Kids toys?, why we adopt NOT shop and ethical decorations.

Well there is no denying that during the festive season a large amount of toys is purchased for children all over, and something that most of us rarely consider is the environmental impact of those toys, while I know many parents who choose toys that are educational to their kids are we teaching them the right skills and are there other options we can choose?

I myself have a 5 year old brother and 2 other younger siblings so this is something over the past few years that I have really started to look at, I was guilty of just going and buying the toys that were ‘all the range’ off the shelf with out taking into consideration if these gifts were educational and environmentally friendly so last Christmas I set out with the goal in buying gifts that ticked both these boxes.

So first lets look at the plastics issue, a huge number of kids toys are plastic based, and while it is okay to have some plastic toys that can be used and then handed on, if you consider yourself an environmentalist is there a better options?

Absolutely, something I found whilst looking for toys was that there are companies that sell wooden toys so especially if you are buying for a younger child that will quickly outgrow their toys.

One really great online shop that I found online is the Ethical Superstore

Not only do they have wooden toys but they also stock a brand called Green Toys , and what I love about this brand is that all their plastic toys are made from 100% recycled plastic! Not just this but none of the toys are battery powered with the intention that children can use there imagination for play and they even go one step further with all the packaging being from recycled cardboard.

But if you want to avoid the toys altogether then there are some other options, books are always a great gift for a child of any age and especially when they are educational, a friend of mine recently pointed out that a lot books aimed at young girls often depict a princess who needs to be rescued by a prince, and is this teaching children the right message? That’s why I think this series of books Little People Big Dreams are an excellent set of books teaching children about different people and accomplishments throughout history including Marie Curie, Ann Frank and Audrey Hepburn.

Another great idea that I hadn’t really thought about but started doing this year is to buy people experiences rather than material objects and this something that we can definitely do with children to!

So for example my other 2 siblings are 14 and 16 so although they are no longer considered children but young adults, they are at an age that can be tricky to buy for and I cant imagine they will appreciate eco-friendly toothbrushes and deodorant from their older sister. So something you can do is do a home-made voucher for a day out, this could be a voucher for a day to the park, or a trip somewhere, a museum visit, cinema trip to see a movie of their choosing with a meal. Even though this specific blog is to focus on children’s toys this is also an idea that can be usedas a gift for adults ad can be tailored to age, budget and location.

And the best part is, this is something that can be implemented with gift buying in general for children not just during the festive season but for birthdays, and for general gift giving all year round.

Animals and ethics – Adopt don’t shop

Now your possibly wondering what on earth this post could be about, as a vegetarian shop we don’t stock anything that contains animals or sell any actual animals?

But me and a colleague of mine decided that it might be nice to do a blog post on why animals are not Christmas presents, and why its always best to adopt not shop well all year round.

Now as a child I remember seeing the signs by the Dog Trust saying “a dog is for life not just for Christmas” and I cant express to you how true this is, as someone who visits animal sanctuaries and rescue centres on my spare days off it honestly breaks my heart to walk past the cages filled with dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters and even chickens that need a loving home.

Now I am by all means not saying that every one that receives an animal companion, for Christmas or any other time of year as a gift will abandon them. But its not a secret that pounds and shelters see a rise in dogs being left with them in the months after Christmas once the appeal of a cute fluffy puppy wears off.

And one of the worst things about this is that while shelters and rescues run by charities and public donations may keep dogs until they are re homed, council run ones can not keep all the dogs that are turned in to them or found on the streets with one newspaper report telling us that almost 9,000 dogs were put down last year in the UK because there simply is no space for them.

So why do people keep buying pets for Xmas or as gifts?

I guess maybe every parents would like to see the joy on their child’s face as they open a big box to find a cute fluffy puppy inside, but the reality is that puppies need training and taking care off and maybe some people don’t realise how much it takes to look after a dog and have not taken these things into consideration.

Taking an animal companion into your life is a big commitment that should not be taken lightly or seen as a gift that can be disposed of.

Now of course there are people who buy animals for their children or partners for Christmas and keep those animals safe and happy until the end, but there is another reason why we should not be buying puppies or any other animals for that matter as gifts and why we should be choosing to adopt our furry friends.

How many people have seen adverts online or in newspapers, at the local shop “puppies for sale” I know have, the reality is that you may be buying from someone that is not keeping their animals in the best conditions or welfare and unfortunately the only real way to stop backyard breeding or puppy farms is to cut of the demand.

But the reality is that while there are people out there who breed animals and have the liscences to do so and take very good care of the health and welfare of their animals, there are just so many in shelters that need a loving home that we should be focusing on trying to re home these companions before going and buying puppies or any animal that is being bred.

So if you are thinking of opening your home and family up to a new companion animal then please considering adopting, one sanctuary that I myself have personally visited is Animals in Need and they have so many animals that are looking for a new forever home.

You’re probably wondering, what on earth do we mean by ‘ethical decorations’?

The reality is that the majority of decorations are made from plastic, use electricity and are not environmentally friendly. We are by no means telling you all that you need to ditch the tree and the bright 3D plastic Santa that you have on your lawn, we know it’s the time of year for bling.

But wouldn’t it be nice if you could have beautiful Christmas decorations that are also earth friendly…

Let’s start with the tree

I think its safe to say the majority of people now have plastic Christmas trees, as they’re cheap and available in all in every colour imaginable (I’ve even seen a shiny rainbow one). Who can blame people? Not to mention the not having the pines everywhere and yes you can even get a upside down tree! Don’t believe me, click HERE.

The problem is that even though we don’t buy a new one every year plastic trees don’t last forever, and eventually the tree will just end up on landfill looking very sad without the festive lights.

So personally I would go for having a real tree. I know that they take up land space having to be grown and we have to cut them down. But I think the fact that they are natural wood and leaves and won’t be sat in landfill when discarded outweighs this. Also, you can actually buy fair trade real Christmas trees! (click here) or you could have one in a pot that you move outside each year so that you don’t have to buy a new one?

I also found out while doing research for this blog that you can rent a Christmas tree for the festive season, how great is THIS

If you do want to buy a fake one my best advice is to buy the best you can afford and to buy one that looks like a real tree that won’t go out of fashion. Get something that will last for a long time so that you don’t have to replace it to soon.

I would also say to avoid those with built in lights or baubles as if these break then you may end up wanting to replace your whole tree! And if you do go for fake then when its time to get a new one why not see if you can donate your old one to a charity shop? Or a local homeless shelter? Somewhere that may wish to display a tree but not have the funds to buy one.

Fairy Lights

As far as I am aware there are yet to be any brands that sell lights that are made to be environmentally friendly, they are all made with plastic and can’t be recycled. So I only really have one tip for this section and that’s to buy LED lights as the bulbs will last longer. It may also be worth noting that when putting them away make sure to store them correctly so that they last as long as possible.

Baubles and Tree Decorations

This is one area where it is far easer to find environmentally friendly alternatives! If you do want to buy the plastic round ones then again use them for as long as possible and if for any reason you want to get new ones make sure to donate them.

If you can afford and like glass baubles these may be slightly better, even though they can not be recycled, it generally takes less energy to produce glass than plastic (well so the internet says).

BUT the best ones to buy are wooden or paper decorations and these don’t have to look dull or boring, I love these ones from Ethical Superstore as they’re are made from paper!

Or how about these wooden ones from Etsy. Another great thing about wooden decorations is that they are often hand made and can be personalised.

Another idea is to make decorations; in America it is a tradition to decorate trees with popcorn threaded on to string?Oor if you have a look on Pinterest you can find loads of ideas!

If you have any great ideas on how to make your decorations more environmentally friendly we would love to hear them!