Boycott Barbie: Greenpeace says Mattel harms rain forests with its packaging materials

by Sharon Abercrombie

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Mattel, the world’s largest toy manufacturer is in the ecological and public relations hot seat. A protest staged by Greenpeace International earlier this month put them there. On June 7, several Greenpeace staffers unfurled a pink and blue banner from the top of the 15-story company headquarters in El Segundo, Calif. A frowning Ken, devoted boyfriend of the world’s most famous doll, Barbie, is pictured on the banner with the proclamation, “Barbie, It’s over. I don’t date girls that are into deforestation.”

Barbie’s dark preoccupation has to do with the kind of paper and cardboard packaging she is wrapped in. It comes from rainforest materials manufactured by an Asian paper company and supplied to Mattel.

As onlookers took photos of the event, another Greenpeacer pretending to be Barbie and outfitted in pink and blue spandex, arrived at the protest site driving a pink skip loader. After police ticketed her for being in an illegal parking zone, Barbie sat down on the curb and proclaimed in bored tones that caring about cute little furry animals “is so last year.”

Those cute little furry animals Barbie refers to are the last remaining 400 Sumatran tigers living in the Indonesian rain forest. If the destruction continues, they will go extinct. In another video on the Greenpeace web site, Ken looks at footage of the rain forest and is horrified by the sounds of bulldozers and the cries of the animals -- not just the tigers, but the birds, and all the other animals which call this land their home.

Greenpeace said that it discovered this case of environmental abuse when it embarked upon an extensive investigation involving tracking company certificates and checking into mapping data, Greenpeace claims that the animals’ habitat is being destroyed by Asia Pulp & Paper Company. APP supplies the disposable packaging for Mattel’s toy lines, the most famous of which are Ken and Barbie.

According to The Nation magazine, APP has been repeatedly linked to the use of “shredded rainforest” in the pulp used for its paper and cardboard products. Several international companies -- Staples Tesco and Adidas -- have already cut their ties to APP. Greenpeace is pushing Mattel to do the same. They have asked people to contact the toy maker demanding that they sever their business ties with APP.

Less than one-half of Indonesia’s rain forests remain intact due to industrial encroachment. Environmentalists say that destruction of this country’s island archepalago is a major cause of global warming.

Since the video appeared on the Greenpeace International web site, June 10, more than 50,000 viewers have responded. Greenpeace is asking supporters to keep pressuring Mattel. So far the company has responded by saying it is looking into the allegations. That’s not enough, says the web site.

Of course, another way of moving Mattel into the light is to personally boycott its products. It’s not Christmas yet, but if there are summer birthdays coming up for the youngsters in our lives, books instead of Barbies might be just the ticket.

Perhaps boycotting and other forms of protest against environmentally destructive corporations could be seen as the 21st century equivalent of avoiding occasions of sin. Eco-occasions -- refusing to be a party to the sins against our Mother Earth.

For further information about Greenpeace International’s protest against Mattel, go to the Web site.

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