Established in 1970, Earth Day was created to bring awareness to the public of the environmental hazards humans were creating. The 1960’s found our nation fueled by leaded gas, oceans openly polluted by industrial waste, and air pollution was so bad in some cities that children would have a black crust around their nose after playing outside. On April 22, 1970 millions of people from all political viewpoints joined forces to say “enough!”
We’ve come a long way in the last 48 years, but we have a long way to go and new threats to face down. Environmentalism can be a boring topic though, it’s hard to demonstrate the important of being a good steward of the planet when you can’t see what’s happening on a daily basis. Fortunately there are some really great game publishers with solid environmental protection plans in place who make fun (really!) games you can play that will teach your child about our planet and the importance of protecting our only home.
One of my favorite game publishers also happens to be a leader in environmentally-friendly game publishing. Blue Orange Games was founded in 2000 by two French expats living in San Francisco. Blue Orange’s environmental policy includes planting two trees for each one used in game production. Additionally, many of their games bypass paper boxes altogether and use recyclable metal tins.
Photosynthesis is one of Blue Orange’s newest games, and one that fits the Earth Day theme perfectly! Photosynthesis takes players through the process of growing trees, from planting seeds to end-of-life decomposition and rebirth. Along the way you’ll learn about the conditions needed for a forest to grow, and how forests are continually evolving in response to a changing environment. Photosynthesis was created with ages 8+ in mind.
If you have younger children you’ll really love the games from Peaceable Kingdom. These games, widely available at big box stores, are published using Earth-friendly ink and are made exclusively from recycled paper and plastics. Peaceable Kingdom games are geared toward young children, cooperative, and focus on developmental skills. Peaceable Kingdom also makes environmentally-responsible greeting cards and sticker sets.
Looking for a game the whole family can play together? Late for the Sky is a publisher that makes environmentally-friendly games that play like Monopoly. Using vegetable dyes and recycled papers and plastics, Earth-Opoly is a game where you travel the world to buy properties and offset your carbon footprint.
Are you a fan of one of the most popular board games in existence, Settlers of Catan (updated versions are simply titled Catan)? You can turn the original game into a environmental lesson with the printable (and free!) Oil Springs expansion pack. Oil was found on Catan, but at what cost? Download the expansion pack at http://www.oilsprings.catan.com.
Are you a fan of the BBC Planet Earth documentaries? If you said “Of course I am!” (because who isn’t?) the accompanying Planet Earth DVD Board Game is a must have! Combining video clips, a board game, and a puzzle, the Planet Earth DVD Board Game is unlike any other game! This game is recommended for ages 8+, be aware that predator and prey behaviors are involved in some of the clips and may upset some children.
Don’t have time to play a board game? No worries, your children can learn about topics like climate change and coral bleaching online! NASA’s Climate Kids website features 15 online games, all available to play at any time from your computer.
Another wildly popular game, Evolution, has taken a stand against climate change with their newest stand-alone game, Evolution: Climate. Recommended for ages 12+, Evolution: Climate relies on players to evolve their animal herds to survive a drastically changing climate. If you already own Evolution you can purchase a conversion kit to use your original game pieces, saving you money while conserving resources!
While it is a painful topic, learning about our environment and climate change doesn’t have to hurt. All of the above environmentally-friendly games will entertain while teaching. We’ve got a lot of work to do, so let’s start playing!