Anybody who regularly buys presents for children knows how much choice there is at the ‘cheap ‘n’ nasty’ end of the market. Toys, games, the endless (and pointless) items that fall out of party bags… a huge majority of them are mass-produced and ethically dubious, not to mention made from materials, like plastic, that aren’t doing the planet or its inhabitants any good at all.
To keep your kids away from poisonous playrooms, here’s our guide to choosing toys that care for the Earth.
Why buy eco-friendly?
As we know, the world is staggering under the weight of the plastic waste that’s out there already, with marine life and animals suffering particularly, so we should always be looking for ways to reduce our usage of it.
By choosing toys made from environmentally-conscious materials you’ll be making a positive impact on the Earth, rather than a negative one. You’ll be helping to support the companies who are passionate about reducing the toxicity levels in your home, as well as safeguarding the health of all who play with them.
Children’s internal systems aren’t developed enough to detoxify harmful chemicals that get inside their bodies, which can then cause major interference with hormones and the proper functioning of organs. It’s a horrifying thought, especially when you consider how often babies, toddlers and even older children put their toys in their mouths.
Saying no to plastic playthings is one way of preventing those toxins from hurting your little ones. And it doesn’t mean limiting your toy options as there are some great eco-friendly alternatives out there that your child will love just as much!
What makes a toy green?
What’s it made out of?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) ‘is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests’. By picking toys from retailers who only use wood certified by the FSC or other, similar, forestry commissions, then you know it is coming from a renewable forest that is conscientiously maintained. Wood is also reusable, and recycling it takes much less energy than many other substances.
Rubberwood comes from tropical Asian plantations. They are trees that have primarily been grown for their sap, which is turned into latex. When the tree reaches about thirty years old it stops producing a viable amount of sap. It would previously have been chopped down or burnt to make way for the planting of new trees. Rubberwood is now being re-employed to make toys, furniture, flooring and many other green products.
When it comes to soft toys, pick those made from organic cotton. It’s created without the use of dangerous pesticides or insecticides, uses far less water to grow and helps keep the soil fertile too.
And there are several companies who sell thoughtfully-designed toys made from recycled plastic (and in some cases milk cartons!), without the nasty bisphenol A (BPA), PVC or phthalates included. Recycling plastic also has a far smaller carbon footprint than manufacturing from new.
Where has it come from?
To be as eco-friendly as possible you should buy from as close to home as you can. A toy that’s been mass-produced in China is going to clock up a large amount of greenhouse gases when you take into account the factory processes that manufactured it and the vehicles necessary to get it here.
Buying from local shops, fairs and craftspeople means the toys haven’t had to travel far and you’re helping support your community.
How eco is the business?
Check the company’s green credentials: what’s their commitment to eco- manufacturing and waste disposal?
What sort of eco-friendly toys are there?
There is a wide range of toys available to the eco-conscious buyer with options for all children, no matter what they like to play with. Here are some suggestions:
One of our favourites, plush figure creator Keel Toys is making great strides towards producing environmentally-friendly toys. Their new, soon-to-be-launched keeleco range features soft toys made from 100% recycled plastic fabrics (16 recycled water bottles are turned into a 30cm toy), recycled glass beans and a recycled sew-in label.
They have rejected traditional plastic eyes for embroidered ones, and have even swapped their recognisable red plastic ear disc for one made from FSC cardboard.
You can also find companies that make dolls, animals and other figures from organic, hand-loomed cotton and environmentally-friendly dyes, which are perfect for role-playing games.
If your child is curious as to how things work, they will love the variety of ‘build-it-yourself’ solar power kits available: vehicles, robots, clocks and many more sets they can put together themselves, and not a battery in sight!
As mentioned above, look for wooden toys made from sustainable sources and, if they come in different colours, only water or vegetable-based dyes should have been used.
There are toys for all ages in this category, including stacking blocks and chunky jigsaws for babies and toddlers, and vehicles, croquet sets and farm models for older children.
There are now several companies who make clever and entertaining board games made entirely from recycled materials, swapping all the plastic parts for ones made from cardboard. Some have even stopped including instructions in a bid to save paper: they can be accessed online instead.
Another great way to stay eco-friendly is to take advantage of toy libraries, second-hand fairs, jumble sales and charity shops. There are plenty of places where you can buy or borrow pre-loved toys and it’s win-win: your children get to try out lots of new toys without you having to spend a fortune, and the toys get another lease of life!
Who has given their child a present for their birthday or Christmas only to find them playing with the box it came in? Children are great at conjuring huge games out of very little, so you will have lots of eco-friendly toys around your house and garden already!
Cardboard boxes can be cut up and decorated to become just about anything: cars, castles or a dragon’s lair. Cushions and blankets make fantastic dens, caves or hide-outs. Even sticks, stones and leaves can be transformed into the perfect props for pretend play. …there are no limits to where their imaginations will take them!
At Great Little Rewards we want to help stem the flow of planet-harming toys by offering a huge range of fab-value pocket-money toys, rewards, stationery and collectibles that come from high-quality, ethical producers.