Greening From Ear to Ear: Eco-Friendly Advice to Smile About

I recently had a fantastic experience for Sam’s first dentist appointment. And it wasn’t just because the office was super kid-friendly and convenient. It’s because the dentist was completely open and interested in ideas to make his office a greener, healthier place.

Dr. George is proud to have a LEED-certified, paperless office space, a testament to his commitment to the environment. He even favors Tom’s of Maine children’s toothpaste (my personal favorite) over the conventional brands and tries to give out these samples when possible (he apologized that when I visited he only had Crest).

But I was a little freaked out by the vending machine of tiny, trinket toys packaged in little plastic eggs, and the offerings of plastic baggies full of rubber duckys from Oriental Trading Company.

I wouldn’t turn up my nose at a sticker or crayons or little stuffed animal. I consider those things sort of neutral – not the greatest thing for the landfills, but not exactly harmful, especially in small doses. Personally, we get a lot of life out of Crayolas and stickers, and I think a kid deserves something “special” after a shot in the arm.

But I had to politely decline these toxic (not to mention highly chokable) toys, and rather than writing me off as a freak, Dr. George inquired, admitting that he really didn’t know much about these things. (I love when people can admit that they just don’t have the information, rather than act indignant or ignore you!)

He actually requested that I send him some information on better options – little did he know that I live for this stuff! So here we go: a primer on better toys and treats to make the doctor’s office fun.

But first, a little background on why these things are so bad:

I recommend the book Slow Death By Rubber Duck as a good primer on the dangers of phthalates, BPA, lead, and all the other nasties often hanging out in these cheap, made-in-china toys. The cheap junk in those vending machines is among some of the worst culprits, not to mention that these little junky toys are complete landfill fodder, clutter-machines, and teeny, tiny choking hazards.

I know that our dentist had only the best intentions. He just wanted to make the kids happy! And I don’t suggest that he cross his arms and tell the children that they may not have a treat, as it wouldn’t be green. I just think he can do better! And fortunately, he agrees. 🙂

Coincidentally, my husband recently wrote an article for an amusement park trade magazine about the small but growing market of eco-friendly redemption toys (i.e. cheap, small prizes). He mentions resources like recycledpromos.com. I also mentioned a few green party favor Web sites in a past post. A quick glance through these sites shows me affordable options like spinning tops, Yo-Yos, castanets, coloring books, Frisbees, finger puppets, and recycled crayons.

I really am OK with an old-fashioned lollipop after a doctor’s appointment. But if you really want to step it up, there are some delicious organic lollipops available in bulk for just this purpose! A 30-oz. container of Yummy Earth organic lollipops is just $15.

My friends at Green Halloween were recently featured on People.com with some of their picks for all-purpose greener candy and treats. p.s. Green Halloween also has a 50% off coupon sheet for select sustainable celebration retailers!

Since my dentist is already advocating a greener toothpaste, maybe he’d be interested in these super cute Preserve Jr. toothbrushes made from recycled plastic. We love these at home – they even feature endangered animals on the handles.

I’m sure I’m missing plenty of ideas, as there are more innovative and affordable green toy and treat options popping up everyday. I hope this is helpful to Dr. George and to anyone else interested in greening their office, classroom, or playspace.


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