Friday, September 12, 2008

Toys, toys, toys

We're thinking a lot about toys lately, largely because we know we're about to receive an onslaught of them for Aaron's first birthday. The following article showed up in my Google Reader this morning, and it's one of the best I've read on non-toxic toy options. I hope it's informative for all you parents out there (and for those who are about to purchase birthday gifts ;-)
Jaque le Snail, as we call him, is one of Aaron's very favorite toys (made by Plan Toys); a gift from Grammy
As a parent your house is filled with them, you are constantly buying or receiving them as gifts and you are likely tripping over them on a daily basis. Toys are a huge part of you and your children’s lives, so it’s a great place to start thinking more green and benefit your families’ health as well as the health of the planet. Here are four quick questions you can ask yourself when considering bringing a toy into your home.

  1. What is it made of? Avoid plastic toys when possible, since they are made from non-renewable fossil fuels. If you are choosing plastic, make sure it is PVC-free. PVC can contain phthalates and heavy metals which are toxic, something you especially don’t want in toys that are going to end up in your child’s mouth. Consider choosing wood or fabric toys. Make sure wood toys are painted in non-toxic paint and preferably from wood that was sustainable harvested. One of my favorite toy companies is Plan Toys. They manufacture their toys in Thailand and have a genuine commitment to the environment. All their toys are made from organic discarded rubber wood trees. They use non-toxic glue, water-based dyes and soy- and water-based ink. Under the Nile is one company that manufactures fabric toys from organic cotton.

  2. Where did it travel from? Although 80-90% of toys in the US are imported from China, it has become much easier to find toys manufactured in the US due to the internet and the recent recalls of Made-in-China toys. Buying a toy made in the U.S. often means fewer carbon emissions, because the toy need not be brought over from a foreign country. (The relative costs of shipping versus the resource-intensive "last mile" of the trucking industry can make this a bit more complicated.) An guaranteed-to-be-greener option is to purchase secondhand toys from consignment stores, garage sales or websites like craigslist or eBay. Giving toys a second life keeps them out of the landfill and your child will have a new toy without any resources used.

  3. How durable is it? Many people hesitate to buy wood toys because of the price tag. Instead of buying many cheap toys, I opt for buying fewer toys, but spending the extra money to buy well-made toys. In the end I find that it is worth it to spend the extra money to buy a toy that will last through multiple children, maybe even multiple generations, instead of landing in the trash after a month’s worth of play.

  4. Does it require batteries? Avoiding toys that need batteries takes away your need to buy and dispose of batteries, which are toxic and need to be disposed of properly. It also takes away the worry that your child might end up handling the batteries.

As you take steps to green your children’s toys, use the opportunity to teach your child about issues about the environment and how even their choice of toys can make a difference for the planet.

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