It’s hard to believe it’s mid-November, with Christmas around the corner. Many of you will be planning gifts for family and friends around now, while others have Christmas pressies wrapped up months ago. Then there’s the die-hard last minute merchants, who won’t let the silly season cross their minds for at least another five weeks.
But one thing’s for sure, kids up and down the country will have heads down, deciding their list for Santa.
Having heard from various sources that Santa will be extra busy this year, many letters may already be on their way to the Big Fella. So it’s definitely at the top of my “To Do” list this weekend.
But, with all this talk of Climate Change over the past few months, is it time to sprinkle a little more Green over this years’ festivities (and no I’m not talking about the Brussel Sprouts🤢!)
The Green Man
Green and Christmas go back a long way. Holly, ivy, mistletoe, and the very Christmas tree itself, are central to many Irish families’ traditions. And even Father Christmas was often depicted in green clothes in times gone by, rather than the red and white we associate with him today.
My childhood memories include rambling down country lanes in search of holly and ivy with my mother. Many of us will hang wreaths of fresh foliage on our front doors, or place them on the graves of loved ones, and I love nothing more than a splendid table centerpiece of fresh greenery and pinecones wrapped around creamy white candles. So, when we step back and think about it, Nature is deeply entwined with our Christmas traditions.
The Green Man was an old pagan tradition. He was a symbol of our reliance on nature and of the renewed cycle of growth each spring. This is likely where our own Christmas traditions with Nature stem from too.
The Toy industry
The Toy Industry is a mega beast of consumerism. It’s also responsible for an enormous amount of pollution to our environment.
Wait for it –
Almost 90 % of all toys sold on the market today are made from plastic.
Even the cuddly teddies or toy clothes can be made from plastic fibers.
But what’s so bad about that I hear you ask?
The problem is plastic is a dirty business.
It’s generally made from natural gas or oil, fossil fuels which release toxic emissions into the atmosphere as part of the plastic manufacturing process.
Noxious gases can be released into the atmosphere when the plastic is decomposing, or when it's destroyed by incineration.
Non-biodegradable plastics sit indefinitely in the ground, contaminating the surrounding ecosystems.
Plastic is a major source of pollution on land and in our rivers, lakes and oceans.
With this in mind, I have an eye to our ailing planet when planning our Christmas celebrations this year.
And toys are a big one!
But, God, it’s hard to know where to begin!
This blog post sheds light on:
🧸The brands which make sustainable toys
🧸Toy stores in Ireland that specialize in sustainable toys
🧸General toy stores, and other stores, which stock sustainable brands in Ireland.
Bear in mind that these are my own findings and opinions, I am not connected with any of these suppliers in any way, and the list is not exhaustive. If you know of a gem of a toy store in your town, village or city, pop it into the comments for others to enjoy too.
Before we get stuck into the toys, a few points jump to mind:
Toys that are Eco-Friendly can often be more expensive than discount store or chain store products, and people generally perceive them to be more expensive too. This is an inescapable fact and puts many people off considering Eco-friendly toys or products altogether.
Sure who doesn’t love a deal, and the buying buzz of a bulging basket for under €10. But the reality is there are hidden costs to these low prices:
1. Quality standards are often lower so toys won’t last as long or wear as well.
2. Cheaper products are often made from materials that are harmful to the environment (and humans in some cases) and the materials may come from unsustainable sources. They may also be made in a way which harms the environment, causing pollution of water, land, or the atmosphere in areas where the factories are located.
3. These products are made as cheaply as possible and so the people making them, often in some far-off country, may not be treated fairly or equally for their labour. There may even be children working in these "sweat factories".
4. We tend to value these items less ourselves, and so we’re much more likely to just throw them away quickly, or let our kids destroy them without a second glance. Easy come, easy go!
All of this contributes to more pollution for our environment, plastic waste, and inequality for labourer's. In the end, we usually spend more in the long run on low quality products too.
So why do these Eco-friendly toys and products cost more?
In short, the costs of materials and labour going into making these products will be higher, and so the end price for the customer is higher too.
When you pay the price for an Eco-Friendly toy, you get:
✅High quality and well-made, often hand-made, products
✅Long lasting and durable toys
✅Toys made from sustainable, non-toxic, materials in Eco-friendly ways
✅Often with fair-trade agreements, wages, and conditions for workers
A growing trend
And Eco-friendly toys are already catching on around the world. In fact, sustainability is one of the biggest trends in the toy industry right now, with major toy companies pledging to make more Eco-friendly toys in the coming decade. This will eventually cause prices to drop too.
But I’m keenly aware that buying Eco Friendly toys or gifts may not be a propriety for everyone, or even possible.
So if budget is an issue, we can still shop smarter for the sake of our planet –
If you compare the Eco-friendly version of well-known toys, compared with chain store prices, you may be surprised to see opportunities to get a better-quality product for a competitive price.
Many popular toys are from mega brands or cartoon character merchandising. This pushes up their cost dramatically in the chain stores, while the quality may not match the price. So shop smart for better versions where you can, avoiding or limiting these mega brands. And lets face it, toys can be very expensive- even the plastic or badly made ones with a famous brand name!
0 – 7 years
You’re in luck! Finding Eco Friendly toys, products, and clothes for this age group is very easy.
Using the suppliers listed here, you’ll have no trouble finding fun and educational toys that are Eco friendly to boot. Lucky you!
7 years +
Unfortunately, the selection available for older kids is much more limited. My boys are now 7, 8 and 11 years, and are nearly beyond the wooden toy stage. However, I have come across nice gift ideas for older kids as I browsed through the suppliers in this post.
Things like Eco Friendly arts and crafts activities and supplies, board games, make your own board game kits, giant bubble kits, Stick-Lets fort building kits, papercraft kits, outdoor play toys, balance boards, wooden larger toys like castles, kitchens, playhouses, larger trains sets and more. You may also find something for older kids in MyEcohub https://myecohub.com/ which stocks science based learning kits.
Lego has long been the Santa list topper in our house but there is no Eco-Friendly version available yet as far as I’m aware. I understand they have plans to bring out a non-plastic range but this is still in development. The main redeeming feature about Lego is that it stays the course - we’ll have ours for years, and it can then be donated to other kids, schools, or Lego clubs to make sure it stays in use. The same applies for all good quality toys too.
Eco-Friendly Toy Brands
When choosing Eco-friendly toys, you should look for toys that are :
🌎Marked as sustainable, fair trade, products
🌎Made from sustainable materials
🌎Made without toxic chemicals or paints
So, what are the brands that make Eco friendly and sustainable toys?
The type of brands to look out for in your local toy store, or online, would include the following:
Big Jig Toys
Tender Leaf Toys
OkoNorm (Art & Crafts supplies)
Oli & Carol (baby & toddler)
Keptin Jnr (Babies)
Again, the above is from my own research. If you know of more sustainable toy brands, or some of the above which should not be listed here, please pop them in the comments for us all to learn more.
Toy stores that specialize in sustainable toys
Which shops, or e-stores, are stocking Eco-Friendly toys these days?
Two shops stand out from the crowd as specialists:
“Jiminy are on a mission to make “sustainable” the new normal for toys.”
This is an e-store which has a wide range and stocks toys for all kids, up to 10+. They have over 500 toys, books, and craft materials that are plastic-free and locally-made from natural or recycled materials. Low-carbon, low toy-miles, low-waste, high-fun!
“Worry Free, ethical shopping for kids.”
This is an e-store which stocks toys for babies and young children up to 7 years, including books, and arts & crafts supplies too. Their vision is to source and support the development of ethically crafted natural & organic products.
And for Cardboard toys:
You can get fab cardboard toys, free standing animals, playhouses, rockets and all sorts from these suppliers. Hours of fun for kids!
🌎Cardboard Magic https://cardboardmagic.ie/
🌎Cardboard Jungle https://www.cardboard-jungle.com/
General toy stores stocking Eco-Friendly toy brands:
🌎Nimble Fingers https://nimblefingers.ie/
🌎Cogs The Brain Shop https://cogsthebrainshop.ie/
🌎The Bubble Room https://www.thebubbleroom.ie/pages/contact-us
🌎Wooden Heart https://www.woodenheart.ie/
🌎Duffy Toy World https://www.duffystoyworld.ie/
🌎Little Ones.ie On Instagram and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LittleOnesEnnis/
🌎World of Wonder Toys – https://worldofwondertoys.ie/
(6 stores around the province)
Note Smyths Toys – https://www.smythstoys.com/ie/en-ie
* The "Squirrel Play" line in Smyths are wooden but I don’t know about their Eco credentials. The vast majority of other toys stocked are likely to be plastic based in this store.
🌎Little Crew https://www.littlecrew.ie/
🌎Early Learning Shop.ie https://www.earlylearningshop.ie/
🌎Toys and Games Ireland https://www.toysandgames.ie/
🌎Mimi Toys.ie https://www.mimitoys.ie/
🌎Educational toys.ie https://www.educationaltoys.ie/
🌎Discovery Playtime https://discoveryplaytime.ie/
General stores in Ireland stocking Eco-Friendly toy brands
These shops stock a small range of Eco-Friendly toys or crafts supplies:
The Kind.co https://thekind.co/
Little dreamers.ie https://littledreamers.ie/
Kids Store.ie https://kidstore.ie/
A Greener World https://agreenerworld.ie/
Little Green Shop.ie https://littlegreenshop.ie/
Pax Whole Foods & Eco Goods https://www.paxwholefoodsecogoods.com/
Bygge Bo, Navan, Co Meath https://byggebo.com/
Green Dot Design Shop https://greendotdesignshop.com/
Mira Mira https://www.miramira.ie/
My Cotton Drawer https://mycottondrawer.com/
Annie Pooh https://anniepooh.ie/
My Eco Hub https://myecohub.com/
Last mention …
One of the most earth friendly things you can do is shop local. So, try to use suppliers & toy shops based near you where you can.
Local markets, Christmas markets and craft fairs are sprinkled across the country at weekends and are a great place to find sustainable, hand-made, toys. These are the types of gifts to treasure - Christmas ornaments that are loving unpacked each year to take up position in your home for the festive season. So, make sure to support these local crafts people too.
Thinking Toys was established with the hope of increasing the awareness of a range of products that can bring specific benefit to children with special needs or learning difficulties. The shop is devised to be a ‘One Stop Shop’ for special needs toys and small-scale specialist equipment. I am not sure about how the toys are made but I'm sure it will be a useful store for some families none the less.