Looking to buy sustainable wooden toys? It can be a minefield, as just because a toy is made of wood doesn’t make it eco-friendly. Here’s what to look out for to help make environmentally-friendly choices, as well as some of my favourite brands.
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Look into any parent of a young child’s home (including ours) and you’ll most likely see a sea of plastic toys.
Plastic toys are cheap to make and buy and are convenient. However, we pay a heavy environmental price for this convenience and low financial cost. Being made from fossil fuels, plastic toys have a heavy carbon footprint.
What’s more, plastic is pretty pervasive, hanging around for hundreds of years. As plastic toys mostly can’t be recycled, unwanted toys that are binned can also contribute to the amount of plastic ending up in landfill and oceans. And if that’s not enough of a headache, plastic toys are full of toxins, and often contain banned chemicals.
What About Wood?
Wooden kids’ toys can be a better environmental choice. Wooden toys are, if you choose correctly, sustainable, and free of the chemical risks that plastic toys possess. They can also be real hand-me-down pieces.
What to Look Out For When Buying Sustainable Wooden Toys
However, just because a toy is made from wood doesn’t necessarily make it sustainable. There are various environmental considerations to be made. These include how the wood has been grown and what paints have been used. Other key considerations include how the workers in all aspects of the supply chain are treated, as well as the company’s own sustainability ethos.
Here’s what to consider and look out for when buying sustainable wooden toys.
Secondhand Wooden Toys First
The most sustainable wooden toys are the secondhand ones. Therefore these should always be the ones that you consider buying first. The good news is that buying secondhand is also the most budget-friendly way of buying them too.
It’s not difficult to source good quality secondhand wooden toys. Charity shops, eBay, Facebook marketplace, Gumtree, and Oxfam Online* are all great places to look. There are even wooden toy buy and sell groups on Facebook.
We’ve found some great secondhand and sustainable wooden toys over the last year. Here is our collection:
As wooden kids’ toys are so durable, they all look like new. We actually found most of these in local charity shops. Meanwhile, the walker came second-hand from eBay. The bus was the only toy we bought new, as a Christmas present, and the jigsaw was a gift from a family member. We’ll keep these toys going for as long as possible and then keep them for a future child. Alternatively, we’ll donate them to a charity shop once they’re done to keep the reuse cycle in motion.
Look for Sustainable Certifications When Buying Wooden Toys
If you decide to buy new, then there are steps you can take to make sure the wooden toys you are buying are actually sustainable.
One of these steps is to look for external certification labels.
External certification means that the company’s toys and their business practices meet criteria that are assessed by an external non-profit organisation.
The Labels To Look For
Sustainable labels to look for when buying wooden toys include:
- FSC Certified. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on wooden toys is your assurance that it is made with, or contains, forest-based materials from FSC-certified forests or reclaimed sources. Look specifically for labelling that says FSC 100%.
- BCorp Certified. This is where businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
- Fairtrade Certified. This shows that the product has been certified to offer a better deal to the farmers and workers involved. It does not endorse an entire company’s business practices.
- Carbon Neutral Certified. This certifies that products that are either carbon neutral or the companies have purchased offsets to the value of their annual emissions.
- Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This label allows customers and consumers to identify products from sustainably managed forests.
- EU Ecolabel. This is a label of environmental excellence that is awarded to products meeting high environmental standards throughout their life cycle. This covers the raw material extraction right through to its production, distribution, and disposal.
- Blue Angel Eco Label. This is an independent, German environmental label for products and services that have environmentally friendly aspects. Its goal is to inform consumers about environmentally friendly products.
It is extremely rare that wooden toy companies would hold all of these sustainable labels. Each certification is time-consuming to achieve and requires many systems to be in place. Each certification can also be expensive to achieve. Therefore, you just need to look for at least one eco-label when buying wooden toys.
Consider Where The Wood Come From
As I mentioned, just because a product is made from wood doesn’t make it sustainable. Some wooden toys contribute to deforestation and illegal logging. This happens when companies use wood sourced from forests managed unsustainably. It’s especially problematic in environmentally sensitive areas such as the Amazon.
Toys made from unsustainably managed forests can result in biodiversity loss. It can also result in reduced ecosystem qualities, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. The very things that you probably wanted to avoid by buying wooden toys.
Instead, when buying sustainable wooden toys, look for wood that is from sustainably managed forests. Rubberwood is a good choice when it comes to wooden kids’ toys. Rubberwood is a waste product from the latex industry, which used to be destroyed once the latex dried up. Alternatively, wood from European sources is often a more sustainable choice.
Five Sustainable Wooden Toys Brands to Look Out For
If you’re looking to buy a special toy for a child in your life then don’t feel overwhelmed. Here is a rundown of some of my favourite ethical and sustainable wooden toy brands available in the UK.
Grimms Wooden Toys
Grimm’s stunning, handcrafted Waldorf-inspired toys are fairly made in Europe. Not only are they EU-made, but the wood comes exclusively from sustainably managed forests in Europe. They are an FSC certified company and are actively engaged in reforestation projects. What’s more, the stains they use are non-toxic and water-based.
Longevity is key for Grimms. As such, you can get a free repair kit should your Grimms toy break.
Buy Grimms in the UK from Kidly*.
Haba makes high-quality long-lasting sustainable wooden toys, all with the PEFC seal. Their toys are made in Germany from beech and birch wood. This wood is sourced from sustainably managed German forests. You can read more about their sustainability processes in this lengthy yet impressive post.
The loss of one part of a game can sometimes mean that the whole game can no longer be used. However, a couple of years ago Haba set up a comprehensive replacement service to combat this problem. I love that they have put together a service like this, to help games from being binned.
Indigo Jamm is a small company designing eco-friendly wooden toys in the UK. All of their factories have been visited and inspected by Indigo Jamm, to ensure their products are made in environmentally and socially responsible ways.
90% of their toys are made using rubberwood – a waste product from the latex industry. Their paints are also water-based for extra eco points.
Lubolona designs and manufactures stylish kids’ toys using eco-friendly and high-quality materials. All their products are designed in Barcelona and are manufactured entirely in Europe, from natural high-quality beech wood. Their intention is to keep their environmental impact to a minimum, whilst focusing on fair and local production. What’s more, Lubolona uses environmentally friendly cardboard boxes and fabric bags for its packaging. You won’t find any plastic here!
Shop Lubolona in the UK via Kidly* – with prices starting from £9.
Plan Toys make ethical wooden toys for kids and babies, that are designed to be fun, engaging, and educational. You’ll find cool and unique sets, like this English breakfast wooden toy set. However, if it’s traditional you’re after then Plan toys also has you covered. My kids have especially loved the Plan Toy toy town sets – with their road and rail networks to build.
Plan Toys’ entire range is Fairtrade certified. They are also made in Thailand from sustainably sourced wood and painted with non-toxic dyes. As well as solid wood toys, they also make toys from PlanWood. This is a byproduct of sawdust that their factory produces. This ensures that nothing goes to waste. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, then Plan Toys have also developed their very own certified non-formaldehyde glue.
We’ve bought secondhand Plan toys in the past, and can testify that their toys are high quality and built to last.
Buy Plan Toys in the UK via Kidly*.
If you’re looking to buy a wooden toy as a gift, then do check out my ethical and eco-friendly gift ideas post for more inspiration.