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Here in my sphere, we’re trying to wrap up the Christmas shopping. It’s always a challenge to do that sanely and sustainably. This crazy world of ours, with its vast overabundance of fairly disposable made-in-Asia plastic yuck, does not make it easy to engineer that kind of holiday celebration. I find it takes a fair amount of extra effort, but I also find that it’s well worth it in the end.
I attempt to stay away from stuff from malls and factories as a general rule. I figure if I don’t do the mass-produced thing, I’m less likely to encounter hazardous toys and other unfortunate items, and more likely to give gifts that mean something special, which is the point, right? So I do a lot of shopping on e-Bay for collectibles and other one-of-kind items that are handmade or antique-oriented (and so haven’t consumed any new resources to make). There’s always some stuff from local artists under our tree. Books are a big favorite. And this year I’ll probably give a few of those funky gift bag household kits from our new online store to friends and family that aren’t quite clued into the importance of keeping it green when you clean.
But things get tricky when it’s time to shop for my nine tear-old daughter. It’s tough to find decent toys that aren’t completely cheesy and cheap and, frankly, more than a little suspect safety-wise. There’s no TV watching in the house where she’s concerned so we’ve isolated her from all the screaming toy marketing. That helps a lot. And there are a couple of quality mail-order catalogs we like. (Magic Cabin is a real favorite that seems to have a lot of stuff from Europe, where the toy-making foxes have been locked out of the regulatory henhouse). Between that and a handful of local toy shops, we piece it together.
This year there’s the extra added bonus stress of all stories in the news about lead-infused toys. It’s enough to make any parent climb up the chimney and hide until January. But we’re not defenseless. After some research into the subject, I wrote an article for the new issue of the Non-Toxic Times about things we can all do to toy shop defensively (there’s a weird phrase) for the kids in our lives. I also found a good article from MSNBC yesterday and that’s got some very useful resource links attached to it like this Consumer Action Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys, which came too late to include in the newsletter and this great e-mail service that will alert you whenever a new recall is issued. There’s a bunch of links and other stuff there worth checking out. Think of it as a gift for the whole family can share.