Just in time for the holidays, the GoodGuide science team set out to find the Greenest Toy Companies of 2009. We evaluated over 40 leading brands on their materials – from the type of plastics they use, to the source of their wood, to the their paints and coatings – their energy use, environmental management systems, customer relations, health & safety programs, treatment of workers, labor rights, and transparency.
Over three quarters of the toys sold in the US are now made in China. Many of these are constructed from low-cost plastics such as PVC, and then treated with low-cost paints and coatings. Even many of the wood toys sold in the US are now made from pine grown in the US or Canada, shipped to China, processed and painted, and then shipped back to the US.
The intense pressure to lower costs and speed up delivery has made it increasingly hard for toy companies to not follow this low-cost strategy. Our research found the following brands stand out for their commitment to putting the environment and child safety ahead of cost cutting.
The Greenest Toy Companies of 2009 include:
Plan Toys use organic rubberwood – trees that no longer produce natural latex – for their wooden toys. No fertilizers are added to the soil for three years prior to harvest so that their wood can be certified organic. Plan Toys uses chemical free kiln drying, and a proprietary, non-formaldehyde glue. They use only non-toxic, water-based dyes. Their company is solar powered and they use low emission befouls to power the machinery that kiln-dries their wood. Many of Plan Toys products are made in Thailand and they have been recognized by the Thai Environment Institute’s “Green Label” program for their low impact on the environment.
Green Toys uses recycled milk containers as the main material in their toys. The used milk containers – which are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) – are reprocessed into clean plastic in California, and then shaped into new toys. The toys are tested by an independent, third-party lab, which asserts that they contain no traceable amounts of Phthalates or BPA. The toys are also designed without any external coatings, eliminating the need for lead paint. Green Toys’ products are packaged in recycled corrugated boxes with no plastics, cellophane or twist-ties, and are 100% recyclable.
North Star Toys:
North Star Toys are made from “sustainably managed” wood or wood scraps from local cabinet makers. The company assembles all of its toys in a “sweat-free” workshop in Questa, New Mexico, which runs on 100-percent renewable energy. North Star use a food-grade mineral oil for the finish on each toy, and all paints are certified nontoxic. The paints and finishes used are manufactured in the US, and meet or exceed all guidelines governing the use of lead in paints and toys.
Haba Toys (owned by Habermaass):
Haba wooden toys are made primarily in Germany, but some of their toys are manufactured in China. The company lists toys that are made in Germany on its site. Haba’s German operations are ISO 14001 certified – meaning they have an environmental management program in place at the factory. The company employs renewable energy to power their facilities in Germany – photovoltaics on the roof of their factory, wood scrap burned to generate heat, and a ground source heat system. The company also uses water-based stains and finishes on their wooden toys.
We will be releasing ratings of all the major toy companies and over 700 toys on December 4th. So sign up for the GoodGuide email alerts, follow us on Twitter or check back next Friday to receive the full story on the Hottest Toys of the year.