Parents Guide to Buying Sustainable Toys
Toys play an important role in child development and learning. They help children in many ways, from inspiring creativity and imagination to fostering social skills and cognitive development.
For a long time, most toys have been made from plastic, but as we now know, this material has a detrimental effect on the environment, from its manufacture to its disposal. Another problem is the throwaway culture that has been adopted in recent decades affecting various consumer goods, with toys being no exception.
However, today as a society, we are becoming more aware of how damaging that culture is and also how the manufacturing process of toys can be improved to make it more environmentally friendly. The result is that the demand for sustainable toys is bigger than ever with a growing range of products to choose from.
So let’s take a look at what makes a sustainable toy and how to go about choosing one.
The Materials Used
Recycled plastic: Some manufacturers use recycled plastic to create new toys, diverting plastic waste that would otherwise go to landfills, and in turn, reducing the demand for new plastic production.
Wood: Wooden toys are a classic example of sustainability. They are often made from renewable sources such as bamboo or sustainably harvested wood.
The packaging: Many toy manufacturers have shifted towards more minimalist packaging. These compact designs not only save on materials but also lower shipping costs and reduce the overall carbon footprint. Packaging is now more often made from recycled materials, such as cardboard and paper as opposed to plastic, and toy manufacturers are more conscious of prioritising packaging that is easily recyclable, encouraging consumers to dispose of it responsibly.
Biodegradable materials: Some sustainable toys are designed to decompose naturally when disposed of, reducing their long-term impact on the environment. Manufacturers of sustainable soft toys for example will use organic cotton or other natural fibres that are free from harmful chemicals. Organic cotton is also grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified seeds, reducing the pollution of soil and water.
Vegetable inks and water-based paints: Vegetable inks and water-based paints are more environmentally friendly than their oil-based counterparts. They are made using sustainable raw materials, require less energy to produce, release less pollution than standard inks and paints, and are very easy to remove from packaging during the recycling process.
The Production Process
The manufacturing process: The processes used by sustainable toy makers play a significant role in reducing their environmental footprint. They will often use renewable energy sources like solar or wind power to reduce their carbon footprint, and energy-efficient equipment during the production process.
Waste reduction: This is a key element of eco-friendly manufacturing, with sustainable toy companies reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills by reusing, and recycling materials used in the manufacturing process.
Looking after their workers: Sustainable toy manufacturers will avoid the use of chemicals or materials that can be harmful to the environment or pose a health risk to their staff, and will ensure fair wages, safe working conditions, and rights for their workers.
How to Choose Sustainable Toys
Here are the questions to consider when deciding how sustainable a toy is; (reputable toy companies will provide the information you need to make an informed choice about their products on their packaging and website).
Is the product made from recycled materials? Toys that use recycled materials, such as recycled plastic, help reduce the demand for new materials and divert waste away from landfills.
Is the packaging made from recycled materials? Minimal and eco-friendly packaging is also important to consider. Excessive packaging not only contributes to waste but also increases the carbon footprint due to transportation.
Can you recycle the product and the packaging? Some toys are designed to be disassembled and recycled at the end of their life, reducing waste. Also consider if the packaging the toy comes in can be easily recycled.
What certifications does the toy have? Certifications prove to consumers that a toy manufacturer is dedicated to using sustainable materials. For example, if a product is 100% FSC certified it means that all wood, paper or wood-based materials used to make it are from forests that meet strict standards for protecting the environment.
Does the manufacturer provide spare or replacement parts for their products? For many toys, especially ones that have moving parts or mechanisms inside, some manufacturers offer spare or replacement parts if a toy needs repairing, which avoids them being discarded unnecessarily.
Where was the product manufactured? Buying toys that are made near to home reduces the environmental impact associated with transportation, such as carbon emissions from long-distance shipping.
Let’s not forget that longevity is something to consider when deciding on a toy. If a toy is made of plastic, its negative environmental impact is decreased if it is something that can be passed on when a child has outgrown it, or even kept and passed down to future generations.
Before passing on a toy, check that it isn’t broken, has no sharp edges or parts that have come loose. Check that the seams of soft toys are still intact and that parts like eyes or buttons are still securely attached. If the toy needs batteries, be sure to remove them before storing them for long periods as they can leak.
Also, if the toy is quite old, bear in mind that safety requirements have changed a lot in recent years, so some toys may not be considered safe by today’s standards.
Good Play Guide Eco Credentials
Here at the Good Play Guide, we have just launched an ‘Eco Credentials’ category for our toy accreditations. This will help you to make informed decisions regarding sustainability when choosing toys for your child. Here is a selection of sustainable toys that we have ccredited and feature on our website…