At Sprout, we are constantly trying to refine our selection and make sure we have only the healthiest products on the market. This has led us to look more deeply into the origins of some of our plastics. In this vein, Rachel, Sprout’s co-founder, and I decided to take a trip to the Green Toys factory in San Leandro, just over the Bay Bridge. We were blown away by the lengths to which the company goes to ensure the safety of their toys, and we came away believing that if you have to buy plastic toys, they should definitely be from Green Toys.
When we walked into the factory, we were greeted by the Founder Robert von Goeben. Robert's vision is inspiring and his passion for his product is contagious. He comes from a background of designing electronic toys, and he started the company with Laurie Hyman who has a marketing background and is also, importantly, a mom. They wanted to create an environmentally friendly toy company at a time when that didn’t really exist. They also wanted it to be quantifiably eco-friendly, something that is rare with all the “green” companies out there today. In only 5 short years they went from selling 4 products to specialty stores to shipping 35 products all over the world.
There are 3 main points that Green Toys focuses on.
1. The Environment – The company’s entire manufacturing process is energy and water efficient. It’s fuel use is minimal as everything from raw material to warehousing happens within 100 miles of San Francisco. For most of its toys, the company uses only recycled milk jugs from California. This prevents the plastic waste from getting into the water supply. Also, the extra pieces that are cut off of the mold get melted down and pumped right back in. Finally, the packaging is made solely from folded and cut out cardboard, so there are no annoying plastic ties to cut away.
2. Made in the USA – The company proudly manufactures everything in California, which has the strictest workers’ safety and environmental standards in the world. Being local also enables them to have a constant presence and to oversee the integrity of their manufacturing operation. It also allows the company to inspect all of its raw materials before they are used.
3. Safety – Every single lot of the company’s raw materials goes to a safety lab to be tested before being used. It is tested for every possible safety concern, including lead, phthalates, BPA, and PVC. The plastics even pass the FDA extraction test for the possibility of leaching onto food. A food grade colorant is then used to color the plastic.
As recycled plastic is extremely hard to work with, Silicon Valley high technology was employed to enable the level of details seen in Green Toys. They use injection molding and have copyrights on all of their molds. An incredible amount of pressure needs to be applied into the mold to reach that level of detail. Each of these intricate toys is created with NO METAL. There are no extra pieces holding these toys together. This enables these toys to be useable for kids as young as a few months old. It also allows for the entire toy to be thrown in the recycling bin when your kids are done with it.
Fun fact: Every Green Toys car has a tiny 8-track player. (This plays imaginary cassette tapes for those too young to remember.)