Save the world, one board game at a time.
Board games are not great for the environment. No matter how much you share, trade, and buy second hand, the market is saturated with huge amounts of processed plastics. I’m as guilty as anyone else of perpetuating this, as I can’t resist a game with a gorgeous set of miniatures to paint and play with, but as a hobby board gaming and board gamers could stand to do a lot more to protect the environment and reduce waste.
Recently I was presented with a few board games that are significantly more eco-friendly than many of their compatriots, and whilst I’m not suggesting that the entire industry should instantly switch over to these methods, it would be good if there were more alternative options that were also good games. Here are a few that might pique your interest.
P For Pizza is a simple but fun word game from Big Potato Games, a company that makes pretty fun and lightweight party games. In this one you simply need to come up with words beginning with a certain letter that matches a given category. It gets increasingly more difficult, as the number of options available to you becomes more and more limited as you get closer to winning.
Big Potato are quite proud of the fact that P For Pizza is entirely plastic free, with all the pieces and boxes being made of paper and card. Whilst this isn’t the only game to do this by any stretch, it’s certainly nice for a company that has mostly worked with plastic to make something without.
Also known as The Green Board Game Company, Brainbox games make their products from at least 70% recycled material, and are themselves entirely recyclable. I went with the entire company here rather than a specific game, as a lot of what they make are variations on educational trivia. Most of the games on offer here are quick questions based on dice rolls, designed to teach kids about the world in some way. They’re pretty fun and lightweight, and a neat option for playing with a young family.
There are a few more varied options too, with Square Up being a race against time to make your board match a randomised image, and The Brainbox Board Game in which the game board is made out of the box. There are some fun games here with some nice themes that are worth a look for the younger audience.
This is the one that inspired this article. You may not consider Jenga to be the greatest game ever made, but it is an enjoyable, accessible, family-friendly dexterity game that pretty much everyone has played in some form or another. Being made from wood means it’s actually not as bad as mass producing plastic, but I couldn’t find evidence of Hasbro replacing the trees they use in the production of the game. That’s where Jenga Ocean comes in.
Made by Bureo, a recycling focused company, Jenga Ocean’s pieces are entirely made from dumped fishing nets — which account for 10% of plastic waste in the ocean — meaning that this game isn’t just zero waste, it actually has a positive impact on the ocean by removing waste from it. If you’re looking to buy a copy of Jenga for yourselves or as a gift, I’d implore you to pick up this version over the wood-based original.
Always a great option whether you want to be more eco friendly or not, print and play games are a great option for gamers looking for something affordable, fun, and readily available. Whilst printing your own board game does come with its own environmental impact (paper, print cartridges, etc.), it certainly has less of an effect than owning a stack of plastic pieces.
And there’s such a huge array of options here too! Kickstarter has plenty of board games that include print and play pledges, and sites like Drive Thru RPG are packed with choice. The link above includes just a handful that our own Jupiter picked out, but venturing into the unknown here will surely lead to your own delightful discoveries.
Makemaki Sushi Game is such a neat idea that I’m surprised that there aren’t more imitators. The premise is simple, with players needing to make sushi that matches the images on a card using the game’s small wooden pieces. The tricky part is that they need to do it entirely via chopsticks. At its heart, this is a pretty simple dexterity game, but the more you rush, the more mistakes you’re going to make.
In terms of the eco-friendly elements, Makemaki Sushi Game is entirely made from material from FSC-certified wood and bamboo. This means that the forests used are responsibly managed and economically viable, making this another great option for a fun game that will minimise environmental harm.
A number of good choices here, but there are plenty of others available. With any luck there’ll be a gradual change in the board gaming market leading to more and more great choices with less environmental impact. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for them.