Jane Goodall is one of the world's most celebrated primatologists and conservationists. You may know her from her groundbreaking research on chimpanzees, her journey to study chimps in the field in Tanzania at age 26, and her lifelong commitment to chimpanzee protection and animal conservation as a whole.
In 2002, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute, which supports chimpanzee conservation efforts around the world. Goodall's work has inspired people of all ages to appreciate and respect animals and our natural environment.
And now, she’s been turned into a Barbie doll.
Mattel unveils the new Jane Goodall Barbie doll
Mattel, the toy-making company that creates Barbie, unveiled the Jane Goodall Barbie as part of its Inspiring Women Series — and the best part? It’s made of recycled ocean-bound plastics.
In addition, Goodall’s Barbie was introduced with Barbie’s “2022 Barbie Career of the Year Eco-Leadership Team,” which is a doll set that includes dolls representing a conservation scientist, renewable energy engineer, a chief sustainability officer, and an environmental advocate.
In addition, both Goodall’s Barbie and this new Eco-Leadership Team doll set have been certified as carbon neutral by Climate Impact Partners.
Protecting the planet is the new pink.
“Kids need more role models like Dr. Jane Goodall,” Lisa McKnight, Mattel's executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls, said in a statement. “We hope that this collection and homage to a groundbreaking pioneer for women in science and conservation inspires kids to learn more about green careers, how they can protect the planet, and act out sustainable stories through doll play.”
The doll is made in Goodall’s likeness and is styled to match her look. Dressed in a khaki shirt and shorts, holding a notebook, wearing a pair of binoculars, the doll is accompanied by David Greybeard, the first chimpanzee Goodall worked with during her research at Gombe National Park in east Africa.
Sales of this Barbie also support the Jane Goodall Institute and her youth service movement Roots & Shoots, which helps teach children about environmental impact.
Additionally, Barbie and Roots & Shoots are issuing a global challenge (#NaturallyCuriousJane) to encourage kids to discover the little steps they can take to make big changes. This includes nature observation journaling, community mapping, and increasing local green spaces. Barbie lovers can also engage in Goodall’s story by watching a special episode of Barbie’s You Can Be Anything YouTube series.
“I’m thrilled to partner with Barbie and encourage young children to learn from their environment and feel a sense that they can make a difference,” Goodall said in a statement. “Through this partnership, I hope to inspire the next generation of eco-leaders to join me in protecting our planet and remind them they can be anything, anywhere — on the field, in the lab, and at the table.”
Mattel’s sustainability goals
In addition to this doll being made of recycled plastics, Mattel has shared its corporate goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials in all products and packaging by 2030.
Part of these corporate sustainability efforts include using the Barbie platform to educate and promote sustainable everyday behaviors that will help inspire action.
This is not the first of Mattel’s environmental advocacy initiatives. The company has implemented a PlayBack program that makes it easy for customers to recycle their toys, encouraging a circular economy.
Folks can download a prepaid shipping label and send their loved toys back to Mattel to recover materials for new products or downcycled into other plastic products or renewable energy sources.
“Play should not have a shelf life or be tossed away,” the Mattel PlayBack website reads. “We design toys to be loved, cherished, and passed on from one generation to the next, and we aim to make them from materials that can live on in new toys and in new ways.”
Why is this good news?
In line with Barbie’s ongoing commitment to empowering young girls to be anything they want to be (though girls are not the only ones who play with Barbies, and that’s awesome, too!), the Jane Goodall Barbie provides a new avenue for Barbie lovers to learn more about taking care of the environment.
Inspired by real history-makers like Goodall, young people now have a tangible item to represent those who inspire them to make the world a better place.
“I wanted a doll to be me before this idea came up,” Goodall told Reuters. “I’ve seen… little girls playing with Barbie dolls, and certainly at the beginning, they were all very girly-girly, and I thought little girls need… some choice.”
From athletes and veterinarians, to environmentalists and astronauts, Barbie gives young girls, who grow up to be women that are underrepresented in various professional fields, the ability to see someone who looks like them doing work that can change the world.
“Mattel has changed its range of dolls, and there’s all kinds of astronauts and doctors and things like that,” Goodall also shared with Reuters. “So many children learn about me at school. They’ll be thrilled to have the Barbie doll.”
How can you make a difference?
Most companies don’t make ethical and sustainable choices on their own. They make changes because their customers demand it of them, or they see an opportunity to make more money.
By intentionally choosing to only buy sustainably-made toys (and other eco-friendly products) that align with your (and your child’s) values, you ensure that companies are incentivized to make the right choices.
You can also reach out to companies (like Mattel) to specifically ask for the changes you wish to see. There’s no doubt that Barbie’s sustainability changes were made, in part, because of the protests of environmental activists that began more than a decade ago.
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