The December edition of OC Family magazine includes this ultimate holiday toy guide. It’s a great-looking spread, and check out the sidebar, “As Green as it Gets”.
I am excited that green toys are so prominently featured in the holiday guide, and also that I was able to help create the list!
I looked at a number of green toys before I submitted my final selections. I want to share some of the criteria I looked for when selecting the toys, and hopefully inspire you to do the same as you head out for any remaining holiday shopping. (Which if you are a procrastinator like me, is most of it.)
When evaluating the “greenness” of a toy (or really any item for that matter), here are some things to look for:
Is it made from sustainable material? By sustainable I mean reused or recycled material, or material that replenishes quickly, or grows easily without chemicals and pesticides (like bamboo).
In this feature, the Green Toys brand, made from 100% recycled plastic, is a perfect example of use of sustainable material.
Is it safe, non-toxic, natural, organic? Unfortunately, many kids’ toys contain PVC and other potentially toxic material. No, I am not trying to scare you by saying that if you are buying those you are poisoning your children. But with the safety of many materials in question, and alternatives available, why bring unnecessary toxins into your home?
For example, the eco-dough from Eco-Kids in this feature, is handmade with natural and organic fruit, plant and vegetable extracts. This is the exact kind of item that kids end up putting in their mouths. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing it’s all natural and organic?
Where is it manufactured? Of course local creations are preferred, but I’m not part of the I-won’t-buy-anything-made-in-China crowd. Items can be manufactured responsibly or irresponsibly anywhere. And trying to find toys not made out of the country is a difficult thing.
For example, PlanToys (actually manufactured in Thailand), creates composite wood from sawdust and organic pigments to make everything from train sets to this classic alligator pull-along toy.
How is it manufactured? How does the company treat workers, communities and the environment? One easy way to assess this is to look for fair-trade items. When an item is Fair Trade Certified, it ensures that those manufacturing the products are paid a “living wage” for their work. Also, fair trade gives back to the local communities in which the product is manufactured.
One item that didn’t make the list this year is the Senda Athletics Fair Trade Soccer Ball. Senda ensures that all workers in the supply chain – from factory workers and stitchers – receive at least the national minimum wage; that there is no child labor; and that the health and safety of workers is safeguarded. They also pay a Fair Trade Premium – for community and economic development projects. Improve lives and protect the planet with the purchase of a soccer ball - I mean come on, it’s hard to say no to that.
How is it packaged? Is the packaging minimal, recyclable?
I really like the Green Toys packaging, made from recycled corrugated boxes with no plastics, cellophane or twist-ties. The packaging is also 100% recyclable. And just imagine – no removing 100 annoying twist ties on Christmas day!
Is it well-made? There are few things I dislike more than cheap plastic items that break within the first few times playing with them. It’s wasteful in terms of money and resources (no matter how great of a sale you scored) and ends up forever in a landfill.
Every toy on this list is a high-quality, well-made, durable item. Some (like the plastic tea set) are even recyclable at the end of their life-cycle.
Is it reasonable priced? Green is not synonymous with expensive.
For example, the adorable alligator in this feature is $19.99, about the going rate of most pull-along toys. It doesn’t have to cost more because it’s green.
Finally, is it fun and will kids play with it? If your kids aren’t going to use it, it’s wasteful no matter how it’s manufactured.
I love the Anamalz toys in this feature. They are adorable, durable, and would make great toys for girls or boys. My kids always loved playing with little people or animal toys. I can picture them spending hours making up games with these little creatures. Also, these toys are made from sustainable maple wood, and the scraps from production are used on a mushroom farm. I mean, seriously, how cool is that?
Green is based upon many factors, some of which are certainly subjective. While it’s not an exact science, considering any of the above criteria in your purchases makes a difference. I truly believe that the items we purchase matter. In fact, I think it’s one of the few measurable differences we can make on a daily basis.
This holiday season, consider purchasing one or two items that are made locally, or sustainably, or are fair-trade, or even all of the above. I’m not suggesting that you only purchase green toys, or that toys have to meet all of these criteria. By even considering one of the above (like purchasing items with reduced packaging), you can make a difference.
From source material, to manufacturing, to disposal, these toys have a story to tell. Something you can’t say about most items on the store shelves.
Above all, the greenest thing you can do is not to over-buy for your kids. A few high-quality items are better than lots of little things. Your pocket book, the landfill, and someday, even your kids will thank you for it.
To check out the entire OC Family December edition, click here or pick up a copy at many locations throughout Orange County.