Dear SafeMama: “Eco-Friendly” Swingsets

By Kristie Turck •  Published 04/16/09 •  4 min read

Last updated on April 21st, 2009 at 01:47 pm

I would like to buy a small slide/swing set contraption for our backyard…. can’t find an eco-friendly place to go… wood versus plastic… just want a small something for young kids and am having trouble figuring out where to look…. thanks!

Welcome to my personal hell.  With a new baby on the way, going to the local pool and park are going to be somewhat limited, so I’m trying to look for options for our backyard to offset the whole boredom factor for my son.  We’re lucky in that we have a swing set that came with our house, however, it’s geared towards kids that are a little bit older, so he can really only use a portion of it.  It’s also starting to look worn and in need of repair soon.

I’ve been going back and forth in an internal debate.  Do I buy something plastic, or do I go with something wood?  Neither of these options are particularly eco-friendly.   The resources used to manufacture most plastic or wood sets are not entirely ideal.     But there are things you can do to be more eco-friendly in the process:

jpd4837f_ol_200My choice, if I can’t find something used on Craiglist or the like, is to suck it up and buy something new in the plastic version.  I’m not really proud of myself, but I look at it this way:   Both Little Tikes and Step 2 products hold their value used.   Once my children outgrow these products, I can either sell it later on Craigslist and put it towards something else, or I can donate it to a local preschool or daycare and write it off on my taxes.  Either way, the life of these products will be extended after my children are done with them.   I’m steering clear of wooden sets, because the majority of them are treated with things like pesticides and arsenic.   So while I could theoretically turn around and sell it later,  I don’t want to expose my children in the meantime, nor would I want to expose other children later on.  Again, there are natural untreated sets out there, but I have to send my kids to college and even though I have a relatively large yard, there’s no way one of these monstrosities would fit back there.

So, in a way, I didn’t really answer your question.  But hopefully, I gave you some direction on where to go.   My opinion (and take it for what it’s worth) would be to start with Craigslist (or even someplace like Freecycle.org.  I’ve seen some people get some really awesome things off of there.  If you have the time to dedicate, you may find what you’re looking for) and go the used route first.

Reader Feedback

SafeMama Melissa writes in…

“There is a great company called Cedar Works that uses 100% northern white cedar harvested in Maine-…..‘Used for centuries in boat building and other outdoor products, northern white cedar is the longest lasting natural and splinter-free wood used in wooden outdoor swing sets.  No other wood species meets our discriminating requirements for strength, long life, and no splinters without chemical treatments, paints or stains.’ And CedarWorks will donate a two-year-old cedar seedling to an environmental group or small woodlot owner for every catalogue requested, as well as one for every family that purchases a playset.  It’s all part of their ReCedaring program.  And though this qualifies as one of the those natural untreated monstrosities out there, the different thing about Cedarworks is that YOU design it yourself on their website so that it fits your yard and your budget!