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Going on a Gator Hunt: PlanToys Factory Tour

At Sprout, we often have customers looking to purchase products made only in the United States. Though we understand this sentiment, we feel that we work with wonderful vendors, many of whom own their own factories and ensure that their employees work in safe and sustainable conditions. These companies often provide much needed jobs to people in rural areas of developing countries who may not have any other decent option for employment. It is our belief that we should be helping to bring jobs and sustainable manufacturing processes to all areas of the world and not only supporting the manufacturing industry within the U.S.

When Staci Civins, former manager of our San Francisco store who was then running our New York City location, decided to take a trip to Thailand, she immediately thought of visiting the factory of PlanToys. We have always believed that PlanToys makes beautiful toys that are safe for our children, but with the concerns about products made overseas, Staci wanted to see the factory for herself.

Staci explained, “with a slew of media attention surrounding toys made overseas found to contain traces of lead, there is no question why parents are concerned about products that are not made in the United States.” However, she didn't think it was fair to group all companies outside of the U.S. together. Should PlanToys fall into a different category? That's what she went to the factory to find out.

plan toysThe globe kept spinning for a few good moments before my pinky finger pressed on it’s surface. To my surprise, I had landed on an actual piece of land, a possible new adventure, and it just so happened to be one of those places I had always wanted to visit, but never seemed to find a long stretch of time to explore.  Luckily, Sprout San Francisco had an amazing new manager on deck and I had a month and a half before New York was ready for Sprout.

I shipped everything I owned straight to the east coast and hopped a plane in search of coral reefs, hilltop jungles, meditative monasteries, culinary wonders, and of course, the notorious Dancing Alligator — I was headed to Thailand!

plan toys dancing alligatorAfter 18 hours of flying over the Pacific Ocean, I was on the hunt to find out how this gator has brought so much laughter to every child that has visited our playroom and so much relief to parents looking for a safe toy to bring home for their children. 

I traveled south of Bangkok and found myself in Trang Province to find out the answer.

From the all natural bright colors, to the clickity-clack of organic, solid wood, to the imagination engineered in their facility; PlanToys really makes the decision of adding educational toys to your family’s collection an easy one.  Not only are they fun and safe, they are created in a sustainable work environment, matched with an ethic to repair the world.  

Why Thailand?
The wet, tropical climates of Southern Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have easily defined the area as one of the top producing rubber tree regions in the world.  Together they make up around 72% of all natural rubber production. 

plan toys forestReusing Natural Resources
It wasn’t until 30 years ago, that the remnants of an underproducing rubber tree would have easily been burned and discarded. PlanToys has created new and innovative ways to reuse these elder trees and began by designing a whole industry in producing organic, safe, and healthy toys.

Most recently, a Bio Mass company has been created to make use of almost every part of the old trees.  Wood scraps and tree roots are cut into chips and turned into energy for use in their production facility.

PlanToys as a Family
PlanToys even makes sure that their team members have a safe and secure place in their job.  Production and storage is self-regulated, so that there isn’t a potential for highs and lows. The products are manufactured as needed, leaving no room for layoffs.  The team can work at a comfortable pace and enjoy their work.

A co-op has been set up for workers and their families, so that everyday essentials like soap, toothpaste, and other household items are easily affordable.

A canteen with subsidized food has been put in place and offers free rice with every meal!  This may not seem like much, but when your culture’s meals are made up of 80% of this grain, it surely closes the gap on food cost.

Not just a Bay Area thing!  Everyone has been very diligent with composting their food scraps.  The methane gas that is produced redirects to the food burners that cook the food for the canteen. 

plan toys factoryHealth and Safety
These toys are made from Lappa Trees. They are pesticide free, are painted with all natural paints and finished with non-VOC lacquers and glues, and contain zero traces of formaldehyde.  Your child can toss them down a flight of stairs, chew on the smooth wood, or even save them in the attic until their children are ready to play with them.  They really do stand the test of time.  

PlanToys has created a super efficient working model, which has led to their ability to conserve and re-use their natural resources, provide for the people who work for them, and create a positive example for the toy industry as a whole.  It is our duty as parents to make informed decisions when buying products for our family.  I can wholeheartedly say that these toys are not only safe for your children, but you should feel really good about buying them, too!