Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Safegreentoys.org: Co-op America Highlights 10 Safe, Green Toys for 2007 Holiday Season

Amidst Massive Recalls of Unsafe Toys From China Marred by Lead and Other Toxins, Coop America Highlights Toys Where Components and Labor Are Well Disclosed and Monitored.

November 19, 2007

Washington, DC -- With hundreds of thousands of toys made in China that have been recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for lead paint dangers, what is a concerned parent or grandparent to do when it comes to buying for children during the 2007 holiday season?

Consumers can find the safest toys this season at Co-op America’s www.SafeGreenToys.org, a special section of the Co-op America Web site.  The toys featured at www.SafeGreenToys.org range from stuffed animals to a solar-powered house to board games made from largely recycled materials. All the toys are completely non-toxic and are manufactured with the highest labor standards.  Many are sourced from the US or from fair trade cooperatives worldwide that provide artisans with a living wage and help to build thriving communities in developing countries.

The Web page features toys made by 10 members of Co-op America’s Green Business Network, the largest network of socially and environmentally responsible businesses. All of the toy-producing firms and their products have been screened for their environmental, workplace, community relations, and product safety practices to help consumers find the safest and most responsible products for their families, including great toys for infants and toddlers. 

Denise Hamler, director, Co-op America Green Business Network, said:  “It’s been a tough year for the biggest U.S. toy manufacturers, with popular, high-profile toys like Barbie accessories from Mattel, Sesame Street dolls from Fisher-Price, and Thomas the Tank Engine being recalled due to the dangers of lead paint used by their Chinese manufacturers.  The problem isn’t limited to just a handful of companies.   As the race to the bottom continues to shift more of the supply chain overseas, with very little supervision from parent companies, consumers need to be aware of the hazards to people and the planet posed by loose manufacturing standards.  Co-op America wants concerned consumers to know that there are safe, green alternatives when it comes to toys.”

The 10 toys and toymakers featured at www.SafeGreenToys.org are the following:

  1. Solar-powered house – Made in the USA for GAIAM, a portion of the purchase price of this solar house goes toward sending inner-city kids to the annual Earth Day for Kids hands-on education program at the Solar Living Institute.  The child in your life can learn about renewable energy by building a model house complete with PV solar panels, wind turbine, greenhouse.  Product line includes a fuel-cell racecar, and solar-rechargeable batteries.
  2. Fair Trade sports balls – Fair Trade sports balls have been certified by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization since 2002, the first time a non-agricultural commodity received Fair Trade certification.  Since then, four producers in Pakistan and one in Thailand have achieved certification, ensuring that no child labor is involved in their production and that workers receive a living wage in a healthy work environment.  In addition, FairTradeSports.com donates all of its after-tax profits to children’s charities.  Line of products includes footballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, and basketballs.
  3. Wooden trains (plus tracks and accessories) – You don’t have to depend on Thomas the Tank Engine (with the risk of lead poisoning) to purchase wooden trains and accessories for a child in your life this holiday season.  Our Green Business Network member Maple Landmark has been making wooden toys for children from a workshop in Vermont for nearly 25 years.   Because you’re dealing directly with a manufacturer, products can be personalized with a child’s nameLine of products includes train whistles, building blocks, wooden games, and jigsaw puzzles.
  4. Wooden walking toys on strings – For toddlers, North Star Toys offers “let’s go walking” toys on strings, so the child in your life can pull their wooden puppy or duck wherever they go.  Not only are North Star Toys made in the USA (in New Mexico), but they’re crafted from 100-percent sustainably harvested wood and finished with nontoxic food-grade mineral oil.  Woods scraps are donated to schools for art projects, North Star uses only recycled paper in its operations, and its building in New Mexico runs on 100-percent renewable energy.
  5. Lavender-filled stuffed animals – Filled with lavender blossoms, these made-in-the-USA stuffed animals (bears, frogs, and rabbits) from Kate’s Caring Gifts give off a gentle floral fragrance when squeezed.  The lavender is grown among olive trees and grapevines on a small family farm in California.  This line of products includes puzzles, games, books, and a make-your-own-chewing-gum kit.
  6. Lamb (or bunny) towel doll – Not all of  Peapod’s line of toys is made in USA, but shoppers can sort for country of origin on Peapod’s Web site and select accordingly.  For example, Peopod offers these organic cotton towel dolls (good for teething children) that were made by hand in Germany.  Peapod’s Web site also features a blog that follows safe toy issues.  This line of products includes doll houses, mobiles, toddler trikes, jump ropes, and much more.
  7. Blue Rainforest Monkeys – These blue monkeys were made by hand – in Sri Lanka.  They come to the United States through the Global Exchange online store, which is a member of the Fair Trade Federation.  Fair trade Federation members pledge to provide fair and healthy working environments and ensure environmental sustainability at the beginning of the supply chain.  In this case, that means partnering with Sri Lankan producers who use 100-percent hand-woven, natural fabric dyed using environmentally safe pigments .  This ecotoy line is part of a cooperative endeavor with a community in Sri Lanka that provides both an artistic outlet and gainful employment for artisans.  Line of products includes stuffed animals, teddy bears, finger puppets, and board games.
  8. “Family Pastimes” board games –  Board games from the “Family Pastimes” line are made in the USA and Canada of largely recycled components, from the game board itself to the cardboard box in which it is packed.  Dice and pawns are made from plastic in the USA, while final assembly of the games takes place in Canada.  Wooden markers are finished with water-based colors, all glues are water-based, all inks are soy, and all colorings are lead-free.  KidBean.com offers these, along with wooden made-in-the-USA toys, and organic cotton toysLine of products includes dozens of different board games for all ages.
  9. Bamboo xylophone  – Fair Trade importer Ten Thousand Villages offers musical instruments that appeal to the creative impulses in the children in your life.  Purchasing their bamboo xylophone helps preserve the Javanese musical tradition, and benefits the local community where the instrument was created.  The Ten Thousand Villages Web site includes a profile of Pekerti Nusantara, the artisan group behind the instrument, explaining local musical tradition, and how the item was made.  Product line includes pan flutes, cymbals, drums, rattles, and chimes.
  10. Doll clothes – The owner of Terra Experience follows the Fair Trade Federation model, by keeping close ties with her producer partners in Guatemala.  She partners with Mayan weavers to offer high-quality traditional outfits that fit 18” and other sized dolls.  Terra Experience commits to paying a living wage, supporting environmental protection projects within the producer community, and has ongoing relationships with producer partners.  The Terra Experience Web site includes a full breakdown of payments and benefits to the producer group so shoppers can follow where their dollars are going.  Line of products includes hand-woven doll outfits; doll accessories like hats, bags, aprons, and jewelry; and children’s books about the Mayan culture.  

For direct link to the toymakers featured above, please go to www.SafeGreenToys.org on the Web.

ABOUT CO-OP AMERICA
Co-op America is a non-profit membership organization founded in 1982 with the mission to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—and to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

CONTACTS:   Todd Larsen, (202) 872-5310 or todd@greenamerica.org; and Ailis Aaron Wolf, (703) 276-3265 or aaaron@hastingsgroup.com.

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