product designer


Sustainable Children's Toys

During last weeks 'show and tell' presentations, i shared my idea of creating something for children. Right now, I like the idea of crafting a range of childrens toys which promote the ideas of sustainability and the circular economy by designing with the reuse of things, objects and materials in mind. Today, it is part of our consumer culture to desire quantity over quality. When desire for newness is expressed through products, dissapointment for the consumer is always going to be the end result. This wasteful pattern is not only costly for the consumer, but also has devastating effects on our environment. 

While reading up on this, I came across this interesting animation that looks at mans relationship with the natural world- I think it summarises our consumer culture pretty well.

'Man' by Steve Cutts

Anyway, back to the children's toys! With newer, updated versions of childrens toys constantly being introduced to the market, I can't help wonder about the huge waste streams they must create. Perhaps- if we reverted to making our products with quality and longevity in mind, consumers would feel more attached to the things they buy.

Before the industrial revoloution we had very different relationships with our products. Consumers would never think of replacing something simply because its out-dated or even old for that matter. Instead they would mend them for re-use time and time again. Although, this was during a time where quality and traditional craftsmanship was valued more than quantity and speed of production.

I was curious to see what the market is like for sustainable childrens toys, so i decided to do some light reading. The first thing i came across was an article by The Guardian, that discusses the growing market for eco-friendly and high quality toys. Interestingly, it points out the huge carbon footprint assosciated with not only the production, but transportation of children's toys. With China manufacturing 49% of children's toys on the market, it's not surpising the miles assosciated with them are catastrophic. Many of these products are designed in a very linear approach because the materials aren't suited for recycling; creating huge amounts of landfill waste. 

Lukes Toy Factory, is one business already recognising this matter. It's founder Jim Barber, was inspired by a 2009 news alert that reported record lead levels in the toy's of the nation's three leading toy makers. This sparked outrage among parent's whom were concerened for the safety surrounding the materials of their children's toys. Barber proceeded to create his own start-up, making eco-friendly, sustainable and safe toys from recycled, organic materials. 

 Luke's Toy Factory Trucks

Luke's Toy Factory Trucks

The company is very specific when it comes to sourcing, manufacturing and transporting its goods. The store itself is located in Danbury, Connecticut and its factory is in Southington, Connecticut. All materials come from Michigan and Kansas and the tooling from a tool shop in Massachusetts. In an interview with The Guardian, Barber explained:

“We want to help keep jobs in the states and show other US-based entrepreneurs there is no reason why we can’t make our toys here,”

Such local production helps to ensures all aspects of creating the toys can be carefully monitored for safety. Eliminating shipping from China allows a shorter time to market and a leaner inventory.

Rebecca Williamson