The Parental Green Challenge

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The Parental Green Challenge

The Parental Green Challenge The Parental Green Challenge

Toy Shopping the Green Way

When we think of Fair Trade and Organic our minds automatically take us down the aisles of our local supermarket where we might purchase fair trade coffee and organic fruit and veg.
But do we consider the morality of our clothing and toy choices? When trying on lovely new clothes or spending a fortune on our children in the b>toy shops it would do the environment and its inhabitants the world of good if we could stop and think about where our purchases come from.

Unpalatable Truth
The unpalatable truth is that our clothes and our children's toys are frequently produced in deplorable working conditions in third world countries. Multi-million-pound businesses have shifted their manufacturing plants there to take advantage of the cheap, non-unionised labour and make huge profits through poor wages, child labour and compulsory overtime.
These workers are often locked in, are not allowed to talk, are punished for going to the toilet without permission and work upwards of 15 hours a day. Overtime is unpaid. And their weekly wage wouldn't even pay for that b>Barbie doll or gorgeous skirt in your hand.
It doesn't have to be like this. Organically produced fabrics and toys have all of the fair trade benefits of organically produced food. And they're great for the environment too - the environment your children are growing up in.

Fair Trade made with Respect
Fair trade products are made with respect for the people who manufacture them.
Fair trade manufacturing protects the safety of the workers, helps keep alive traditional techniques, instigates welfare programmes and supports educational works for the children in farming communities.
Every fair trade employee receives a decent living wage and they work in safe and pleasant working environments. Children are not involved at any stage of the production of fair trade toys or clothes. And profits are often shared among the workers.

Fair Trade Manufacturing
One toy manufacturer, Lanka Kade, which translates as 'the Sri Lankan shop' was set up in 1994 with the aim of providing an outlet for items produced by small craft enterprises in Sri Lanka.
The company ensures local skills are respected, enhanced and secured. They assure locals with regular employment and suppliers are paid promptly to help stablise their economic growth. Full and fair prices are paid for all products.
And believe it or not, the toys they manufacture are top of the range educational, developmental, fun toys. They're all bright and colourful and would make a gorgeous addition to any nursery or playroom.
They also have an environmental side to their fantastic fair trade company. They use renewable resources, employ recycled products when available and they use PVC free products and packaging to avoid the use of excessive packaging.
In fact after Boxing Day's terrible Tsunami the owners of this company, husband and wife Upul and Diane, moved out to Sri Lanka to help in the rebuild of two of their factories which were devastated by the tragedy.
Instead of waiting for aid from governments around the world Lanka Kade's employee's wages has enabled them to begin rebuilding their shattered lives.

Environmentally Friendly
While organic, green clothes and toys are made with respect for our environment, our world and our children's future.
Less chemicals are used in manufacturing. Where plants are dug up or trees are cut down more are replanted. More and more toy manufacturers are using rubberwood sourced from exhausted rubber plantations instead of damaging our trees. These rubberwood plantations are replanted every 10-15 years.
And other wooden toy manufacturers replant more trees than they cut down. One in particular, K-Play, a German company, replants three trees for every one they have to cut down. Every year they finance at least one hectare of new forest. As they say: "Whoever takes something from the earth, should also give the earth something back."
The same company also have a side business called Cause Toys. The company donates 50% of all profits from Cause Toys sold to building schools in third world countries. So far they have built four!
Organic toys are all painted with non-toxic and green paints and varnishes.
In clothing cotton is one of the most environmentally damaging crops grown in the world. Because it is not a food crop, cotton is routinely sprayed with an even heavier cocktail of pesticide poisons than regular agricultural crops.
Green cotton is manufactured from organically grown cotton plants. No chemical pesticides or fertilisers are used to grow it, and the final cloth is unbleached and dyed with natural plant dyes.
Thus, workers on fair trade farms avoid being exposed to life-threatening pesticides.
But mention fair trade or organic toys or clothes to anyone and they immediately think of a hemp sack trying to impersonate a sweater or a boring, bland wooden car.
Think hemp sack and boring no more because not only are fair trade companies beginning to produce fashionable clothes they are also creating gorgeous toys.
Julie Rae, owner of who stock both K-Play and Cause Toys said: "I have been really surprised by the choice out there.
"No longer does fair trade or green mean boring.
"The toys we stock are bright, colourful, fun and educational. And they help the environment and the children in it. Who could ask for more than that?"
She added: "I think that if we can teach our children to care about their environment through the toys we buy them then perhaps we can raise a nation of adults who will help to make bigger changes than we could ever imagine."
And it seems that every supplier who stocks and sells fair trade clothes or toys feels the same.
Helen Osgerby, from an online fair trade clothes shop, said: "Long term wouldn't it be amazing if fair trade was 'normal' trade?
"Increasingly we are seeing interest from people who want to buy fashionable clothes but with a more social, ecological conscience.
"People are starting to ask questions about how clothes are made and how they can be produced so cheaply."

Commercialisation Costs
Commercialisation costs is the war cry of many green companies.
Julie Rae explains: "Millions of pounds is ploughed into advertising toys which have been made using cheap labour. The toys that commercialise our children, the spin-offs from tv shows and movies.
"Our children are bombarded daily with these commercials. They do not see the other side of the coin - that toys can be produced ethically, with regard to the environment and the world's inhabitants.
"It would be great if these massive toy giants could spend less money on advertising and branding and more on sourcing organic materials and providing fair trade for third world countries."
It is estimated that over the last five years expenditure on organic cotton textile products has increased by 60% in mainland Europe. We in the UK have some catching up to do - over the last 2 years, sales of organic and environmentally-friendly textile products have only increased by 20%.
Much like buying organic in supermarkets is becoming increasingly second nature, the companies who sell green products hope that consumers will soon look at other aspects of their life which are unhealthy and morally questionable.
Thomas Petit, Managing Director of Gossypium, an ethically correct sound in Lewes, East Sussex explains: "We have seen a change in our customer profile this year.
"We see the market gaining strength through a younger, more environmentally aware audience. We also see a lot of students interested in our work and wanting to get involved or create projects similar to ours.
"It seems the multinationals have dominated for so long that people are now questioning that stranglehold."

The Tsunami
The Tsunami, G8 Summit and Live 8 have all helped to raise the profile of ethically sound produce. They have all aided our awareness of the problems in third world countries. And they have all helped some of us believe that we can make a difference.
Thomas added: "There is a hard-core of 'aware' people but awareness levels are still very low, and few people are aware of the real issues.
"Slowly though it will seep into the mass market," he says.
"Education will play a huge part in this, so that people will realise the full impact they have on the world when they purchase goods."
Education, they might say, begins at home. If, as parents, we purchase fair trade and organic clothing for ourselves and toys for our children perhaps we can begin to teach a new breed of ethically aware adults?
Are you up for the challenge?

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The Parental Green Challenge

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