In the past week, I’ve been hit up by several people for wish lists for my kids. Nothing has changed since they were born, the list is simple: Educational (non-electronic) toys as long as they’re not tied to a trademarked character or gift cards to places I get them clothes (Gap, Gymboree, Target, etc). Every year, those wishes are ignored and I’m faced with returning or tossing toys manufactured in China or Mexico (great sources of lead which has finally been
sensationalized publicized this year), toys with Dora or Spiderman and gadgets that make too much noise. This year, I’ve decided to educate and assist friends and family with giving them links to stores and/or products that are educational, low-tech and evironmentally sound.
My first link given is always to Co-op America’s Green Toy idea list. The list has 10 gifts that ideal for small children. They’re pretty basic toys, but with big box toy stores, it’s easy to lose sight, when faced with wall to wall plastic, seeing kids of the same age screeching for certain items. Co-op America also has some tips on shopping green:
1. Buy Green and Fair Trade Toys. Search the National Green Pages™.
2. Find the Best Toys for Your Tots. By being mindful about the toys you choose, you’ll save money, keep toxins out of the playroom, and help workers around the world. Read more.
3. Buy Used Toys and Games. Check out your local consignment shop for gently used toys and games. As with any toy purchase, make sure to look for age appropriate items that do not pose choking hazards or other possible injuries.
4. Encourage Children to Play Outdoors and Use Their Imaginations. Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children ages 8-18 spend a little over 6 hours per day using electronic media including TV, music, computers, and video games. Work to ensure that your children spend time reading, playing outdoors, drawing, painting, making music, or engaging in some other form of self expression.
5. Educate Yourself and Others About Toys and Violence. The Lion and the Lamb Project works to stop the marketing of violence to children. Check out their web site for a list of toys to avoid.
All of that is a no-brainer for me, which is why I am so particular about what comes into my house. If the purpose of the toy is vanity, enforcing a trademarked character’s brand, or just simply making noise, it goes into the trash. Packaging is also a big thing for me. Some of the toys are so overpackaged nowadays that it’s a workout just to get them out of all that cardboard, plastic and those evil, indestructible twist ties. Most green toys, if they’re packaged at all are in simply recycled cardboard. I know of a few companies that even use recyclable plastic to package the toy, with a simple sticker made of recycled paper printed with vegetable inks. Can you get more green than that?
My second link is to the Lazy Environmentalist interviews. These interviews with Ted McGuire and Serah Chae give you tips on new toys and what to look for when buying. You can also check out Treehugger blog for tips on green toys and shopping.
I understand that time is short for everyone these days. Many of my friends and relatives work two jobs to make ends meet. Most of them refuse to purchase anything online and find it easier just to walk into Target or Toys R Us and buy whatever gender-reinforcing toy they run into. Which is why I also provide a list of links to stores that not only sell green toys, but may also generate a list of where you can buy those toys. And yes, you can find green toys in Target and Toys R Us, but it would be preferable if you bought locally. That means seeking out little storefront toy stores in your neighborhood. Maybe there is one next to a little cafe you’ve been dying to try or one across the street from your favorite shoe store.
Where you can buy green toys:
Green Baby: This company has everything for prenatal to postnatal women, babies and kids.
Northwest Nature Shop: Has cool science type toys that any inquisitive person would love. We like them because we like learning, the little girl thinks that everything in nature (except bugs) is just amazing.
Green Toy Co.: Has products listed by age, gender and by activity. The company also sells a nice variety of Fair Trade toys.
KidBean: A Co-op Approved site, sells vegan items for you and baby. They now offer a list of the items they sell that are USA made.
Under the Green Roof: Lots of too-cute-for-words wooden toys. All the animals shapes are adorable and everything is painted using non-toxic paints.
Miyim: Organic, high-end toys and such. I wouldn’t personally buy their items (being broke and all), but I do like to look at the site. They give you a store locator where you can purchase items locally.
Imaginarium: It’s a shame that Toys R Us closed all these stores. It was the only store in the mall that we could all enjoy. You can still by Imaginarium products at Toys R Us, but it’s not the same.
Ten Thousand Villages: A Fair Trade company that sells probably the coolest items ever, and has a section of toys that are just amazing. Everything here looks like artwork and collectibles. Incredible.
Under The Nile: Certified with the National Organic Program Standards and with Demeter, this store sells clothing and toys made with organic cotton.
Kip’s Toyland: I live in Los Angeles and it wouldn’t be fair for me to not mention this family favorite. Set on the north side of historic Farmers Market, the toy store was always a must visit for me and my husband before we had kids. Needless to say, it’s a family favorite.
There are many other stores, especially in the UK and Australia, so take a look around. When you’re out, check to see if there’s a little toy shop tucked away somewhere. Good luck with your shopping and remember to think ‘green’.