Sustainable Toys - What To Look For

Sustainable toys - what to look for - blog banner

We can be kind to our world as we play. 

At Incredible Kids Activities one of our key values is "Support sustainable and local". We feel this has never been more important than today. 

The choices that we make help us to move towards ethical and sustainable solutions. 

Each of us can make more conscious, responsible choices in toy selection, ultimately reducing our footprint. Therefore we present this short guide on what to look for to select sustainable toys. 

Love your world Love your toys

Buy locally made

A large amount of our carbon footprint is generated when the products we purchase move from one location to another, sometimes across the globe. If you have a choice, choose a more planet-positive solution by buying locally made toys. You will be saving transport-generated energy and pollution.

As a bonus, you will be supporting local businesses and local jobs. Local businesses in turn often invest in and support our surrounding community. 

Value the amount of play time

Choose toys that are likely to engage children's interest for an extended time. Engagement time is where the value is! For example, an activity kit can inspire kids to create for hours, whereas that low-quality stocking filler may end up being disposed of unopened - that's a complete waste of resources to design, make and transport that product.

Support sustainable businesses 

A toy company that invests in reducing its negative impact on the environment will communicate their values through their website, brochures and socials. If you don't see them highlighting their sustainable practices, it is possible they don't have sustainable practices!

Look for toy companies that strive to be more planet-friendly. They will be making good choices for their packaging, product choices, suppliers, transport, carbon-offsetting and donations. 

Choose sustainable materials

A sustainable toy is generally made of biodegradable natural materials, such as:

  • Woods and bamboo
  • Cotton, wool, hemp and linen
The finishes are also important - look on the packaging for references to:
  • Dyes that are plant-based
  • Paints and finishes that are water-based and non-toxic 
  • Glues that are non-toxic 

The carbon footprint of an all-wooden toy is a fraction of a plastic toy, so choose wood over plastic. 

To take it one step further, good woods are regenerative and these may include pine, birch, beechwood, rubberwood and bamboo. 

Preferably the toy will have been manufactured in a non-polluting way. This won't be obvious from looking at the toys but we can choose responsible toy brands. 

Avoid wasteful packaging

Are all those layers of plastic going to be tossed into the bin immediately?

Choose toy brands that use:

  • reusable packaging, such as storage boxes or those printed with games
  • packaging that can be easily sorted for recycling
  • recyclable packaging, such as cardboard and paper
  • printing that is compost-friendly, such as plant-based inks
  • packaging made from recycled materials (producers will probably boast about it on the packaging so it will be obvious!)

 Sustainable toy choices guide

The definite no-no's!

Toys from reliable sources generally won't contain dangerous levels of chemicals, but it is useful to know what the baddies are. 

  • Avoid heavy metals, including arsenic, mercury, selenium, chromium, antiomony, cadmium, barium and lead.
  • Avoid Azo dyes that release carinogenic compounds

Key toy standards to know

Toys are made all over the world and each area has their own standards and rules.

The following ones are the more common standards so you may see them on good toys:

  • FSC or PEFC - usually found on wood products, these indicate the woods come from responsibly managed forests. 
  • OEKO-TEX - often seen on material products, this identifies the fabric has been tested and it does not contain harmful substances. 
  • IETP - products with this certification come from factories that support the rights and wellbeing of factory workers and have auditable processes (usually overseas). 
  • ISO 9001 - this is the international standard which recognises the company has a solid quality management system. 
  • ISO 14001 - organisations that carry this certification have an effective environmental management system. 

Toy safety standards apply to certain categories of toys and they may be indicated by:

  • AS 8124 - Australian certification
  • ASTM - USA certification
  • EN71 - European certification

Thank you for educating yourself

You have chosen to spend your time reading this article - you could have done anything else with that time but you chose to equip yourself with important knowledge. We thank you!  

With a little bit of knowledge we can all make better choices for us, our kids and our world. 

We can help to educate and inspire the next generation, raising kids that are environmentally conscious and creative, who understand the value of life, nature and play.  

 Lisa Wiese - Incredible Kids ActivitiesABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa is the founder of Incredible Kids Activities. Working previously in designing activities that positively impact families within visitor centres and children's hospitals, her goal is to help kids to grow their aspirations. As part of Incredible Kids Activities she now gets to accomplish that every day. Lisa resides in sunny Perth, Australia with her family.

Editor's note: Lisa has a degree in Environmental Science, so sustainability is a topic that she is passionate about. 


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