As parents, we know too well that at a certain stage of our children’s lives (namely that of my 8-month old daughter!) EVERYTHING goes into their mouths.  It’s just part of life for these little ones, so it’s our job to make sure that whatever does go inside there is safe and not going to leave any trace of chemical or other harmful substance.

Here’s a list of the most common chemicals that may be found in varying levels in today’s conventional, plastic or painted children’s toys (and their yucky implications – which, of course, depend on the level of exposure in each case):

  • Lead
    • A heavy metal that can be used for pigmentation in paints and plastics as well as a stabilizer in PVC products (which we’ll get to later).  It also is used often in the casting of metal, namely in inexpensive toy jewelry.
    • There really is no safe level of lead for children.  It impacts brain development, which can cause delays in learning and shorter attention spans.  Even worse, these effects are irreversible.
  • Bromine
    • Used primarily as a flame-retardant in textiles and furniture.
    • These flame-retardants build up in humans and can cause reproductive problems for exposed women as well as possible birth defects.  They contaminate breastmilk and umbilical cord blood and are classified as “possible human carcinogens.”
  • PVC & Phthalates
    • PVC is a widely used plastic, very common in children’s toys.  It is not easily recycled and extremely toxic when produced and disposed of.  It is also extremely brittle, requiring additives to make it flexible (most commonly phthalates, pronounced “thal-ates”).
    • Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are most commonly used to add flexibility and resilience to plastic products.  They are easily leached and exposed to humans via ingestion, inhalation, or simply through exposure to the skin.  Phthalates are most often found in household products from toys to plastic raincoats to that inflatable pool in the backyard.  They can also be found in non-plastic items such as personal care products (by way of “fragrance”).
    • Phthalates are carcinogenic and they may cause kidney and thyroid problems.  They are also linked to increased instances of asthma and allergies.  Most notably, they can have detrimental effects on the endocrine system, altering normal levels of hormones in young boys.
  • Cadmium
    • Another heavy metal used in pigments and as a stabilizer in PVC.
    • At high levels of exposure, cadmium can be linked to cancer and can cause adverse effects on the kidneys, lungs, and intestines.
  • Arsenic (inorganic)
    • May be used as a coloring agent in plastics and textiles.
    • Inorganic arsenic is carcinogenic and may cause cardiovascular problems, skin irritations, and hormonal issues.
  • Mercury
    • Most commonly used in inks, adhesives, and coatings and most toxic during production and when disposed of.
    • Mercury can build up in the body and young children are more sensitive to it.  It affects kidney function and is detrimental to the nervous system and brain.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
    • Used mainly to make rigid polycarbonate plastic (that #7 plastic with PC underneath the triangular symbol).  It’s also found in epoxy resins, which are used in the inner coatings of food cans.
    • BPA is an endocrine-disruptor; a synthetic estrogen that can cause problems in neurological development, behavior, and fertility.  It can trigger hyperactivity and attention deficit and may also lead to cancer and obesity.

So… after all of that shockingly bad news, what can we do as parents and caregivers to ensure that the children around us are not exposed to such harmful substances?  The first step has been taken care of just by reading this post!  Being aware of what chemicals are harmful and then going beyond that to avoid such nasty substances is a great start.  Then, get rid of all of the “toy perpetrators” in the toy box and choose wooden and organic toys.  Ensure any coatings are completely non-toxic.  Do your homework and purchase toys from reputable companies who have proven that toy safety is their top concern.

Visit for more valuable information, then be sure to stop by to get that toy box restocked!

Shannon – Research Specialist





The term “organic” seems to be quite the “in” word these days, but its significance goes well beyond a mere trend. In a time when nearly every object or procedure around us is being re-designed for convenience or simplicity, we’re losing sight of the most simple idea of all: get back to basics and grow food and crops the way nature intended… WITHOUT the chemicals.


It’s a frightening and vicious cycle within the present conventional farm: Millions of pounds of pesticides, herbicides and other nasty chemicals are applied to plants each year in hopes of increasing yields (and ultimately profits).  But those little bugs and weeds and other annoyances are adapting to resist these chemicals.  That leads to upping the ante and using chemical applications with higher concentrations and an increased toxicity.  Guess what happens next? Yup… those pests adapt yet again and it goes on and on.  Not to mention, the soil quality decreases with the use of these pesticides and so more chemicals, in the form of fertilizers, are applied. What are we, the consumers, left with?  Food and textile crops that are grown in contaminated soil and doused with a generous sprinkling of POISON.  These chemicals are just that – poisons.  Many are carcinogenic, others hormone disruptors… all in all, BAD stuff that can have disastrous effects on our families’ well-beings.


On the flip side, organic farming uses NO pesticides, fertilizers, or any other chemicals.  Nor does it use seeds that are genetically engineered or modified.  In the simplest of terms, organic farming involves planting a seed, feeding it with water and sunlight (and some good old fashioned manure!), and letting it grow.  Sounds just like your backyard garden, doesn’t it?!  And, even better, the result is often tastier and packed with more nutrition than its conventionally grown counterpart.


Now, it is true that organic food and textiles tend to be more costly than conventional products.  But with the recent popularity and increase in demand for these naturally-grown products, we’re seeing more reasonable prices at the grocery stores and markets.  For all of us trying to stick to a budget (while providing the best for our families), there are several options to consider when wanting to move toward organic:


  • Start small; think about the foods (especially fresh produce) that you eat the most and seek out organic alternatives
  • Prioritize; decide for yourself whether that organic apple might be a better choice than the organic hand towel you’re using to dry it!
  • Dig in the dirt; grow your own garden at home or at a community garden space and enjoy your own chemical-free bounty throughout the growing season
  • Go local; it’s an expensive and often daunting process for a small farmer to get the official “organic” stamp on their food, so instead, seek out those local farms who grow organically but are not able to officially label it so… take your time chatting with the farmer at your neighborhood farmers’ market, you’ll be surprised what you can learn there
  • Bigger can be better; join a local organic buying club to take advantage of bulk discounts or seek out a nearby CSA (community supported agriculture) farm to purchase a share of its large, and often organically-grown, harvest


We would never feed our families doses of outright poison, so why is a blind eye being turned toward all of the harmful chemicals used in conventional farming?  It’s time to put the well-being of our families first and choose organic whenever possible.  Here’s to our health!

Shannon Beery – Research Specialist for Hazelnut Kids and Mother of Holden and Quinn


Summer is in full swing, and children are ready to grab their pails and head to the beach! Giggling children, sunshine, and sand castles – the perfect combination. Yet, one can’t help but feel a little pang of guilt as their plastic shovels and pails break under the pressure of wet sand and need to be discarded. But what are concerned parents to do? There’s never really been an eco-friendly beach toy option available, and you can’t go to the shore without castle-building supplies for your munchkins!

Solution: Zoe b Biodegradable Beach Toys. These sturdy – made in the USA – beach toys are made with Mirel™ bioplastic, and yes, they biodegrade!

Want to learn more? OK, here’s the lowdown on Zoe b Biodegradable Beach Toys:

  • Fully biodegrades in 2 to 3 years (versus 300+ years for ordinary plastics) when buried in soil, immersed in water, or composted.
  • Bioplastic is free of BPA and is FDA-approved for food contact.
  • Can withstand extreme heat and exposure to sunlight and is even dishwasher-safe.
  • Bioplastic cannot be recycled, nor will it breakdown in a landfill, so when you’re finished with the set, either pass them on, or bury them, sink them, or compost them!

At long last, the beach toy predicament is resolved! Now you can have American made, strong and durable, bright and attractive beach toys without the guilt of adding plastic to the landfills that hangs on for 500 years. Zoe b Biodegradable Beach Toys are high-quality so they can be passed on to other young ones once yours grow out of them – but biodegradable so that they will decompose within only 3 years when they are no longer being used. It’s the ideal situation, really. Plus, they are simply lovely.

So don’t delay, check out our new biodegradable beach toys today – and get diggin’!

Bridgett – Manager, Hazelnut Kids

As Earth Day approaches I am overwhelmed by all the Earth Day specials, Earth Day sales, and Earth Day advice. As a retailer of earth friendly toys, Hazelnut Kids is obligated to take advantage of such a great day of recognition, but the girls (Bridgett and Shannon) and I have also decided to TAKE ACTION!

Tracy, Shannon, and Bridgett on One Day Without Shoes

Tracy, Shannon, and Bridgett "One Day Without Shoes"

We are each advocates for protecting the earth, we are each mothers of young children, and we each believe in living a simple and sustainable life. Is there any wonder we found each other here at Hazelnut Kids? The three “R”s have been a way of life for us since before it was “cool” so this year we are kickin’ it up a notch.


I am a religious composter, but I tend to teeter out as winter sets in. This year I am committing to winter composting and looking for any “words of wisdom” from others who compost in three feet of snow.

Shannon has convinced Bridgett and I to join her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.)  We are splitting a share and looking forward to the bounty of local food that will be available all summer. I am also planning for my own vegetable garden to supplement and I will use it to teach Jackson and Ivy about seasonal eating.

Bridgett and Tracy

Bridgett and Tracy

Last year, our kids were finally old enough to start going on real bike rides. So we started biking them to school. It took a little extra time in the morning, but it was great to start the day as a family – getting fresh air and exercise. The kids were proud to bike to school everyday, because they knew it was good for the earth-  and them! I would like to continue this this year, now that it has started to warm up. I would also like to bike more to other places as well though. We live close enough to the store, gym, and work to bike to all of those places, and this year I want to make the bike a first choice – and the car plan B.
Also, it seems as the kids get older, the more batteries we go through. Ipod speakers, calculators, and such require batteries that I just hate to have to replace over and over. I would like to purchase rechargeable batteries for the first time ever! In addition to rechargeable batteries, another change I would like to make in our household is purchasing energy efficient light bulbs. I can’t believe we have not done this yet, but this is the year. The next light bulb purchase we make will be an eco-friendly one. We also recently made a jar to collect pennies whenever somebody leaves a light on when they are not using it. Hopefully this will be a reminder to us all, and help us be aware of how much we use electricity when we don’t need to. I really believe it is all the little things that everybody can do that adds up. I am excited to make a couple small changes and contribute something this Earth Day.
Shannon and Tracy at The Family Wisdom Conference

Shannon and Tracy at The Family Wisdom Conference


My family and I live right in town, which means we are a stone’s throw from downtown as well as our beautiful bay on Lake Michigan.  And since we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a very early spring this year, I’ve committed to keep the car parked in the garage as much as possible and pull out the bike or the walking shoes instead.  This is not always easy with a 13 month old son in tow, but he enjoys the fresh air as much as I do and so he’s happy to come along for the ride in his bike carrier or stroller.  There are, of course, times when I have to put those keys in the ignition for a distant errand or to drop Holden at my in-laws’ house west of town, but I’m really making a point of keeping the car at home and making the better-for-our-Earth (and better-for-me!) choice.

So this Earth Day, do Earth a favor and commit to at least one change that will have an immediate impact. Better yet, share it with us by posting a comment to this blog and we will enter your name in a drawing to win  a beautiful Waldorf  Nature Conservation Angel by Kathe Kruse. Winner will be chosen April 30th, so start posting!

I have wanted to try natural Easter egg dying for a while now. This year, I happened to receive a recipe for it in the mail – so I decided to go for it!

My friend and I divided up the grocery list, and made plans to tag team the challenge. Between the two of us, we actually had everything we needed already at home.

We used blueberries, spinach, cranberries, and turmeric – but there are lots of recipes out there! It takes a little time to boil the ingredients down, and even longer to soak the eggs in it – but I think it is worth it!



In a moment of weakness, I will admit, I was concerned that the natural dyes were not going to do their job – and I dissolved some leftover from last year tablets. A desperate attempt to salvage what I thought might be the loss of Easter tradition for my kids – brightly colored eggs in their basket in the morning, dyed by themselves. I quickly regretted this decision, but it was a good learning experience for me. Sure, the dissolved tablets made for instantly bright colored eggs for the kids, but the eggs they put in those bowls were done too soon! There was no anticipation or excitement building up – just instant gratification. And don’t we have too much of that already?!

I was surprised to see how even with the vibrant artificial colors available to the kids, they still gravitated to the natural dyes. They enjoyed periodically checking on the eggs to see the progress they had made, and somehow appreciated the soft colors. They thought it was really cool that we had made our own colors, with natural foods. Additionally, they were able to eat the eggs that had cracked and soaked in those dyes, and raved about the tasty eggs, and how they could eat them because the “dye” was just food! No way would I have felt great about turning over a cracked egg that had soaked in a florescent pink!

our finished eggs

our finished eggs

So, as I type with green finger tips (from the regrettable moment when I took an egg out of the bowl with the artificial dye) I ponder a lesson learned. My kids did not need instantly colored eggs, neon hues, or stained skin. They just needed my benefit of the doubt that they were patient, inspired, and appreciative.

Happy Spring!

Bridgett – Manager,  Hazelnut Kids

At Hazelnut Kids, we use beautiful, 100% post-consumer recycled gift wrap. The only problem is – we are left with lots of scraps after lovingly wrapping our gift orders with this paper. As cabin fever set in at my home, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. Find a use for all this leftover paper, and entertain the young, creative minds at home! I thought, what a great opportunity to test out our new Clementine Art Glue as well.

Clementine Glue and Earth Lovin Paper
Clementine Glue and Earth Love’n Paper

So, I gathered some colored paper from our art closet, got out the gift wrap scraps and Clementine Art Natural Glue I brought home from work – and we got busy! We cut the papers into small square pieces, and then used decorative scissors to cut out a slightly smaller size of the gift wrap paper. Thanks to Clementine Art, there were no overwhelming fumes as the kids glued their gift wrap pieces to the colored paper. When they got some on their fingers, I thought “oh well, it won’t hurt them!”

Jack cutting the gift cards
Jack cutting the gift cards

For the finishing touches, we used a stamp on the back of the cards that says “To:” and “From:” so they could be used as gift notes for packages. We tied scrap pieces of raffia left over from gift wrapping at Hazelnut Kids to make a nice detail at the top of the cards.

Isabelle tying the gift card
Isabelle tying the gift card

My daughter was so inspired by the project that she searched her stash of “saveables” to see what else she could use to make cards with. About a year ago, she saved every piece of gift wrap after a family member opened all of their wedding gifts. She did not want it to get thrown away, and just knew that she would find a use for it someday! She had quite a collection – and it made for some really beautiful cards!

finished gift cards
finished gift cards

I was happy to do more than just recycle our gift wrap scraps, and the kids were proud to make such lovely and functional cards. We were all happy to use a glue that was gentle on our noses, skin, and the environment! What kinds of treasures can you make with your would be trash?!

Happy creating!

Bridgett – Manager, Hazelnut Kids

While we have managed to avoid printing a paper catalog for Hazelnut Kids, this past holiday season I realized we may be in the minority!  Each day I checked the mail at my home, I had to make a stop at the recycling bin to drop in the 3-4 catalogs that were received that day.  The mound grew, and I realized there were many duplicate catalogs.  The cover may have been different, but the company was the same, and for the most part – so were the products featured.  I think catalogs certainly have their place – not everyone has computer access believe it or not, and sometimes you just want to be able to flip through tangible pages while looking at products – but the duplicate mailings do more harm than good when they just get tossed.

I came across a site that might be helpful.  It is called Catalog Choice, and is a non-profit corporation looking to help lessen your junk mail while also reducing the amount of natural resources used for catalogs.  You can search for the unwanted catalog on their site, and put in your information to stop receiving the catalogs or reduce the number received (depending on the company’s options).  It is an easy way to stop mailings from multiple companies, by using just one site.

Before your mailbox gets jammed with next year’s holiday catalogs – check out Catalog Choice – and stop the epidemic!

Bridgett, Manager – Hazelnut Kids Natural Toys

Artist - Jack, 6 years old

Artist - Jack, 6 years old

So my son has been using the same blue Easter egg-shaped piece of chalk on his blackboard since last Easter.  Needless to say, I was very excited to see Hazelnut Kid’s new Mercurius Blackboard Chalk come in!  I promised him that I would bring him home a set, and today I did.  He received them with a giant, “Thank you so much Mom!” and then got right to work.

The colors are unbelievable.  Yes, you pay for what you get.  What you get is a super high quality set of chalk – they blend so well, and the colors jump off the blackboard.  The smiles your child produces as they create are priceless, however.

Not only is my son thrilled at the potential he has for greatness with this color wheel of pastels . . . he is thrilled to have the means to practice his weekly spelling words with no harm done to the environment.  That’s right, no more paper.  He now has 12 colors to choose from as he writes and erases each word of the week.  The colors add fun, and the lack of paper involved makes us all feel like we are making our footprint that much smaller.

So don’t wait – get your set of 12 vibrantly colored pastels today!

Bridgett, Manager – Hazelnut Kids

My family and I had the pure luck of stumbling upon a fantastic Art contest in Grand Rapids, Michigan this past weekend.  ArtPrize consists of over 1,000 artists displaying their work all over the city.  It is a powerful outlet for them to speak their mind and make a statement.  One particular piece I found to be very relevant to our concerns at Hazelnut Kids.  Lisa Yarost’s work was entitled “Recyclable Container for Humans – plastic bales.”  The concept (in short) is that we consume more than we realize, not considering the resources gone into creating these items that are all too disposable.  The conatiner consists of plastics about to be recycled.  It encloses around the people that enter the structure – hopefully giving the viewer a much needed perspective of mass consumption.  A kind of ‘in your face’ visual where every turn you make you see the result of your consumption.  However, there is no roof, giving the viewer a glimpse of hope as they look to the sky.

It is easy to keep consuming in a disposable way – we’ve all done it – paper plates for pizza to avoid doing dishes, plastic baggies so we don’t have to spend money on reusable ones, or plastic bottles when we’re on the go.  It is easy to toss and forget, but standing in this maze of discarded plastics, I was forced to stop and think about how my consumption affects our environment.

You might be wondering why Hazelnut Kids would be writing about over consumption – being that we are in the business of selling products.  The answer is simply this: we work with vendors that do what they can to make each step of production as least harmful as possible to the environment, we sell only quality toys that won’t be tossed in the landfills after one or two uses (in fact, they can be handed down from generation to generation), and we use materials that have been recycled to ship our products.  The Holidays happen, toys will be bought.  I feel good though that I can be a part of providing toys with a clean conscience, and ones that have a long life ahead of them . . . one that does not include the landfill.

– Art work information gathered from

– Concept of Art work by Lisa Yarost

Bridgett, Manager – Hazelnut Kids

Green America People's Choice Award

Hazelnut Kids is proud to announce that we made top ten for the Green America People’s Choice Awards!  We are so grateful to our loyal customers for supporting us (and, of course, we would be even more grateful if you support us again and vote one more time!).

We are proud to be a company truly built on the principle of providing safe, quality, easy on the environment toys to our customers.  This recognition means a lot to us, as we are focused on making our footprint smaller – not just making our piece of the market larger.

So thank you friends, for doing your part by choosing the path less traveled, and taking steps  towards a greener life – one toy at a time!

Bridgett, Manager – Hazelnut Kids Natural Toys 

We had such a fabulous time at our Plan Toys – Hazelnut Kids Earth Day event on April 22.  It was great seeing so many of our customers and giving everyone who came by a free recycled cardboard Eco Home 3D Puzzle.  Several of our customers have written to thank us for the homes, so we thought we’d share a few of their pictures and kind words:

Earth Day 1

Earth Day 2

“Thanks again for the adorable eco houses!  Jackson and Ivy (and I) were entertained for hours, and it led to some great conversations about alternative energy.  WE LOVE HK!”
Earth Day 1

Earth Day 3

“Thanks for a fun and cool project.  My daughter and I really enjoyed putting together this cute house.  She loves it!”

Another customer wrote:  “I wanted to tell you thanks so much for the Earth Day goodies last week!  We put the houses together as a family and had some great conversation about wind spires and solar panels and being kind to our living breathing earth!  The boys loved it!”

Thank you to Plan Toys for the wonderful Eco homes and to all of our customers for supporting the Earth through your purchases of natural toys.

Sheri Novak, Owner – Hazelnut Kids Natural Toys

Museum Teddy Bear

My family and I recently visited the Public Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  They have a lot of their exhibits organized through the alphabet.  For example, J is for Japan (a family favorite of ours), Z is for Zoology, and T is for Toys.  When I came across that last one, I immediately thought of Hazelnut Kids.  They had many classic toys displayed, such as an original teddy bear and Tinkertoys.

Museum Tinker Toys

After taking a stroll down memory lane, I couldn’t help but think how proud I was to be a part of a business that carries “Museum quality” toys.  I could picture any number of our wooden toys or Kathe Kruse dolls, for example, in that case.  In this day and age, where we have allowed the market to be consumed by disposable toys, it is nice to know we can still have the heirloom quality toys that we grew up with.  That’s exactly what Hazelnut Kids provides us with!  I can tell you right now, my childrens’ toys from Hazelnut Kids won’t end up in the trash.  They will be passed on for generations, and maybe even one day sit next to an old teddy bear in a museum…

Museum Toy Sign

Bridgett, Manager – Hazelnut Kids Natural Toys

Although I applaud Congress for creating legislation to try to ensure fewer lead-paint toy recalls, the resulting legislation has an unexpected and unfortunate outcome: the cheap plastic toy manufacturers will remain in business while the natural toy manufacturers, the ones NOT involved in toy recalls, will be unable to stay in business. I ask you to please read the article on the Mothering magazine website entitled “Toy Safety Legislation: Good Intentions Lead to Catastrophic Results for the Natural Toy Industry” and then write to your representative right away.

One of Hazelnut Kids’ favorite manufacturers, Selecta Spielzeug, has already announced that they will no longer sell their toys in the United States because the expense of the redundant testing being required by the new legislation is too cost prohibitive. Let’s act now before more of these fabulous manufacturers follow suit, leaving us with only plastic and battery-operated toys that cause so much harm to the environment and our children. These new regulations also affect small toy manufacturers such as those who sell on Etsy, which means that more small family businesses will be forced to close.

Please help us to protect our children and the Earth by contacting your representative now. Contact information is in the Mothering article.


Sheri Novak, Owner – Hazelnut Kids

Co-Op America Business Logo

Woo hoo! After many months of applications and screenings, Hazelnut Kids has been accepted as a Co-Op America Green Business! To explain what this means, here is the definition from Co-Op America:

Members of Co-Op America’s Green Business Network have made extraordinary commitments to fair treatment of their employees and workers in their supply chain, to promoting healthy communities where they do business, to preserving the environment, and to delivering quality products to their consumers.

We are so honored to have been accepted. Thank you, Co-Op America!

Sheri Novak, Owner – Hazelnut Kids

Mother Earth News understands why we chose to locate Hazelnut Kids in Traverse City, Michigan. Traverse City was named one of the “9 Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of”
in its August/September 2008 issue. After reading the article I think you’ll understand why this city (and all of Northern Michigan) inspire us to do what we can to support the earth through the choices of the toys we carry, our green office practices, and the donations we make to land conservancies and Trees for the Future.

Congratulations, Traverse City!

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for last year. It’s a topic that comes up often, so I thought it would be good to share it here.

Wooden Toys – the Economical Choice

I often hear parents say, “I’d like to have all wooden and natural toys in our house, but they seem to cost so much more than plastic toys.” But, once parents hear how economical wooden toys really are, and how easy it is to make the switch, most parents can’t wait to get started.

The most economical aspect of wooden toys is that you need fewer wooden toys to replace plastic ones. Why? Because wooden toys can be and do more than one thing, as they stimulate the child’s imagination and allow the child decide how to play with the toy. For example, our sons have a wooden cone sorter that cost less than $20. But it’s not your average sorter with a pole and five plastic rings. It has a base and eight other shapes in various colors, so a child can create all sorts of different shapes and designs as he stacks the pieces, and he doesn’t even have to stack them at all! Our sons use the pieces in their building activities, which would be hard to do with wobbly plastic pieces. One of the pieces in the sorter is a long cylinder, so that has been used as a flute, a flag pole, a (pretend) goo squirter, and more. So by purchasing one $20 toy, we’ve replaced several plastic toys that each had only one purpose.

I’ve also heard many frustrated parents say that they have a house full of plastic toys that their kids never play with. Well, that’s not very economical! Here are a few reasons why this happens:

  • Children feel a stronger connection and respect for wooden toys since they are made from a natural, living thing, so they are treated better and last longer. As an adult, you probably feel the same way. If you were offered your choice of a wooden bookshelf or a plastic bookshelf, which would you choose?
  • When kids have too many toys around, it can be overwhelming to them. Rather than choose one toy, they either quickly cycle through several of the toys, not spending much time with any one toy, or they feel like they can’t choose a toy at all. When a house has fewer toys, the children can easily see them all, and they appreciate them more.
  • Plastic toys are easy to crack and if they are battery-operated, the motors and parts seem to break easily. My son’s birthday was this week, and within one day of opening plastic presents that he received from friends, two of the presents were broken, and no rough play was involved. And now where are they? Filling our landfills.

Finally, since wooden toys last, they can either be saved and passed down to future generations or given as a new baby gift (the toys will likely look new, and even with minor blemishes the new mom will be thrilled to receive natural toys). They can also be sold on ebay for a large percentage of the toy’s original cost. And because they are so beautiful and made from a living thing, it is very hard to throw away a wooden toy, yet surprisingly easy to toss a plastic toy. This means there are tons of plastic toys in landfills, but far fewer wooden toys. So, in addition to the economic benefits that a family gains by purchasing wooden toys, perhaps the greatest benefits are the immeasurable savings to the earth.

– Sheri Novak, owner of

At Hazelnut Kids we always donate 1% of our sales to land conservancies and have one tree planted for every product purchased, but now through Earth Day 2008, we will donate 2% of our sales to land conservancies and have three trees planted for every product purchased. So, if you buy 4 toys totaling $100, we will donate $2 to land conservancies and have 12 trees planted through Trees for the Future!

What else are we doing (every day)?

  • Carrying toys that are made with the health of children and the Earth as the primary focus. The materials used to make our toys include wood, bamboo, organic cotton, wool, and non-toxic colorings. Our toys will last a long time so they can be passed down to future generations, donated to organizations such as Goodwill, or resold, and when the time comes to dispose of them, most can be recycled.
  • Using 100 percent post-consumer-waste, recycled gift wrap and gift cards from Earth Love’n Paper Products (which utilizes chlorine-free processing). Not only is the paper recycled, it is recyclable, and it is made so well that it can be used again.
  • Using 100 percent recycled gift boxes.
  • Using packing boxes with a 100 percent recycled exterior and a liner made of 20-30 percent recycled material.
  • Using 100 percent recycled kraft paper as our packaging fill.
  • Minimizing printing, using 100 percent PCW recycled paper when we do print, recycling in our office, and using staple-less staplers.
  • Using recycled paper with vegetable-inks for marketing materials.
  • Constantly looking for ways to make an even greater difference.

Thank you for helping us to support the Earth.

Earth Loven recycled gift wrap logo

We are proud to announce the newest addition to Hazelnut Kids – our new gift wrap from Earth Love’n Paper Products. This paper is made with 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and uses vegetable ink for printing. In addition to that, no harmful bleaching compounds are used in its production. By choosing this recycled gift wrap alternative, no new trees are cut down, less energy and water are used, and less pollution is produced. Earth Love’n Paper and Hazelnut Kids are both Trees for the Future partners, so when you purchase a gift with Hazelnut Kids and have it wrapped in our new recycled gift wrap – you’ll get the benefit of supporting new tree planting – 2 fold!

Earth Loven recycled gift wrap

Beautiful, fun, and colorful designs!

As an Art Student, I’ll be the first to admit – it takes a lot for gift wrap designs to impress me. So many seem boring and uninventive. Not true for Earth Love’n Paper’s designs! Bright colors and whimsical figures help make this much more than gift wrap – they are works of art! Unwrap carefully – you’ll want to use this paper over and over again! And when the time comes to dispose of the paper, it is completely recyclable.

Included with our new gift wrap will be matching gift cards, also 100% post-consumer recycled paper and vegetable ink.

A great value for your pocket book, and an even greater value to our earth!

written by: Bridgett – Manager of Hazelnut Kids

 Trees for the Future logo

I love the end of each calendar quarter, as that’s the time that I send our donations to land conservancies and Trees for the Future.  It feels great to be giving to organizations that do so much for our Earth.  At Hazelnut Kids we donate 1% of our sales to land conservancies and have one tree planted for every toy that we sell.  Based on our sales in the last few months, we were able to have 5000 trees planted through Trees for the Future this month!  So a big THANK YOU to Hazelnut Kids customers who help us to care for the Earth through their purchases.  If you’d like to learn more about Trees for the Future, please click here.

This is going to sound strange coming from someone who sells things for a living, but before you shop this holiday season (or before you buy more), please visit this website and watch the video that launches: The Story of Stuff.  It tells the full life cycle of products including how they are made, priced, sold, consumed, and trashed, but more importantly the far-reaching impacts of production, overconsumption, and waste.  It’s wonderful.  It’s fairly long (maybe 15 minutes or so, but it goes by fast), so make sure you have the time before you sit down (and if right now isn’t the time, please make the time later today).

I can’t help but think of Hazelnut Kids when I watch programs like that.  There is more that we can do at Hazelnut Kids, and we always remain cognizant of what we might be using too much of or what we can do differently.  For instance, my husband just read that if 10 million office workers were each to use one fewer staple each day, it would save almost 120 tons of steel a year (thank you to Ode magazine for that article).  Wow!  So, we at Hazelnut Kids are trying to staple less, and I’m buying staple-free staplers for the office.  We are constantly thinking of ways to reduce the amount of paper we use, and our first priority in 2008 is to map out ways of streamlining our processes to do so.

A video like that helps explain why the wooden toys that we sell cost more.  The companies we buy from pay fair wages, care for the environment, and do things right.  They create toys to last, rather than engineering them to last only a limited time so parents buy more, or creating a new version of an item so kids will “NEED” the latest version.  (This is referenced in the video in case you’re wondering why I sound so conspiracy-theorist about big box toys.). 

There is a part of the video that shows a cartoon man working (sometimes even two jobs), coming home to plop down in front of the tv, seeing ads for what he “needs”, going back to work, going shopping, coming home to watch tv, going to work…  AAARRRGGHHHH!  We don’t need as much as we think we do.  I mentioned this in an article I wrote for Modern Sage magazine (see it here), but one good toy can replace a lot of little toys, and will be cherished by a child.   Since well-made toys last, a great earth-friendly choice would be to find one at a second-hand store or garage sale.  But, if you want to buy a new toy for your child, buy one really nice toy.  It will last, it will be cherished, and you won’t be contributing to the overconsumption of our planet’s resources.   One fact that was mentioned in the video is that only 1% of the stuff we buy is still being used 6 months later.  So, 99% of the products we buy have gone through the cycle of using natural resources, being made in a factory with toxins that are hurting the workers and the environment, being shipped to the stores (using more natural resources and creating more pollution), being bought by consumers, and then being added to our landfills (and I’m missing several key points here so please watch the video).  99%!   The good news is that we can do something about all of this, and create happier lives for ourselves in the process.  Let’s start by shopping less, spending more time with our families, and watching the video for inspiration and tips.  Happy (shopping less) Holidays!  

Customer Question: “I love your wooden toys, and was wondering if you have a print catalog?”

Our Response: “Currently, we do not have a print catalog at HazelnutKids, but we are considering having one printed in mid-to-late 2008.  We are researching printers that offer recycled paper and soy ink, and will only mail catalogs to customers who request them, so as to minimize waste.  In the meantime, many customers have found that creating a wishlist at HazelnutKids is a nice way of gently suggesting to relatives that their children would enjoy natural toys (without plastic or batteries).  Plus, relatives are usually relieved to have a short list to choose from while knowing that what they choose will be well-received by both the children and their parents!  Our wishlist service allows you to create separate lists for each child in your house, too.

On a related note, Bridgett (the manager of Hazelnut Kids) found the following excerpt from the book “Garbage Land” by Elizabeth Royte: “In 2001, American companies sent out seventeen billion (catalogs) – fifty-nine for every man, woman, and child in the United States – weighing a total of 7.2 billion pounds.  Only six out of the seventy-four catalogs surveyed by the advocacy group Environmental Defense used recycled paper in the body of their mailings.  Switching to just 10 percent recycled content, the group said, would save enough wood to run a six-foot-high fence across the country seven times.”

Isn’t it amazing that a small change like that can make such a difference?

I recently read the very inspiring magazine, “Motto”, which I highly recommend reading.  It featured an article called “Where Green Meets Gorgeous” and it was about Linda Loudermilk’s eco-luxury fashions.  In it, Loudermilk was talking about how consumers throw things away without considering the impact on the earth.  But, because they are beautiful, well-made, and they last a long time, she points out that “there are very few Gucci purses in our landfills”.

Immediately I thought of the parallel to wooden and natural toys.  I can’t imagine throwing away any of our sons’ wooden toys or games.  They are either being saved for their children, passed on to friends, given to goodwill, or resold on ebay.  And whoever inherits them next, will likely do the same.  Yet, it’s easy to throw away the little plastic trinkets that they are given at their friends birthday parties.  And what a waste!  Those trinkets cost laborers in China their time (and at a low wage), they cost our earth plenty between the chemicals and energy used to make them, and now they are taking up space in our landfills.  Plus, there is the negative health impact they can have on children.

So, why do parents buy them?  Most likely they feel that the party guests will be disappointed if they aren’t given a certain amount of “goodies” to take home with them.  Yet, if given one nice toy that will last a long time, wrapped to show how special it is (rather than being put in a plastic gift bag), the child will not only love it, she will appreciate it.  And the current generation of children wants to do what is right for the earth.

One of my friends and her daughter tie-dye t-shirts for their party guests, and all of the kids love them.  A Hazelnut Kids customer recently bought several Haba magnifying glasses as party favors.  Another bought several Plan Toys moving mice.  Bridgett, our manager at Hazelnut Kids, gave her daughter’s party guests silk rainbow streamers, and she couldn’t get over what a beautiful sight it was to see all of the children running and playing outside with their streamers.  Each of these gifts cost more than plastic toys, but if you add up the price of all of the junky trinkets, monetarily it often evens out.  And as far as the Earth is concerned, there is no comparison.