Green tip for week #38 — Week of January 18, 2009

Green video gaming (“video game co-op”)

Recently, friends of mine at Minneapolis-based Locus Architecture were discussing something which I think is a great green idea, and a good parenting tip as an added benefit.  The two friends have young children, all of whom wanted a video game system (Playstation/Wii/Xbox).  Rather than each family buying their own system, a duplicated set of games, etc., they came up with a simple, but incredibly good idea.  Why don’t they just buy one video game system, with one set of games, and rotate it between families periodically.

Most of you can already understand why this has value not only for the environment, but for the kids, but let me state a few of the benefits so you can give this more thought as a strategy for your own family.  First, the environmental impact of manufacturing, shipping, packaging, and selling the system and the individual games is incurred only once, spread over as many families as you incorporate into your “video game coop”.  Consider having 4-6 families involved to keep the cost of ownership and environmental impact very low.

Second, this has substantial benefits for the parents and children involved.  There is the obvious cost savings of sharing the cost of the system and the myriad of games the kids may inevitably want to acquire.  Next, parents can use this as a great way to ensure their children are not glued to the video games for days or weeks on end.  Particularly if several families become part of your “coop”, each could take the system for a week at a time, and perhaps rotate so each family has it one week per month.  This way, you can exercise your own parental control over how many minutes or hours the kids use the video games while it is in your home, and when it is not in your home, you don’t have to battle about whether they can use it or not – if it’s not there, they can’t use it.

Finally, since those of us who grew up with the Atari system and “Pong”, we realize that technology evolves, and the system your kids like today may not be the system they want to use a year or two from now.  This coop idea means when technology advances and your kids “must have” the new one, you can sell your old system and upgrade it with the members of your group sharing the cost, and replacing only one system in your circle of friends, rather than several.

Some parents choose not to purchase video games for their kids to avoid the issue altogether, but this provides a worthy alternative (which may be a balance between keeping your kids happy and keeping your sanity).  Use this coop idea as an opportunity to help teach your children about moderation – using the video games on a limited basis while it is “their week” to use the system, and getting involved in healthy outdoor activities (hiking, biking, playground, snowshoeing, sports) to keep them entertained the rest of the time provides balance that may help form healthy habits.  This way it helps encourage kids to look at video games not as a primary source of entertainment, but one possible option on a rainy day when they have already exhausted your other creative ideas.

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