For example, a sculpture made of toxic waste but realistic
December 24, 2019 3:32 AM   Subscribe

For purposes of fiction: what arts/crafts/foods might be sold at a typical small-town carnival that would be environmentally unfriendly? It can't just be unhealthy to the human body; it also has to be unhealthy to the planet in some hopefully apparent way. The more realistic the idea the better

posted by angrycat to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Anything made with glitter.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:07 AM on December 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

Pet cane toads/locusts/feral rabbits/crustacean etc in a cute little glass tank/cage that kids inevitably release and wreak havoc. Something lile cane toads are poison to kids too.
Glow in the dark jewellery/ the most impressive lava lamp/ glow in the dark tube that's actually quite radioactive
posted by hotcoroner at 4:10 AM on December 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Key chains and jewellery made of beautiful but endangered insects trapped in resin.

Pretty dresses bedecked in feathers of birds of paradise.

Small, live animals, birds, or fish as prises for competitions.

Dreamcatchers made from rare wood and bedecked in the feathers of endangered birds

Sweets that have been packaged individually, their wrappers lying everywhere.

Fairground rides powered by loud, fuel guzzling generators


Those pretty sky lanterns that set fires when they come down

Balloons (balloons are dreadful to the environment, especially marine animals, I've seen the contents of dead turtles stomachs)
posted by Zumbador at 4:15 AM on December 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

3-D printed objects
posted by amtho at 4:36 AM on December 24, 2019

Some glowing blue powder your uncle found in a machine in the old hospital.
posted by zamboni at 4:57 AM on December 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

Food trucks running gasoline-fueled generators constantly to power the deep fryers for fries and funnel cakes. Mountains of styrofoam cups and carryout trays in the overflowing trash cans near the food areas. Giant plastic souvenir cups in the trash after one use.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:15 AM on December 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, hey, I read this interesting but sad true story. This is one rendition of Gillian Genser's experience with mercury poisoning, that she got as a result of working with mussell shells.
And here again, from Gillian Genser.
Maybe this is not what you're asking for. Because this is a case of someone who was in very close contact with the materials for fifteen years.
posted by catbird at 5:27 AM on December 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not a thing for sale, but disturbing the soil on a site can "wreck" it for a long time.

In 2017-18 a Montreal company, MosaiCulture, constructed giant plant sculptures in a public park near Ottawa. After making less money on admission fees than they expected, they pulled out early, leaving the park in a "much deteriorated state" and leaving behind a lot of construction debris that they apparently tried to plow into the soil, in the process exposing contaminated soil from previous industrial uses of the site. (Recent news coverage here.)

Now it looks like the park is going to be closed for most of 2020 while taxpayers pick up the tab for soil remediation.
posted by heatherlogan at 7:42 AM on December 24, 2019

Anything sold in excessive packaging, like things wrapped individually when they don't have to be.

Lucky rabbit's feet? That of course are dyed with toxic colors.

Carnival games/prizes could provide another direction if you wanted.
posted by mermaidcafe at 7:57 AM on December 24, 2019

Pottery glazed with uranium oxide.
posted by Duffington at 9:17 AM on December 24, 2019

Wild edibles illegally foraged from state or federal land. (As a bonus, make it something that's vulnerable to over-harvesting like ginseng.)
posted by toastedcheese at 10:53 AM on December 24, 2019

For a while after some CFCs had been banned for use as refrigerants because of their ozone layer destroying proclivities, it was still legal to sell them for other uses, such as sprays to cause cocktail glasses to develop a layer of frost (not kidding), that people would then use to recharge their old refrigerators. Ron Popeil sold a lot of these, and I saw quite a few at flea markets.

I've heard that 'rolling coal' kits have been sold at flea markets, but I don't know how credible that is.

Lots of dangerous old health fad stuff ends up at flea markets, such as an old Crookes tube based X-ray therapy device I saw once, and a five gallon water cooler crock called a "Revigator" which was lined with a thick layer of unglazed uranium oxide impregnated ceramic. I once saw someone at a flea market selling Krebiozen, which even at that time was a long discredited apricot kernel extract miracle cancer cure.
posted by jamjam at 11:36 AM on December 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Something that uses liquid mercury? It has lots of cool properties that made it widely used until they realized how toxic it was.
posted by metahawk at 12:00 PM on December 24, 2019

posted by angrycat at 1:23 PM on December 24, 2019

Lumps of coal as gag gifts - illegal to sell in some places, but local crafts fairs are rarely heavily regulated.

Endangered/protected shells - abalone is a big one that makes an appearance at craft fairs.

Antique lead toys, no longer legal for sale to children.

Knitted/sewn items made with hand-dyed yarn or fabric that contains toxins.

Items that give off fumes that are dangerous to birds.

Fabric items that unknowingly have bedbug eggs or other pests in them.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:31 PM on December 24, 2019

Venus fly traps poached illegally from the swamps of North Carolina (which is, I think, the only place they grow wild). I'm not 100% sure I've seen these in fairs, but probably.
posted by amtho at 2:51 PM on December 24, 2019

Not for sale, but part of the entertainment: fireworks. Lots of chemicals and metal particles suspended in the air, after the display.
posted by Rash at 4:31 PM on December 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jewelry made with "blood diamonds".
posted by SemiSalt at 4:40 PM on December 24, 2019

Stained glass is typically made with lead came and leaded solder, and production of colorful glass can be troublesome too. Fairs are usually full of stained glass suncatchers and such.

Jewelery sold at fairs is pretty likely to be made with solders containing lead or cadmium.

(All of these crafts can be made without heavy metals, but not all crafters care about this, and not all vendors make their own wares.)
posted by musicinmybrain at 9:10 AM on December 26, 2019

I can think of two things. I can imagine that during the Iraq war, service members picked up pieces of exploded shell casings as souvenirs. Many of those munitions were uranium tipped to make it easier for them to penetrate enemy armor. And I can imagine that at a small town carnival, some enterprising entrepreneur used them to make patriotic rings, keychains, necklaces, paperweights, etc.

Also, oil skinned coats. I own a duster, which I love. But they work in the fields because of the oil that is part of the fabric protects the fabric. So, that means I'm always breathing in hydrocarbons. I can imagine in rural towns, those are sold to the many people working their farms in cold, rainy weather.
posted by CollectiveMind at 12:53 PM on December 26, 2019

You ever see the pools of shit that collect around pork farms? Any food with pork in it is literally the product of millions of litres of liquid pig shit.

Plastic wrapping, plastic cups, plastic wristbands.

Glow sticks. Little tubes full of broken glass and burned out chemical reactions.

Imported candy full of shit you'd be fined for selling anywhere else.

Candy apples grown on contaminated land.

Homemade food of any type full of lysteria or salmonella.

Bottled water, taken from aquifiers and leaving plastic behind.
posted by Jilder at 3:46 AM on December 27, 2019

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