It may sound weird, but Lego is quietly trying to ditch plastics.

For the past 59 years, we've all been building spaceships and castles, experimenting with what head goes on what body, and arguing with our siblings about where the grey 2-by-5 brick went — thanks to Lego.

"The S.S. Awesome can't have any holes in it, Amanda. I know you have that 1-by-8 somewhere." Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, circa 1962.


Though nearly indestructible, Legos aren't eternal. The bricks your kids or grandkids play with probably won't be the ones you remember.

Beyond grocery bags and Barbie dolls, Legos might be the most iconic plastic object ever, but making things out of plastic can be problematic.

It's not just that plastic doesn't break down, though that's a major issue with some plastic products. It's also about the carbon footprint to make them. To make a conventional plastic, you have to pump petroleum or natural gas out of the ground, refine it, and mold it. All of these steps take energy and can produce carbon dioxide.

For the last couple of years, Lego has been experimenting with making their iconic bricks from eco-friendly sources.

In 2015, Lego announced it would invest the equivalent of $155 million into finding a non-oil, smaller-footprint source for the various plastic they need to make all those tires, trees, and movie stars.

Fun fact: Lego's apparently one of the world's largest tire manufacturers. Photo from Lego Media Library.

Since then, they have been experimenting with different types of bio-plastics, which can be made from plants like corn or wheat and produce less emissions than conventional plastic.

The goal is to find alternatives for 20 types of plastic by the year 2030.

There are hurdles to making something as durable, flexible, and iconic as a Lego, and the company is still experimenting. Whatever they choose, it'll need to snap together with existing Legos, last just as long, and preserve the aesthetic. Their latest experiment with wheat sugar, for example, failed because it couldn't hold the right shine, as Quartz reported.

This change won't eliminate the carbon cost of manufacturing, nor will it address other carbon costs like shipping, but little changes add up. After all, 19 billion new Lego pieces are produced each year. Furthermore, the Lego company has also been reducing its carbon footprint through other means as well, including investing in an offshore wind farm. In fact, it recently met a 100% renewable energy milestone.

I assume the real wind farm contains a bit more, you know, metal and concrete and stuff. Photo from Lego Media Library.

Playing with Legos has been a nearly universal part of childhood for almost 60 years. Our kids will likely continue to build castles and spaceships, but their future creations — and their building blocks — won't be exactly the same as ours were. And that's a wonderful, necessary step of progress.

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As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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