The Ecologist

Green Living_5.jpg
More articles about
Related Articles

Ethical toys


1st April, 2005

Give a child a non-toxic, ethically-made toy and avoid the pitfalls of today’s Disneyfied toy market

The average child’s toy sold in the US or Europe is made in a crowded sweatshop by a Chinese peasant girl paid pittance wages, wearing no protective clothing and relying on little in the way of worker rights. Contrast that with the average multinational toy executive on a fat-cat salary, working for, say, Mattel or Disney and overseeing million-pound marketing budgets, and you will get some idea of what the world’s toy market has become. Around 75 per cent of the world’s toys are manufactured in China, where there are nearly 10,000 toy factories. Today, children the world over play with the same plastic action figures, Barbie dolls and Disney film tie-in characters.

Toy manufacturing has a huge impact on our health and the environment. Most toys are made from petroleum-based plastic, and even wooden ones are subjected to a number of harmful toxic processes and ingredients before they reach the shelves. So the next time you buy a toy for your or someone else’s child think not just about the gift, but the kind of world you are buying into. 


Children will put anything in their mouths, so don’t buy toys made from PVC plastic, which may include phthalates, suspected hormone-disruptors that have also been linked to liver and kidney damage. Instead, choose toys made from natural materials such as
wood, hemp and cotton.

Wooden toys should not be made using toxic azo dyes, leaded paints or chemical preservatives such as formaldehyde. Choose toys that use non-toxic dyes and natural oil finishes such as linseed, walnut oil and beeswax, all of which are safe.

Choosing toys that have been made with ethical standards, such as those of the Fairtrade Foundation, will ensure that workers get fair wages for their work and that there has been no abuse of child labour.
No old-growth forest destruction Wooden toys should be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, or an equivalent guarantor of responsible forestry, to ensure that old-growth and endangered trees are preserved.

No unnecessary packaging
Many children’s toys are packaged inside oversized boxes and wrapped in layer upon layer of plastic wrap. This is completely unnecessary for the product.


Solar-powered wind turbine. A solar-powered
model wind turbine demonstrates how solar power
works. The three-bladed turbine rotates when the sun

Alphabet and number blocks. Made from sustainable rubber wood and coloured with non-toxic waterproof paint, these bricks are great for building and as an educational aid for
counting and reading.

Spirit of Nature
Happy Home dolls house. For every tree used to make this dolls house, another six are planted. Made using non-toxic finishes (eg, beeswax) and dyes.

Arujo Wooden Toys & Games
Wooden hoopla game. Ethically produced; made of rubber wood from Sri Lanka and Thailand; the trees are only cut down when they reach the end of their rubberproducing lives.

Tatty Bumpkin
Yoga doll. Designed for girls and boys, the doll is made by a fairtrade coop in Sri Lanka. It can go into most yoga positions and is a good introduction to the activity for your child. (

Fat rabbit doll uses 100 per cent organic cotton inside and out, and is dyed with metal-free dyes, making it safe for babies.

Myriad Natural Toys
Children’s weaving frame. Teach your child how to weave using this wooden frame.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2005

For ethical and sustainable suppliers of Home and Business goods and services check out the Ecologist Green Directory here


Previous Articles...


Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.

More information here...




Help us keep the Ecologist platform going

Since 2012, the Ecologist has been owned and published by a small UK-based charity called the Resurgence Trust. We work hard to support the kind of independent journalism and comment that we know Ecologist readers enjoy but we need your help to keep going. We do all this on a very small budget with a very small editorial team and so joining the Trust or making a donation will show us you value our work and support the platform which is currently offered as a free service.

Join The Resurgence TrustDonate to support the Resurgence Trust