A Toy Shopper's Checklist
Pamela Lundquist / The Green Guide Jun00
THE GREEN GUIDE is a publication of Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet, Inc.
Parents love to see their kids engaged with and learning from toys. Responsible parents are equally concerned about a toy's safety. Increasingly, this includes health concerns that are being raised about toxins found in and on some toys. There's also the impact of toy production and disposal upon the health of the environment to consider, not least because it affects all our health. More and more, parents are shopping with these concerns in mind.
Green, or environmental criteria include the toy's product lifecycle. For example, one of the most toxic of all materials used in kids' toys, products and packaging is PVC, also known as vinyl. Throughout its lifecycle, from production to use to disposal, PVC releases toxins into our environment and threatens the health of our children. We recommend going PVC-free for all your gift-giving.
Safer, Greener Alternatives to Look For
Some of our children's favorite toys --like Little Tikes and LEGOs --have recently gone almost PVC-free. And more natural, non-toxic alternatives exist for many children's toys. Look for toys made of solid wood, and all-natural untreated fibers like cotton, hemp and wool with non-toxic dyes, non-toxic paints and finishes. Whenever possible, buy certified organic, recycled, or sustainably-grown fiber, paper and wood products, which are produced with a minimum impact on the environment. Your choices help support these growing green industries.
Finally, remember not to pressure yourself too much! You can compromise, as we all do, by buying some of a child's must-haves. Your budget is a consideration, too. Change happens bit by bit, and the small steps we take are definitely a positive marketplace force.
A Toy Shopper's Checklist
- Can something we already have be used as a toy? An empty box or set of stainless steel bowls can provide hours of happy play.
- Is the toy reuseable? For example, doll houses and building sets get repeated use, and adding one small accessory at a time can bring much joy. They are welcome hand-me-downs.
- Read labels carefully, looking for assurances that paints and finishes are non-toxic.
- Did it harm the environment or people to produce this toy? For example, is it made of PVC plastic?
- When in doubt, smell it! Toxic softeners in plastics can give them that "new smell." Strong fragrances and perfumes can provoke allergies or asthma.
- Can the toy be recycled when it is no longer useable or will its disposal present a hazard?
- How is the toy packaged? A huge box and lots of plastic wrap for a very small toy is unnecessary waste.
- Is this an antique or imported toy, which might be finished with toxic leaded paint?
- Can we get this toy, or something like it, made locally, avoiding the pollution and fuel waste of shipping?
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