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Ten Green Toys for 2008
2007 was a tough year for toy manufacturers, with popular, high-profile toys like Barbie accessories from Mattel, Sesame Street dolls from Fisher-Price, and Thomas the Tank Engine 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 should beware the hazards to people and the planet posed by loose manufacturing standards. Just in the month of November alone, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced recalls of literally thousands of Chinese-made toys due to lead paint dangers, including:
- Curious George plush dolls from Marvel Toys
- toy jewelry from Tween Brands, Inc.
- wagons from Northern Tool and Equipment Co.
- toy racecars from International Sourcing, Ltd.
- children’s sunglasses and toy action cars from Dollar General, and
- wind-up duck toys, toy robots, and spinning tops from Schylling Associates
This is where Green America’s National Green Pages™ comes in. The member businesses of our Green Business Network (listed in the Green Pages) are screened for their commitment to people and the planet to help you find the safest and most responsible products for your family.
Below, our editors make purchasing suggestions that will leave you feeling secure about the impact your dollars are having on your loved ones, the environment, and workers in the supply chain. Remember to check the Green Pages™ for all of your gift-giving needs all year long.
1. Wooden trains – You don’t have to depend on Thomas the Tank Engine 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 30 years. Because you’re dealing directly with a manufacturer, products can be personalized with a child’s name. Line of products includes train whistles, building blocks, wooden games, and jigsaw puzzles.
2. Wooden Pull Toys – For toddlers, North Star Toys offers “let’s go walking” pull toys, so the child in your life can pull their wooden puppy or duck wherever they go. Made in the USA (in New Mexico), the toys are crafted from sustainably harvested wood and finished with nontoxic food-grade mineral oil. Woods scraps are donated to schools for art projects, only recycled paper is used in operations, and their workshop runs on 100-percent renewable energy. Line of products includes toys for wee ones, little rollies, big rollies, and classic wooden toys.
3. 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 Line of products includes puzzles, games, books, and a make-your-own-chewing-gum kit.
4. 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. Line of products includes doll houses, mobiles, toddler trikes, jump ropes, and much more.
5. Blue Rainforest Monkeys – These blue monkeys were also 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.
6. 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 dolls; hand-woven doll outfits; doll accessories like hats, bags, aprons, and jewelry; and children’s books about the Mayan culture.
7. 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, our Green Business Network member FairTradeSports.com donates all of its after-tax profits to children’s charities. Line of products includes footballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, and basketballs.
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 toys. Line 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. Solar-powered house – Made in the USA for GAIAM, a portion of the purchase prince 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, and greenhouse. Product line includes a fuel-cell racecar, and solar-rechargeable batteries.