Dear EarthTalk: Can you recommend some sources for toys and other holiday gifts that are both safe and not harmful to the environment? – Tracy Gately, Marblehead, MA
Given the massive recall of toys contaminated with lead last year, let alone all the other bad news about chemicals seeping out of just about every other conceivable type of consumer item, it’s no wonder that people are nervous about what might be inside the wrapping paper this next holiday season. Luckily, growing environmental concerns – and consumer demand – means that plenty of safe and green-friendly items are available for those willing to do a little more than just walk around the closest shopping mall.
For kids’ items, Oompa Toys (oompa.com) is hard to beat. The Wisconsin-based company offers thousands of child- and Earth-safe items. On Oompa’s easy-to-use website you can buy products ranging from toys, dollhouses and stuffed animals to learning games, musical instruments and art supplies to kitchen play accessories, kids’ furniture and tricycles, many items made with organic or recycled materials.
Another interesting online source for kids’ toys is Washington-based Earthentree (earthentree.com), which sells dozens of pull toys, rattles, stackers and other goodies to stimulate young hands and minds. All of their products are handcrafted by "fair trade" (fairly compensated) artisans in India using sustainably harvested wood and natural vegetable-based dyes. And Hazelnut Kids (hazelnutkids.com) specializes in natural, earth-friendly wooden and organic cotton toys for kids and babies, and even offers gift-wrapping with recycled and recyclable paper.
For grown-up gifts, EcoArtware (eco-artware.com) sells a variety of items made from recycled and natural materials, from bath and kitchen accessories to pet products to jewelry, including many hand-made items. Everybodygreen (everybodygreen.com) is another good source for green-friendly jewelry. The company’s No Plastic charm bracelets are made with corn starch-based resin, natural herbal tea dye and recycled brass. For those holiday parties you might be attending, wine aficionados might appreciate a bottle of Boisset Family Estates’ Yellow Jersey pinot noir (yellowjerseywine.com), which comes from France in a 100 percent recycled (and recyclable) plastic bottle.
Looking for fair trade arts and crafts? Gifts with Humanity (giftswithhumanity.com) sells clothing, home decor, jewelry and more from artists in Asia, Africa and Central and South America. Organic Bug (organicbug.com) also sells fair trade items and other natural and organic products from clothing to home decor items to travel accessories. Other websites worth visiting for fair trade and/or green-friendly gifts include: peacefulvalleygreetings.com, greenfeet.com, pristineplanet.com, nokiagreenstore.com, gaiam.com, acacia.com and vivaterra.com. A simple Google search for "green holiday gifts" will turn up many more.
Another approach to the holidays, of course, for the sake of lessening one’s footprint and tightening the belt in a downturned economy, is to eschew traditional gift-giving in favor of donating to a local or national environmental group in the name of a friend or loved one. This can be accomplished by visiting the websites of your favorite green groups and making your way to their "Donate" page, or by visiting justgive.org or worldofgood.com (by eBay), both which facilitate contributions to worthwhile charities.