CO2e, while a Catwoman Lego set emits 755g CO2e. However, this data did not consider other plastic Barbie items, such as houses, cars, and airplanes. The study also revealed that 92% of American girls aged 3-12 own an average of 12 Barbie dolls, resulting in 7,776g or 7.8kg CO2e per child.
In response to the push for sustainability, Mattel has started using recycled plastics in the production of Barbie dolls. In 2021, they launched a range of Barbies made from recycled plastics, and the following year, they collaborated with the Jane Goodall Institute to create carbon-neutral-certified Barbies made from recycled ocean-bound plastic. This lineup includes a doll of renowned ethologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, as well as an Eco-Leadership Team with roles like Chief Sustainability Officer and Renewable Energy Engineer. These initiatives aim to inspire children to dream and pursue careers in sustainability.
Mattel has also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. They plan to reduce their absolute Scope 1 + 2 GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to a 2019 baseline. Additionally, they aim to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic materials by 2030 and reduce plastic packaging by 25% per product compared to a 2020 baseline. They also strive for zero manufacturing waste. These efforts not only benefit the environment but also make the company eligible for earning plastic credits. Each plastic credit is equivalent to one ton of plastic waste that would have otherwise not been collected or recycled. Companies can use plastic credits along with carbon credits to address their sustainability concerns.
Barbie’s green venture goes beyond the dolls themselves. Mattel has formed a deeper alliance with the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program, encouraging children to explore their curiosity about the environment and increase their knowledge of sustainability. Through initiatives like the #NaturallyCuriousJane global challenge, Barbie inspires young minds to engage in environment-conscious activities and amplify green spaces. Barbie’s digital presence, particularly on their YouTube channel, features Dr. Jane Goodall, ensuring that her legacy and teachings reach younger generations.
In conclusion, Barbie’s evolution reflects the changing paradigms of our world. From a playful prank about a plastic-free future to genuine strides in sustainability, Barbie is embracing a touch of green and paving the way for a more sustainable future.