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While we all want to spoil our kids during the holidays, the truth is many toys leave a negative impact on the environment and few are sustainably made. When you consider that the toy industry uses 40 tons of plastic for every $1 million in revenues, that’s a lot of plastic—and much of it ends up in landfills or in our oceans.
The next time you are hunting for a gift, consider seeking out a brand that makes sustainable and earth-friendly choices when manufacturing their toys. Here are some of our favorite eco-conscious toy companies that use recycled and sustainably-sourced products.
1. Green Toys
Green Toys turns plastic toy karma on its head by taking the plastic out of landfills and turning it into toys. Every piece is made from 100% post-consumer waste (or, to put it plainly, old milk jugs). At last count, Green Toys diverted over 105,000,000 milk jugs from landfills nationwide and transformed them into sturdy, colorful toys that are just as at home in the playroom as they in the bath or on the beach.
But their sustainability doesn’t stop with the milk jugs. Every toy piece is 100% American-made, which improves quality control and reduces their carbon footprint when it comes to distribution.
2. Plan Toys
Plan Toys has been going green since before it was a cool catch-phrase. From colorful, wood-based musical instruments to pull-toys to puzzles, Plan Toys creates heirloom-quality toys that are sustainably made from ethically sourced rubberwood, boasting that they have never cut down a single tree for toy production.
Plan Toys also uses organic pigments, water-based dyes, and non-formaldehyde glue, so every tea set or toy drum is made not only with the safest standards for the environment, but for your kiddo too.
3. Land of Dough
You’re going to want to steal this dough from your kids. Made by the same company that’s famous for Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, Land of Dough claims to have created “the most eco-friendly dough on the planet,” by using plant-based colors, ethically sourced ingredients, and compostable glitter.
Each pot comes with a wood play toy that was created using sustainable forestry practices and the manufacturing of the dough is designed leave as small of a carbon footprint as possible—from using wind powered facilities to reclaimed landfill gas as a heat source. Not only that, but the dough starts out in pretty patterns that then meld and knead into vibrant colors, making for a super-satisfying, multi-sensory play experience.
4. Wild Republic
With their commitment to wildlife education, Wild Republic has long had a reputation for teaching kids to be stewards of the environment. Now, with their new line of sustainable toys, dubbed EcoKins, they’ve created a line that makes a promise to the planet to reduce post-consumer waste.
EcoKins are astonishingly snuggly for being made entirely from old water bottles—you won't believe it when you nuzzle your face in each of these adorable stuffed animals that were ever anything before but a cuddly toy. Each tag tells you exactly how many old water bottles found their second life as the fabric, fill, and stitching of your new plush toy. Wild Republic has committed to making this new line sustainable from bottom to top—even the hang tag, chord, and shipping bag are sustainably produced.
5. Tender Leaf
Tender Leaf crafts gorgeous wooden toys, games, and puzzles that constantly rack up toy design awards—so you can admire these toys for their craftsmanship and their sustainability practices.
Each Tender Leaf toy is is made from of sustainably sourced rubberwood trees. Once these trees can no longer be extracted to produce latex, they are typically cut down and incinerated. Tender Leaf follows a practice that reduces toxic incineration and promises that, for every tree cut down, a new one is planted in their place, to ensure a continuous supply. Not only that, every Tender Leaf toy made uses formaldehyde-free glue and non-toxic paints.
6. Shore Buddies
These 2021 Toy of the Year finalists have a mission to clear our oceans of plastics. Each toy in the Shore Buddies line is made from 100% recycled plastics and represents a marine animal that has been negatively impacted or faced endangerment due to ocean plastics.
Shore Buddies really has an overall mission to educate children on sustainability and their toys don’t stop with the plush ocean life; they have key chains, a book, easy-to-clean and kid-friendly travel straws (that are our family’s personal favorite), and a YouTube video series that tackles environmentalism with kids.
This innovative, bendable building set consistently garners awards from parenting and toy associations, and it's easy to see why. They are fun, creative, portable and surprisingly indestructible. This candy-colored, imagination-igniting magnetic building set is not only fun to play and build with, they are made from recyclable and durable synthetic paper. The materials are non-toxic and kid-safe and all of their packaging is made from recycled bamboo and is sustainably manufactured. They are fun, creative, colorful and guilt-free when it comes to sustainability.
Paints, glitter, and all things crafty can be pretty problematic from a sustainability standpoint, but this German art supply company is working hard to change that. This kids’ crafting company focuses on creating non-toxic, sustainable, and eco-friendly products, including non-toxic paints, water-based pens, environmentally friendly clays, and ergonomic beeswax crayons. Just ad a kid's imagination for beautiful art that's sustainably-minded.
9. Oli & Carol
We first fell in love with Oli & Carol toys when we discovered them as one of our favorite mold-free bath toys. That distinction was impressive enough, but we’ve come to appreciate them for their sustainably produced, non-toxic bath and baby toys. No one wants their toddler gnawing on petroleum-laden rubber. These toys are made from 100% natural rubber from Malaysian Hevea trees, making them certified PVC-, BPA-, phthalates-, and nitrosamines-free. These toys, which mostly focus on the toddler set, are both safe for the earth and for little one's curious mouth.
10. Luke’s Toy Factory
It’s a puzzle! It’s a truck! It’s both—and it’s eco-friendly and American-made to reduce the carbon footprint of distribution. These education-minded trucks are made with 30% less plastic than other toys like them. That plastic is replaced with organic material, such as sawdust, walnut shells, flax fibers, and coconut shells. These organic waste materials are saved from incineration and combined with certified clean plastic (meaning it’s free from residues and harmful chemicals) to make for BPA and Phthalate-free toys that are safe for kids and exercise eco-responsibility.
11. Honeysticks Crayons
Not to burst your bubble, but broken crayon bits that have been tossed into the trash can have quite a negative impact on the environment. Most crayons are made from paraffin wax, which can take decades to decompose in a landfill. When you consider how many crayons kids burn through—and how many broken bits end up in our landfills—the environmental impact is pretty daunting.
Honeysticks are made from beeswax instead of paraffin, making them safe for kids and gentle on the planet. They also make for a nice, hard crayon (unlike soy crayons) and a vibrant color. Honeysticks are also also made from food-grade pigments, so if your little one can’t resist the pretty colors that seem good enough to eat, you can at least rest assured that nibble will be a non-toxic one.
While Honeysticks’ claim to fame is their highly-rated crayons, they also make paints, bath crayons, and sustainably-produced coloring books.
12. Sago Mini subscription boxes
Subscription boxes are all the rage but, let’s face it, there’s a lot of plastic and small parts in many of these kits that end up in the trash. The Sago Mini subscription is the rare box that’s almost entirely sustainably made. All of their largely paper-made kits are made from recycled sources and all of the activities in each box (except for the plastic figurines) can be recycled.
Crafted with non-timber bamboo and birch wood, Kinderfeets makes balance boards, bikes, and trikes that are sustainably and responsibly made with a mission to leave a low carbon footprint in their manufacturing. Also, they are just really well made and built to last, with all sorts of attention to details that make them well-suited to kids’ physical development.
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