6 Yawama tips on how to choose eco-friendly toys for kids

Eco-friendly soft toys from Africa

Yawama of Sweden Eco-friendly plush toys from Africa

Who said that parenting in 2014 was easy? Apart from avoiding the risk of choking hazards in toys, us parents need to protect our kids from hazardous synthetic chemicals and heavy metals that are found in toys, clothing and interior products in our homes. We need to make certain choices not only to protect our children, but to protect the environment for their children and generations to come. Here are some Yawama (good) tips on how to choose eco-friendly toys.

1) Less is best– Lets be realistic. Kids don’t need 71 soft toys. An article in SVD states that In Sweden alone, children have an average of 71 soft toys. The majority of these toys end their lives at the dump, second-hand stores failing to sell the excess.

2)Go natural –Safe toys made of organic and sustainable material like bamboo, organic cotton and wood. Make sure that toys made from wood are harvested environmentally. Know your producer. Read labels.

3)Go to Sally’s boutique -The word “Salaula” in bemba means second hand-hence “Sally’s boutique”. Second-hand and hand-downs are a great way to spare the environment. Watch out for older wood products and soft plastics that might be chemically hazardous.

4) Avoid soft plastic toys – These can contain hormone disturbing chemicals

5) Choose quality over quantity– Toys that are more expensive often last longer, can be handed down or have a higher second-hand value.

6) Be creative– Recycle, recreate, reuse.

For tips on how to keep your home eco-friendly read Undebaraclaras blogg here.

For the yawama range of eco-friendly soft toys klick here.

And if you haven’t already figured this one out- Yawama means- It is good!

Sourcing ecological cotton in Africa

Cotton plant© Paul Hahn/Aid by Trade Foundation.

Cotton plant© Paul Hahn/Aid by Trade Foundation.

My aim has been to develop a fully African produced plush toy, appealing in design to a very demanding Swedish consumer and yet  within a price range that would be considered affordable despite its handmade nature. My frame of reference: I wanted  the yarn used in the production to be African and I wanted the product to be able to provide an added income for woman at the base of the pyramid in Zambia willing to learn to knit.

Zambia is a cotton growing country. However the spinning industry which did exist  in Zambia has failed and it has taken me months of research to successfully source ecological cotton yarn. Eventually I found ecological cotton grown and spun in Tanzania, dyed in Kenya and finally imported into Zambia. I am still to understand how to benefit from COMESA regulations so as not to encounter duties on imports from Kenya to Zambia. This will have to be another future project in an attempt to reduce costs on our knitted plush toys. Other sources of dyed cotton yarn proved to have been spun and dyed in India and the original source of the cotton unknown.

I feel frustrated over  Zambia primarily being a  raw material producer.  In my home town of Kabwe, Mulungushi textiles that once employed 2000 people now boasts overgrown gardens and dilapidated infrastructure. Rumour has it yet again that a “potential investor” is looking into starting up the facility.  Swarp Spinning in Ndola that had a production capacity of 50000 spindles went into receivership in 2008 at the hight of world economic turmoil. Some of the failures in the spinning and textile  industry are said to have been a result as poor management, competition from Chinese products, high production costs and the second-hand clothing industry. I believe however that there is still potential to develop this industry focusing on smaller industrial units and focusing on grass root production.

Africa is known to have some of the finest cotton-producing about 8% of the world’s cotton the majority of this cotton being produced by small-scale farmers in rural areas with little mechanical assistance. According to the Cotton made in Africa initiative   these simple conditions under which cotton is grown in Africa allow for a sustainable cotton production. The CMAI initiative promotes African grown cotton as a means of empowerment for rural communities in Africa.

Sustainable cotton

Cotton made in Africa

I am so looking forward to launching our new hand knitted children’s range made from ECOLOGICAL COTTON GROWN IN AFRICA.  I can hardly believe that we are soon there. Keep posted for more information on the design process and details on individual knitters.