After writing about parents converting to frugality by purchasing used items in the wake of the poor economy, various other money saving concepts have come to light. K-Mart and Sears have been promoting their revived layaway services this season, as a means for shoppers to escape the evils of credit card debt (there is no premium or interest on layaway items), and I’ve recently come across the novel website, rentAtoy, which encourages parents to say “bye-bye” to buying, and stack rented toys under the Christmas tree instead.


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rentAtoy was founded by Carlos Algarin, a dad who has taken the bold stance of personally vouching for every toy offered in the website’s vast inventory. There is a chance that Carlos’ three children (among other clients) have played with the toys delivered to customers renting from the site, and that is part of the brilliance behind the rentAtoy concept. Every toy offered in the selection is reused by various families. There is no need to fear contracting cooties, as, “When toys enter, exit and return to the rentAtoy inventory, they are visually inspected, thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and tested for condition and usability.”

rentAtoy bills itself as “a nationwide toy rental company offering the best educational toys on the market, saving you both time and money.” The brands offered include a few of our Inhabitots favorites, such as Plan Toys, and the website appears straightforward and easy to use. After selecting toys for your child’s virtual ‘toy chest,’ rentAtoy rushes them off to your home where your child can enjoy them for 30 days or more, with no late fees. Once a child’s enthusiasm for the toys wanes, simply return the toy using the included shipping labels, and the rentAtoy machine ships you off a new batch.

But like NetFlix, the rentAtoy system suffers from a drawback that sees a member (membership plans start at $24.99 per month) not fully getting his money’s worth unless he maintains a steady regimen of returning and receiving new toys every week or so. This puts a question mark on the company’s ‘green’ message, as one would have to then weigh the carbon produced by all of this shipping (round trip no less) against the carbon produced by manufacturing multiple well-made sustainable toys that a kid could love forever (or at least until she’s ready to pass it on to a friend) in order to determine the positive or negative effect of membership.

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I won’t purport to be able to calculate the ecological maladies of shipping vs. manufacturing, but in a vacuum, renting a toy that has been reused by multiple families is certainly more green than buying a brand new one. So, this holiday season, think about renting toys from rentAtoy, while being careful to consider the carbon cost of shipping.

+ rentAtoy