Millions of children's toys have been recalled for lead content, choking hazards, and other safety issues. Remember the recall fiasco in 2007 of Thomas & Friends trains and Barbie? But even with the Consumer Product Safety Commission in place, toys aren't being recalled for their environmental impact and devastation.
TROUBLING REALITY OF KIDS TOYS
- Action figures and dolls are often made from PVC, the worst of all plastics.
- Teddy bears are stuffed with either synthetic petroleum-based fills or pesticide-heavy cottons.
- Many toys, including stuffed animals, are sprayed with brominated fire retardants, which can turn up in breast milk.
- Wooden toys can be made with varnishes and paints that are high in air-polluting VOCs and lead, and the wood used to make them is often chopped from old-growth trees that provide habitat for wildlife.
- And the packaging often quadruples the size of the actual toxic, eco-villainous toy and ends up in landfills.
GREAT EARTH-CONSCIOUS TOY OPTIONS
Though earth-conscious toys aren't yet readily available in every corner store, there is a decent selection if you know where to look:
- Great Green Baby (www.greatgreenbaby.com) carries organic cotton stuffed animals, recycled plastic bath toys, organic cotton mobiles, organic wool stacking blocks, and much more.
- Baby Bunz & Co. (www.babybunz.com) carries a wide selection of natural toys ranging from sustainably harvested cherry wood rattles to 100 percent organic Egyptian cotton animals.
- Green Toys (www.greentoys.com) sells tea sets, sand toys, cookware, and dining sets made from bioplastic, a corn and starch resin. Their Green Toys Stacker, for example, is made from 100 percent recycled plastic milk containers with no BPA, PVC, phthalates, or external coatings.
- Peace Toys (www.peacetoys.com) has 100 percent organic, machine washable stuffed animals in eight varieties to choose from.
- NunoOrganic Inc. (www.nunoorganic.com) features organic cotton teddy bears, dolls, nontoxic crayons, and vegetable paint.
- Peapods (www.peapods.com) has natural alphabet blocks, wooden cameras, art easels, and games.
- Apple Park (www.applepark.com) products are naturally hypoallergenic, made with organic cotton, and free from harmful chemical dyes, synthetic pesticides, PVC, and carcinogenic materials.
- Rich Frog Industries (www.richfrog.com) carries a collection of rubber duckies made from safe and renewable natural rubber that will eventually biodegrade and painted with non-toxic paints.
- miYim Good Earth Dolls (www.miyim.com) are made from unbleached, unprocessed organic cotton and colored using plants and minerals in a soy water bath.
- EcoMall (www.ecomall.com) directs you to dozens of companies that sell toys and clothes for babies and toddlers made from organic cotton and untreated wood.
- Kenana Critter Knitters (www.kenanausa.com) offers unique fair-trade, vegetable-dyed, knit elephants, monkeys, tigers, and more.
- Eco-Artware (www.eco-artware.com) has piglets, penguins, ducklings, and elephants called sweater critters. They're made of old wool sweaters and stuffed with shredded secondhand polyester.
ECO-FRIENDLY TOY SHOPPING ADVICE
Look for all-natural stuffed animals made with organic fibers, wool batting, recycled sweaters, or even tofu (www.tofubear.com).
- Look for PVC- and phthalate-free plastics.
- Use beeswax instead of clays and colored doughs.
- Purchase from local toy manufacturers who can certify that they followed US environmental, health, and safety regulations during toy manufacture.
- Look for toys with minimal packaging.
- Look for wooden toys and games crafted from sustainably harvested woods like rubber, bamboo, and FSC-certified sources (especially American grown ones).
- Also look for wooden toys that are unfinished or finished with nontoxic, natural linseed or walnut oil, or beeswax.
- Visit local guild shops, craft stores, and galleries to find handcrafted toys made by artisans in your area. If you buy local, less fossil fuel is used in transport. Just make sure the artisans used sustainably sourced materials.