What does it mean to create a local economy? Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology at Boston College has a few ideas worth exploring on the biggest shopping day of the year. Schor explains in her new book, Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth (The Penguin Press 2010) that time should be our most valued commodity and by working less hours, with a broader work force, we could save our sanity improve local economies and the environment all at once.
But if Plentitude is really possible and desirable why are millions of Americans already out this morning shopping? In fact it started last night as Black Friday has turned into Black Thursday night. Just as we were all digesting our Thanksgiving dinners off to the races shoppers took for the annual holiday bargin hunt. Economists who measure the economy with traditional tools of the GDP are looking at the shopping trends of the American holiday season to determine the health of our fragile economy. A great article this morning in the Daily Mail, by Mark Duell - Shopper pepper sprays bargain hunters as Black Friday sales turn ugly: 10 injured as 152million Americans hit shops shows not only slews of consumers charging through the doors of major retail chains, but it also takes into question the ability to build a viable long-term economy on the backs of small business.
The conversation of economic stability and the necessity of putting Americans back to work is going to continue to be the focus of conversation in the next year, if not only because of the election period, but because the over 14 million unemployed, and 25 million under-employed, are demanding it. The conversation has many tenticles and focusing on sustainable and local product is one answer worth seriously considering. As noted in Duell’s article big predictible consumer consumption for the holidays will be in categories of toys and electronics. So how do we shop local in areas that are traditionally manufactured overseas?
Stevanne Auerbach PhD, affectionately known as Dr. Toy, gives consumers tips and tells a compelling story of toy manufacturing returning to the United States.
Toys Made in the USA©
by Stevanne Auerbach PhD/Dr. Toy
Many years ago the USA thrived with diverse companies that produced dolls, toys, games, and playthings of all kinds. Then changes happened and most companies moved production outside our borders. Nonetheless, there are still many companies that continue to produce in the USA including game companies like Ceaco and Gamewright games, Maple Landmark wooden toys and molded play equipment like Little Tikes and Step 2. Here are some examples of excellent Toys Made in the USA and reasons the companies remained steadfast to making toys in this country.
OOZ & OZ Morph-O-Scopes Kits is a new and creative product featuring a 16th Century Chinese mirror invention that is anamorphic art, popular for 300 years. The product is made entirely in America, totally child-safe, and offers hours of creative self-expression.
Box Creations http://www.boxcreations.com are made entirely in the USA of mostly recycled paper products.
Connors Kits for Kids http://www.kitsforkids.com are designed by 17 year-old Connor Bernstein and are made entirely in the USA.
Green Toys are unique and these colorful toys are produced in Northern California using plastic milk containers collected curbside from consumer recycling bins. The milk containers are reprocessed into super clean fresh plastic.
The plastic used in Green Toys™ recycled products is high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This material is considered one of the safest, cleanest plastics around. It is recycled to save energy, reduce landfill, reduce waste, and conserve natural resources. All aspects of its toy production, including material sourcing, manufacturing, package printing, product assembly, and fulfillment, occur in California, which eliminates unnecessary transportation and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Hugg a Planet makes Foundlings®, the original Organic Cotton plush line introduced when green was just a color, and before it was a movement. The products include a bunny, bear, rabbit, elephant, puppy, turtle and whale. They combine 100% organic (no pesticides) cotton shell filled with unbleached cotton clippings and embroidered eyes for safety. It takes three years of chemical and pesticide free farming to certify a cotton crop as organic. Organic farming protects ground water and the farm workers. The cotton used in Foundlings is free from pesticide and other harmful chemicals. Hand crafted in the Green Mountain State of Vermont, the soft animals are machine washable and safe for all ages. In late 1991, traditional plush had very few toys made in the USA due to offshore competition. No toys were made of organic fabrics. This product line was introduced at the New York Gift Show in January 1992 has been a success from its start. Today the organic fabrics still come from the original supplier.
Cadaco, one of America’s oldest independent game and toy companies, offers the newest innovation in “green” toys and play. The EnviroBLOX Deluxe Set gives kids an easy way to create all kind of designs with 180 pieces of 100% biodegradable building blocks and logs, in a variety of colors and sizes. The product is made in the USA from cornstarch using a patented manufacturing process and materials. No plastic or oil-based materials are used. The blocks are very adaptable; simply moisten an EnviroBLOX with water for a firm, instant hold, no tape or glue needed. Cadaco has recycled 2,170 tons of material, saving nearly 37,000 trees in the process.
Nearly all Ceaco jigsaw puzzles are made in the USA as are many Gamewright games such as Rat-a-Tat Cat, Slamwich, Sleeping Queens, and The Scrambled States of America.
“We’re proud that nearly all of our jigsaw puzzles along with some of our most popular game titles like Slamwich, Rat-a-Tat Cat, and The Scrambled States of America Game are made in the USA,” says Jason Schneider, Director of Product development and marketing for Ceaco and Gamewright.
Little Tikes features many toys including the widely popular Cozy Coupe and Cozy Truck. The following link to the segment “Made in the USA” that ran on MSNBC last year shows how Cozy Coupe is made. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35821162/ns/business-us_business/t/made-usa-makes-cozy-coupe-rarity)
MGA/Little Tikes President Isaac Larian feels strongly about staying in the USA for the production value of the company. (http://www.ohio.com/news/top-stories/little-tikes-boss-declares-he-s-staying-for-the-people-1.185449)
Step2 makes an excellent line of preformed playthings and preschool play equipment. It closed one of its plants and transferred operations to another state to consolidate operations in Streetsboro and Perrysville, Ohio.
Maple Landmark Woodcraft “C Blox” and other products have been made for years using natural wood. It showed leadership by founding a company based on creative use of kid-safe materials, producing toys in Vermont, and by recognition of the future by effective green business practices. They lead the way in changing production and work place environment to make a difference and to help reduce the carbon footprint. This recognition considers how the company uses sustainable eco-friendly ways to provide important playthings for children and families as well as products that educate children with green awareness.
Debbie Glickman could have made products much less expensively overseas, but she chose very consciously to base Fairytale Wishes in the USA. She believed that since her products are for children, she wanted to be able to see firsthand what was going into every bottle. She did not fully trust any factory in another country. She also feels as a business owner that while it is important to try to make a profit, it is equally important to support the economy of this country. She says, “If I make less money but support our economy, then it is a “win-win.” She feels that when parents are looking for products for children, they want products made in this country. There is a lot that can fall through the cracks when manufacturing overseas especially with the safety of products.
Other companies shared similar reasons for wanting to make products in America including expensive surprises when manufacturing abroad.
It is not enough to have solid referrals to agents on the ground in particular countries that have proven track records of oversight. That’s a given. What one cannot control are challenges like government instability or the refusal of some countries’ ports of entry to allow goods to pass because they were manufactured in another country. Small companies trying to obtain redress when things go wrong (and they do go wrong) find solutions challenging.
Making products in America provides a number of advantages including reasonably close time zones. You can phone and solve problems without having to wait eight hours for someone to wake up and get to work. You can visit a U.S. factory with minimum disruption to schedules and less time away from the office. You also share a common first language, which reduces misunderstandings and confusion. If a problem arises, you can see it and provide solutions rather than waiting two or three days for express shipments to get samples. When a product is ready to ship, you can have it in the warehouse in three days as opposed to three weeks or more when coming from offshore.
Another important trend of Made in the USA is the effort of artisans who form the Handmade Toy Alliance, which currently includes 700 members that comprise small batch manufacturers, specialty retailers, small batch importers from throughout the USA, and a handful of international folks. The Handmade Toy Alliance supports small batch children’s apparel, toy, and accessory makers and includes an alliance of toy stores, toy makers, and children’s product manufacturers from across the country who preserve unique handmade and small batch toys, clothes, and all manner of children’s goods in the USA. Visit http://www.cpsc.gov/info/toysafety/smallbatch.html to see the guidance from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It is the culmination of three long, hard years of efforts to amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). This is a direct result of legislation signed into law August 2011 (HR2715), which allowed flexibility for small batch manufacturers. The Alliance is proud to see these efforts result in real, common sense reform. You will find handcrafted toys at a variety of places including specialty stores, craft shows, and online.
Finally, the most important reason these companies like manufacturing products in the USA is helping our economy. People overcomplicate the economic value of manufacturing in America. The simple fact is, if we spend money outside the U.S., there is less money in the U.S. That’s all we need to know. Let’s play!
Made in USA Toy Company Summary:
- Box Creations www.boxcreations.com
- Cadaco EnviroBLOX Deluxe Set
- Ceaco www.ceaco.com
- Connors Kits for Kids www.kitsforkids.com
- Fairy Tale Wishes www.fairytalewishesinc.com
- Gamewright www.gamewright.com
- Green Toys www.greentoys.com,
- Handmade Toy Alliance www.handmadetoyalliance.org
- Little Tikes www.littletikes.com
- Maple Landmark Woodcraft, www.maplelandmark.com
- Peacetoys www.peacetoys.com
- Step 2 www.step2.com
- Oozand Oz www.oozandoz.com
© 2011 Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, San Francisco, CA
Dr. Auerbach is also known professionally as Dr. Toy. She has written 15 books on toys, childcare, and parenting. Her book, Smart Play/Smart Toys, a guide to play from baby to older children, is available in the USA (and in 12 other countries). Her website, Dr. Toy’s Guide, http://www.drtoy.com, the first site on toy information, offers useful, timely guidance for all ages. Dr. Toy’s reviews of toys are published in various print media. She is a playful grandmother.