We have all heard about “green” and ecological toys and care about a sustainable future, but do we actually pay attention when shopping for toys? Did you know that 90% of the world’s toys that are produced are made of plastic? The cheap plastic toys that we see everywhere have long been a huge contributor to the landfills across the globe. It was probably even a part of our own childhood.
For decades, there has been a throwaway nature with many toys. While plastic has been cheap and easy to manufacture, it can easily break, parts can stop working. Parents, carers and teachers will often find themselves tossing away plastic toys after a short while, to be replaced with something new, shiny and probably made of more plastic.
And with 90% of toys in production fitting this model, that is a scary statistic when we think about the impact of all that waste on the globe. Surely a strong case to support the shift over to more thoughtful, ecological toys?
Making a change
Encouragingly, we are currently seeing a change in consumer behaviour. A mind-shift towards a greater awareness of our environment and the importance of buying responsibly.
People are becoming more conscious of what they buy, the origins of the raw materials used and the environmental impact of a product.
We know that we need to buy less. That the products we purchase need to be long-lasting and be produced using safe, natural, ethically sourced materials that do not harm our environment.
They only represent carefully selected high-quality, ethical, sustainable and certified brands mainly from Europe and the United States producing toys designed to last for generations.
As Teia Education & Play’s founder Sylvia Zihna explains:
“When conveying our values at Teia Education & Play, I quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’ This way of thinking is very dear to me coming from The Netherlands, one of the first countries at risk to flood if sea levels keep on rising at this pace. We champion green companies who are creating beautiful, sustainable products that are safe for our children, using methods that are kind to our planet, and are also durable and long-lasting, meaning less waste and pollution.”
Ethical, ecological toy brands
Sylvia’s careful research means that parents and educators can be sure that the brands Teia Education & Play represents put people and the planet before profits, and this is what we really love. The brands chosen meet the high standards we look for – they use materials that are natural and safe, especially for babies who love to put everything in their mouths. They avoid hazardous chemicals and toxins.
Made in either Europe, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea or the USA, the wooden toys, ecological toys and toxin-free art supplies all use sustainable, renewable materials such as wood from European forests protected by EU law (which states more trees must be harvested than cut down and annual harvests are limited) and eco-friendly production methods that protect the environment.
Here are just a few examples of some of the ways Teia Education & Play’s brands are working hard for a more sustainable future – you can read more about all our brands’ ethos here:
- Nanchen’s Waldorf dolls are all handmade in Germany. Only materials from controlled organic cultivation and controlled organic farming for Nanchen Natur products. They also cut their fabric sustainably, creating almost zero waste.
- Since 1953 Norwegian brand Larsen produces high-quality tray-style jigsaw puzzles made from recycled cardboard. The puzzles have extra-thick pieces that do not easily break and are still produced in the Larsen family-owned factory in Flekkefjord, an idyllic town in southern Norway.
- Latvian brand Flockmen creates natural unfinished wooden toys that are made entirely by hand locally from sustainable Baltic wood, investing in the local community instead of opting for cheaper outsourcing. All materials used to craft the toys and sticker sets are responsibly and locally sourced, sustainable and chemical-free.
- Natural Earth Paint is 100% non-toxic, made from just earth, mineral pigments, gum arabic and corn starch and the US brand’s eco-friendly credentials include Gold certification from Green America. Their production facility is 100% solar-powered and the brand uses only locally made, 100% post-consumer recycled packaging, biodegradable plastic bags and recyclable glass bottles.
- For children who love nature, and also want to protect it, the brand 5 Little Bears has a plethora of brilliant wooden toys and ecological toys that celebrate the natural world. With sustainably sourced materials, it’s a great conversation starter with young people about the importance of choosing items and brands that care about their world.
- English company Le Toy Van produces ethically made toys from sustainable materials such as rubberwood – a by-product of rubber production that would otherwise be burned and contribute to greenhouse gases. The toys are finished with safe, water-based paint and all energy at their London HQ has been switched to 100% renewable sources.
- All Grapat’s wooden toys are hand-crafted in various workshops in Catalunya, Spain, following traditional processes, with wood derived from sustainable forests and painted by hand with water-based, vegetable-derived dyes and waxes. In 2019 they completely eliminated plastic from their packaging. They even repair and remake rather than discard any of their cloth toy bags.
- Dutch brand Droomdeurtjes’ dream doors are CE certified and are produced within the European Union with the utmost care, using traditional methods. Every door and letterbox is handmade and finished with non-toxic water-based paint and/or biodegradable glitter.
- Grimm’s are an extremely popular brand, with their Grimm’s Rainbows regularly appearing across the web. However, not only are their wooden toys extremely durable and have a multitude of play possibilities, but the materials they use come from European sustainable forests and are coloured with stains that are non-toxic and water-based, ensuring that there is no water pollution from their manufacturing process.
- Swedish Waldorf toy brand Debresk provide toys made from living materials to promote the child’s relationship with the living world, and to cultivate an appreciation of beauty and the importance of caring for nature and the things around us. Their handmade toys are made from locally sourced pine and birch wood and coated only in linseed oil to let the natural beauty of the wood shine through.
By making small changes in our purchasing decisions, particularly when it comes to toys, selecting good quality ecological toys and wooden toys is a really positive step. Not only do they provide just as much, and arguably more, fun than their plastic counterparts, by selecting sustainable toys they can be passed on to other children and become well-loved heirlooms.
In addition, by choosing ecological toys, games and materials for our children, we lead by example. Teaching the generations that come after us that buying well is a sensible decision not just for play, but for the long-term benefits of our globe.
If every child in Switzerland, aged between 0 and 14, was given one wooden toy instead of a plastic one that would be over 1,000,000 fewer plastic toys! If you apply this same logic to all the other countries in Europe, the US and the rest of the world, those numbers really start to add up. This then amounts to a marked difference in plastic waste but also a strong signal to the toy manufacturers of the world!
Sarah Varley is a freelance writer and mother of two from England. Sarah embraced the Montessori method for her children’s early education and is a huge fan of open-ended play with beautiful toys that last for generations. As a former Librarian, there will always be a special place in her heart for books, sorting and organising! Find out more at Letterpress Content.