Wednesday, May 06, 2009: 04:24:47 PM

Equipment

PLAY IN HARMONY WITH THE ENV IRONMENT

There has been a significant growth in the manufacture of eco-friendly products in India. Sanjay Budhwar explains the impact of environment friendly playground equipment and the ‘green’ product life cycle at BigToys

Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome!

Mr Sanjay Budhwar
The Indian real estate industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and this growth is primarily driven by private builders and developers. In the recent past, customers have been spoiled for choice with a wide range of properties becoming available in the market that offer varied floor plans and international quality finishes and materials to suit every budget. Until now, most developers and builders concentrated on providing quality materials and design aspects inside the four walls of the house, leaving facilities in and around the complex as an afterthought. With customers increasingly looking for deals that provide value for money, the surrounding infrastructure of the multistorey apartment complexes has begun to play an increasingly important part in their decisionmaking process. Lawns and clubhouses are increasingly being viewed by residents as necessities and places of social gathering where they can meet their neighbours and spend quality time with friends and family.

Often in today’s nuclear family, there are no extended family members, except the parents, to look after the children. It has become increasingly important that major decisions impacting the family as a whole take into consideration the needs and aspirations of children as well. Given the fact that buying a home is a major decision that most people would make only once or twice in their lifetime, it becomes important therefore for parents to consider aspects from a child’s point of view when buying a home. Besides the house being close to a school, the children also need open and safe spaces to play within the complex. These open spaces often include the playground
 equipment installed in the kids’ play area within the apartment complex.



It may not come as a surprise to most, but there are no standards for playground equipment safety in India. This is unfortunate since children can be seriously injured while playing on slides, swings and other playground equipment that are being used in play areas. Slides and swings are usually made from metal with sharp and unfinished edges, and since metal rusts easily, it exposes children to jagged metal surfaces. Developers, builders and parents are increasingly becoming aware of the various safety aspects of playground equipment. It is not only the equipment that is installed in the park but also the spaces around the equipment, the materials used in their manufacture as well as the evenness of the ground surface that plays a part in the overall safety of children. Materials such as VC, which is a known carcinogen, can cause indirect harm to the environment during its manufacture, use and disposal. In its broadest sense, safety is not only limited to the actual physical harm that a child can be susceptible to while playing in the park but it also includes the impact on the environment caused by the manufacture of the equipment. This could include the cutting of trees for the wood used in the play structures, the use of non-recycled plastic for manufacturing the equipment as well as the life cycle cost of the plastic parts including their manufacture and disposal.

Taking this into consideration, in 2004, BigToys has voluntarily decided not to use PVC in any of their materials. On an average, their steel and plastic structural system contains 78 percent of recycled materials, which is one of the highest amounts of recycled content available in playground equipment today. The conditioned wood used in their wooden structures is sourced from commercial re-growth forests where three trees are planted for every one that is cut. The conditioning process used to condition the wood provides a durability of up to five times that of unconditioned wood. Moreover, it does not pollute the environment in any way. In 2008, BigToys began using wind power in all their facilities as a way of showing their commitment towards reducing the overall impact of their activities on the environment. The cost of their products may be high in the short term. However, the actual cost of using environmentally safe materials and processes is much lower as compared to the price of conventional products which include the total cost of cleaning up the environment due to the pollution caused by making these products. BigToys products also meet international safety standards such as American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), US Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).



It is imperative that companies act now to produce environment friendly products by making appropriate changes in their overall manufacturing and vendor selection processes to minimise the impact on the environment across the entire product life cycle. This may cause higher costs upfront, but will increase the return on investment (ROI) through increased customer retention and significantly lower product life cycle costs over time. Builders and developers can make a conscious decision to incorporate green products and technologies throughout their entire product portfolio. They can also include this aspect in their advertising and promotional campaigns in order to attract the consumer to their product offerings. The demand for these kinds of products exists today, and is bound to grow exponentially as consumers make conscious decisions to leave a positive impact on the environment.

To conclude, the demand for environmentsafe products is likely to experience exponential growth soon, and BigToys has taken a conscious decision to move in this direction. They have adopted a zero-impact policy that minimises the environmental impact of all their manufacturing processes, from raw material selection to energy use and finally product disposal at the end of its life cycle.

The author is the MD, Zeus Play Systems. He can be contacted at
sbudhwar@yahoo.com.


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