An Introduction to Organic Toys

Understanding Why You Should Purchase Organic Toys

Baby toys are some of the cutest around, and you want your little one to have the best. But with the transient nature of their interests, and the speed with which they grow and development, the environmental impact of conventional stuffed toys and dolls can be relatively large. If you’re looking for ways to make your child’s toys more eco-friendly, then consider seeking out natural, organic toy options that are healthier for your baby and the planet. 

 

Common toxins in traditional toy fabrics

The fabrics you normally find on toys—cotton, polyester, nylon, and rayon—as well as the “finishing” chemicals applied to them have environmental downsides:

  • Conventional cotton: Cotton is the most pesticide intense crop in the world and uses the fourth most fertilizers as well.[1] It also requires enormous volumes of water to grow, process, and dye—more than 400 gallons for a single cotton T-shirt.[2] And then hazardous chemicals and dyes (made with heavy metals) are applied to finish the product.[3]
  • Rayon: Made from wood pulp, rayon requires a lot of toxic chemicals (including sulfuric acid) to create as well as enormous amounts of energy.[4]
  • Polyester and nylon: These are made from petroleum-based materials (which means it is related to oil spills, greenhouse gas emissions, and other environmental problems) and creates toxic byproducts like volatile monomers and solvents in the production process.[5]
  • Acrylic: This fabric is known as a polycrylonitriles which is a class of substance that is suspected to cause cancer according to the US EPA.[6]
  • Synthetic dyes: They can also contain heavy metals, acids, and other toxic components.[7][8] Cotton is inherently resistant to dyes, so much of the color applied to it is washed away into rivers.

 

What to look for in eco-friendly and organic toys

Knowing how to spot the good from the not-so-environmentally-friendly is a challenge when it comes to kids’ toys, especially with all of the greenwashing going on in the market.

  • Organic cotton: Look for organic cotton toys made with fibers certified by your local government organization, including Soil Association or Organic Farmers & Growers in the UK, Australian Certified Organic in Australia, and USDA National Organic Program in the US.
  • Alternative fabrics: Many toy manufacturers are now making toys of alternatives fibers. Bamboo, hemp (for cover fabric and stuffing), and wool (again for both covers and adding plushness) are all great options.
  • Plant-based dyes: Look for toys made with naturally-colored fabrics. Though not widespread as of yet, you can find dyes certified by Oeko-Tex, but in the absence of such a logo, you can often recognize eco-friendly dyes by package labels that say things like “color-grown cotton,” “low-impact dyes,” or “plant-based dyes.”

Here are some great resources for everything from organic teethers to organic stuffed animals:






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References

13 Cotton and the Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Organic Trade Association: http://www.ota.com/organic/environment/cotton_environment.html

2  Hydrology Primer. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from USGS: http://ca.water.usgs.gov/hydroprimer.html

4 Well dressed? As clothes become cheaper and fashion becomes ‘faster’, how are we to balance our consumption with environmental, economic and social sustainability? (2007, April). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from University of Cambridge: http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/sustainability/projects/mass/UK_textiles.pdf

5 Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry. (2007, September 1). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Health Perspectives: http://ehsehplp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info:doi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.115-a449

6 Finding Tolerable Clothing or Fabric . (1993). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia: http://www.environmentalhealth.ca/fall93cloth.html

7 Natural "Green" Dyes for the Textile Industry. (2003). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from TURI - Toxics Use Reduction Institute: http://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/market-research-industry-reports/natural-green-dyes-for-the-textile-industry/natural-green-dyes-for-the-textile-industry1.asp

8  Dyes and chemicals in textile finishing: An introduction. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Health and Safety Executive: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/tis1.htm#4

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