Instead of Disney, Mattel, and Hasbro, Buy Toys From...

by - Thursday, December 10, 2015

Today, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights released a labor report on the conditions of a factory in Zhenyang Wangyu, China. This factory makes MANY of the toys children play with- Disney, Mattel, and Hasbro to name a few, and the report is so horrifying it is hard to actually read. It's basically a sweatshop. A few bulletpoints:

- Workers shifts are 12-13 hours long, and they are forced to work mandatory overtime
- Dorms at the factory are freezing cold and overcrowded
- The workers sleep on plywood beds.

Reports like these break my heart, because we as American consumers have basically encouraged companies to treat people this badly. We vote with our money, and who hasn't bought something from one of these companies (or Fisher Price who I expect is just as bad if not worse, based on their generally irresponsible approach. Or Melissa and Doug, because that company is a bunch of shisters)? I know I have. Think of all the Frozen toys people (including me) have bought over the past few years. Someone was working like a slave to make them.

Every time we buy something with "Made in China" on the tag, we know we are supporting a country where laborers have no rights and are treated deplorably. These companies made the choice to move their factories there and to contract with sweat shops like these, but we as consumers told them that was ok. It's not.

So much of the money we spend tells these companies "I don't care how you do it, just give me what I want now!" Our economy system encourages this approach- we have thousands of choices of what toy to buy, and they hope our focus is on getting the exact thing a child wants instead of focusing on the ethics of where it came from. Toys are certainly not the only place this is a problem, but when you think of a child playing with one of these toys, it can be incredibly difficult to face that someone else's parent was treated so badly so they could have it. Is it worth it?

We are stewards of this Earth, and even if we don't make the right decision every time we shop, we can all put our money (and votes) toward companies who respect their laborers and the environment. Companies will do what will make them the most money; if they lose money for things like this, maybe they would change their approach.

We also are given the impression that there is literally no choice. People have told me multiple times since I started writing about this that "everything is made in China." It's just not true. I know you can be worried you won't be able to get your kid something they are interested in without buying from Disney or Mattel- but you can. If you put Disney Princess into Etsy's toy section, you get 4,600 options! You can still find things they will love without contributing to this problem.

 Here are a bunch of other companies you might look into instead:

1. Consignment Stores/ Buy Nothing- You want one of those plastic tricycles or a Barbie or an exersaucer? Time to go to your neighborhood consignment store! You can find a lot of things for cheap (or free on Buy Nothing), and those companies won't get a cent of your money.
from Green Toys

2. Green Toys- My faves. They make cars, tea sets, and all sorts of plastic toys out of recycled jugs here in the United States.

3. Little Tikes- Little Tikes don't make all of their toys in the US, so always check the origin, but showing this company specific support for their American products encourages them to keep it up and move more of their products here.

4. Uncle Goose- The best block company out there, in my opinion. You can get blocks in many languages and with the elements on them! Great learning tool and who doesn't love knocking over a tower?

5. Legos- Yes, legos are built and packaged at plants all over the world, but only in places with good labor policies. Plus, they recycle all the plastic left over in the manufacturing process! This might be the perfect way to buy something with the movie theme your kids love without putting money into a company with abusive labor practices (which is way less Christmasy).

from Lovable Puppet Pals
6. Glitz no More Dolls- It's slightly crushing that Barbie is involved in all of this, because I loved her so much. I had so many barbies (in fact, I still do- does anyone want them?) Want to stick it to Barbie or the Bratz? I love these Glitz no More dolls, which are used Bratz dolls repainted to not have make up on. It looks like it is a project between a mother and her daughter, and some of them look way cuter. Really steps up the whole used doll thing!

This is only a TINY fraction of the toys you can buy instead of buying from these companies. If you want to see more of my toy recommendations (there are many!), check out my Big List of Lists! Changing our shopping priorities even a fraction of the time can make the world a better place, so it is worth considering and at the very least, cutting out companies who disregard human value so fully.

Really steamed that companies are doing this? You can also write them to demand they change their labor policies (or even move labor back to the US since they are after your US money).

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