With our devices ever-present and screens everywhere, you could be forgiven for thinking games had all gone digital. Whereas loads of excellent games exist for our mobiles and consoles, a place remains for engaging with the physical, inside, outside, and face-to-face. This article rounds up some of the best fun, eco-friendly game options you can enjoy with friends and family, ranging from board and card games made from eco-friendly materials to outdoor games.
Playing a classic board game with loved ones is a great way to share some time, perfect for holidays and nights in.
When picking which board game to play with, it’s important to pay attention to the type of materials it comes in. Many traditional games come with materials that are rough on the environment - all those tiny plastic parts, tokens, and so on.
Furthermore, parents often choose board games as a great way to engage their kids in educational content, and therefore the better they are for the environment, the better.
Thankfully, many classic games now come in eco-friendly versions. There’s also an abundance of new games that manufacturers make with eco-friendly materials. Let’s explore some board game variants, great for both kids and adults, that focus on eco-friendly and recycled materials and encourage learning about environmental issues.
Whereas a small step along the journey to protecting our planet, gift one of these or invite some people over for a game night, drop in some nature quotes, and help spread a little more environmental awareness.
Jenga is a classic board-stacking game that comes in multiple versions. The regular wooden Jenga presents a fun and challenging way to stack blocks. This game is ideal for people of all ages as it teaches the principle of balance. Not to mention provides loads of laughs as everything inevitably comes crashing down at some stage.
Apart from the regular wooden Jenga blocks, there’s also the Jenga National Parks Edition (amazon). This version has custom blocks, each featuring a fun fact about national parks in America.
There’s another collaboration version between Jenga Ocean and Bureo. It’s the first board game made from recycled fishing nets, and that’s pretty cool!
You’re most likely familiar with Monopoly. It’s a great game to bring friends together to enjoy a night of fun and interaction. Earthopoly (eBay) and Oceanopoly (amazon) serve as an eco-twist to the traditional Monopoly game. If you like Monopoly, you’ll love these board games, which include learning about environmental hazards and celebrating the planet.
In Earthopoly, you become the game’s winner when you’re a good caretaker of various spots on earth. Just like in Monopoly, this fun game relies on buying properties. However, the twist here in this eco-friendly version is that you can uniquely increase your property value.
Here, you collect carbon credits and trade them for clean air. You get a fine when you leave a carbon footprint. In Earthopoly, there’s no jail. Instead, you end up in a landfill. The manufacturers use materials that we can fully recycle, along with vegetable-based inks.
Another one of the eco-friendly versions is Oceanopoly which focuses on ocean life. It’s essentially the same concept, except that it features marine life. Oceanopoly’s deed cards also feature educational content, which is great for kids or anyone looking to learn.
Scrabble is no new name when mentioning fun games to play with people around you. It’s a classic game that people have played for generations. However, the typical game board comes in mainly plastic materials, making it less than ideal for the environment.
The good news is that Scrabble now comes in an eco-friendly version making it score eco-points. If you want to enjoy this fun, classic game, why not go for the wooden version? This helps you play your part in protecting the planet by minimizing toxic materials.
Various manufacturers create wooden scrabble sets (amazon) using heavy-duty wood and premium materials. These materials will stand the test of time, letting you own your pieces for longer.
Scrabble is great for both adults and kids. When kids play it, it helps to develop their spelling and reading skills. You’ll also find options from sustainably harvested wood, making you enjoy your game while minimizing your impact.
Hit the Habitat Trail is a fun and great game to initiate conversations about sustainability. This game is ideal for two to six players. Players have to answer questions to progress in the game. These questions can be multiple choice or true or false questions. When you get a question right, you earn a Habit Card.
You learn about animals and their different environment as you move along the stone trails. The game also features Wisdom and Consequence cards. These cards enable you to learn about the planet through information about environmental hazards and how to curb them. You need to collect two habit cards from each habitat to win the game. When this occurs, you become an Earth Steward.
Endango is an interesting and educational game to teach kids about the environment and endangered species. This eco-friendly board game is ideal for two to four players, with each player taking some responsibility for managing a specific part of the environment. These aspects include forest, safari, ocean, or ice caps.
Within each region, each player is responsible for three endangered animals. The ultimate goal is for the players to protect the animals in their different environments. As a result, the points you earn while navigating the human track affect the fate of the animals. In this light, the game requires that each player take actions that either protect their animals or contribute to extinction.
Apart from its educational content, this eco-friendly board game is made with recycled materials and soy-based inks. It serves as a great educational game to teach kids about green knowledge and behavior compared with less eco-friendly actions. Essentially, it highlights how collective human action can significantly affect the natural order of things.
Love playing cards? Here are a couple of options based on traditional card games that introduce environmentally-friendly elements
UNO Wilderness is an interesting spin on the regular cards you’re used to. It’s similar to the classic UNO, with the difference being that this one has colorful illustrations and images of nature that create an outdoor twist. Just like your typical UNO game, the goal is to end up with one card.
UNO is great for many players, ranging from two to ten players. It’s also appropriate for various age ranges. The best part is that you can take your cards with you wherever you go, whether camping, for a picnic, or at a friend’s house.
Bicycle playing cards are a great set to enjoy with friends and family. The manufacturers use sustainable forest paper and starch-based glue to craft this eco edition. Furthermore, the manufacturing process uses vegetable-based printing ink.
Following eco-consciousness to the end, this pack of cards is also recyclable. You can enjoy playing them when camping or indoors for an exciting game night.
Getting outdoors has many benefits. Being out in nature and soaking it all up is also good for our mental health. And, of course, what better fun learning environment for eco-friendly conservation themes than spending time in the environment we’re looking to protect?
In this section, you’ll find options for outdoor & natural games you can enjoy with kids, family, and friends.
If you’re playing out in the sun for a while, don’t forget to grab some zero-waste sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day. And stay hydrated with a collapsible water bottle you can stash in an eco-friendly backpack and fill up when you need to.
Many of us no doubt have fond memories of treasure hunts running about the place in search of the prize. Treasure hunts are also engaging and serve as a great way to move your body.
If you’re particularly looking for an outdoor game to keep the kids engaged, why not organize a treasure hunt? Here’s the spin - make it nature-inspired. In this version, the goal is to find a particular nature object or objects. All you have to do is write out clues to enable the players to hunt for it. This game is a great yard game and encourages connecting with nature.
Give Tic Tac Toe a spin by taking it outdoors. Instead of buying the gaming items, this version uses rocks as the Xs and Os. Apart from rocks, you can also improvise with simple items that you find outside.
This can serve as a form of scavenger hunt. A litter race encourages cleaning up litter in the environment. Here, you can split the group into teams where the goal is to collect the most litter.
This game is great for when you’re at the park or the beach as it gives enough room to look around. Be sure to put together the necessary items to support safety, such as protective gloves. For more info, check out our guide to beach cleanups.
As the teams move around, they pick up trash from the ground and fill it in a bin bag. The litter race is great for many reasons. It builds observation skills, promotes togetherness, and encourages caring for natural spaces. You can also pick specific items for the teams, such as cans, plastic bottles, and wrappers.
You also might be asking if picking up trash can be fun!? Gamifying the collection helps here and potentially incentivizes the largest haul with a small prize or zero-waste gift. Indeed, part of the trick is setting the game up as one of exploration, discovery (what can we find), and also having the outcome feel rewarding. I.e., a clean beach or local park is perhaps an easier sell than simply trash picking.
Games are a great way to bring people together, especially with in-person versions. Although many games exist in formats like boards and cards, not all of them are sustainable. They come in many materials that may not be environmentally friendly. The games we’ve highlighted above not only come in eco-friendly materials but also encourage building sustainability knowledge. If you want to go outdoors, you can enjoy the selection of outdoor games.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.