EarthKid’s guide to choosing sustainable wooden toys
So you have decided to buy a nice wooden toy instead of another plastic one. Not only do they last longer, look great and feel nice to play with, it’s the more sustainable option for the earth, right?
Well not necessarily. Unfortunately not all woods are equal, it all depends on where the wood comes from.
Choosing a toy made from wood that was sourced from a poorly managed plantation or was illegally logged, contributes to major and irreversible damage to forests, people and wildlife around the world.
The devastation of natural habitats for animals like the orangutans, a widespread reduction in biodiversity, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and the impoverishment of local communities are just a few of the consequences of choosing ‘bad’ wood.
Much of our planet’s natural forests have already been destroyed or degraded. When these incredibly complex and beautiful environments are destroyed, they release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation, making it a big contributor to climate change.
Millions of people around the world depend on forests for their survival. When forests are logged illegally it can cost the poorest economies critical income that could be used to build public and social service infrastructure.
Sadly about 9% of all wood imported into Australia comes from illegal sources.
So how can you tell if the wood used to make your toy is ‘good’ wood from a sustainable, well managed source or ‘bad’ wood?
It’s not always possible to tell, but there are a few simple things you can look for to be sure you’re buying ‘good’ wood. You just need to seek out one or more of the following:
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification
FSC certification is a guarantee that the wood (or paper and card) your toy is made from originates from a well managed forest. The FSC is an international organisation that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests and you can be 100% sure that certification means your toy is made from ‘good’ wood.
Just look for the distinctive ‘green tree’ logo, which should appear prominently on the toy, its label or packaging. A great example is the Early Rider range of balance bikes, which are made from FSC certified birch wood.
There are rubberwood plantations right across the tropics producing latex for rubber based products. The trees grow very quickly and are replanted all the time. After about 30 years when the trees stop producing latex, the wood is used in building, making furniture and smaller things like toys.
Many of the EarthKid toys, like the jigsaws and puzzles, are made from rubberwood coming from excellently managed plantations in countries like Vietnam.
Technically bamboo is a woody grass and not a wood itself. But it has many of the same properties as wood – strong, versatile, durable – and is much less threatened than most woods.
This amazing plant can also be made into a super soft and absorbent fabric with incredible antibacterial properties.
Depending on the species, bamboo is ready for harvesting after about three years, compared to hardwoods that can take 40 to 120 years to mature, so it’s quickly and easily replenished.
(EarthKid LOVES bamboo and have created a shrine in the store in its honour! Pop in to browse our range of beautiful bamboo baby clothes, wipes, nappies and brushes)
Other alternatives to hardwoods
You can also look for toys made from other wood alternatives such as coconut and cane. Like bamboo, these plants grow quickly and are frequently replanted. Other fairly sustainable woods come from recovered orchard trees like mango and maple. These trees are cut down once they stop producing fruit and sap, much in the same way that rubberwood is collected.
Verified recycled, reused and salvaged wood
Toys made from recycled woods are of course a fantastic environmental option. There are many clever, fun and original toys made from using recycled wood chips, industrial off-cuts, and pieces of salvaged wood, albeit it’s sometimes a little tricky verifying the claims of where the wood came from.
Toys from environmentally reliable stores
Another way to be sure your wooden toy didn’t play a part in destroying a rainforest is to buy it from a reputable shop like EarthKid that only stocks sustainable products. We take pride in our efforts to find suppliers of fabulous kids products with impeccable sustainability credentials. If they can’t verify their green claims, the products don’t make it onto the shelf.
We want you to be confident that if you buy from us, you aren’t unwittingly contributing to climate change, the destruction of the orangutans’ forest home, or poverty and loss of livelihood.