As more and more consumers are becoming environmentally conscious, simple solutions for adopting a green lifestyle have become readily available. While you once had to seek out eco-friendly products in specialty stores, you can now find them nearly everywhere for all needs, from home appliances, to cleaning products, to clothing, to modes of transportation. Toy makers are even starting to offer eco-friendly toys and games, making now the perfect time to introduce your kids to the idea of going green.
There are many benefits, for both children and the environment, to buying eco-friendly toys. Young children have a tendency to put everything they come in contact with into their mouths, but with eco-friendly toys you don't have to worry about them encountering harmful materials since all green toys are non-toxic. These toys are also often made with age-appropriate classifications in mind, so they're made to withstand the hard play habits of toddlers and the curious disassembly phase that many older children go through.
Eco-friendly toys are usually made out of recyclable and/or biodegradable materials, so if a child outgrows them or they should break beyond the point of repair, disposing of them won't harm the environment.
While it would be easy for any manufacturer to put a "green" label on its products, there are certain questions to consider when shopping for eco-friendly toys:
Are both the toy and its packaging made from recycled/recyclable and/or biodegradable materials?
Where is it made? Part of what makes a toy eco-friendly is it being manufactured by energy-efficient operations. The farther a product has to travel to make it to your local store, the bigger a carbon footprint it's leaving, so truly eco-friendly toys are made locally.
How sturdy is the toy? Well-made toys will last longer and can be handed down to other children once the original owner has outgrown them. Toys that can stand the test of time are naturally eco-friendly as they don't wind up in the garbage after one extremely rough play session.
There are several toy manufacturers that focus exclusively on making eco-friendly toys. Green Toys Inc., located in California, makes it their mission to create safe, fun toys made from recycled materials that are manufactured in a socially responsible way. Recycled plastic milk jugs are the main ingredient in all of their products, and all of the production occurs locally in California, from the collecting of raw materials to the final packaging (which is 100% recyclable corrugated boxes). All of their toys--like building blocks, play dining sets, and toy vehicles--also go through safety testing in nationally-recognized, USA-based labs, where they must pass a series of tests before being sold.
Sprig Toys Inc. in Colorado is another great source for eco-friendly toys. All of their toy series are primarily made of recycled wood and plastic, and focus on being kid-powered, rather than running on batteries that will ultimately wind up in landfills. Having distributors in both North America and Europe, Sprig Toys has manufacturing operations set up on both continents in order to minimize the amount of traveling their products have to do.
Also based in Colorado is ImagiPLAY, whose motto is "Toys with Integrity." Offering a wide selection of toys--including wooden puzzles, fabric dolls, and themed building block sets--everything ImagiPLAY produces is made of eco-friendly materials, a favorite being the wood from rubber trees that can no longer be harvested for the sap used in making latex. They even set up their factories in areas close to where the raw materials come from and aim to hire locally-based laborers, who they encourage to walk or bike to work.
As more parents are becoming eco-savvy, more eco-friendly toy makers are creating products from locally sourced, recyclable materials. There may even be some setting up shop in your neighborhood, or at the local farmer's market or craft fair. Introducing kids to well-made, environmentally-conscious toys is a fun and smart way to start creating a new generation of green-minded individuals.