Three Irish brands create a green scene for children

The 2018 IPCC report on climate change had just been launched and Dublin mother Sharon Keilthy really wanted to do the right thing for the environment – and by her four year old daughter Ava she wanted to buy him a plastic-free toy that hadn’t been shipped 22,000 miles from China.

Keilthy came home empty-handed and disappointed, having discovered how difficult it was to do the right thing. “I had this moment of realization: if what’s on the shelf isn’t green, how can we expect people to make the right choice?

Not wanting to buy Ava ‘plastic wrapped in plastic, wrapped in even more plastic,’ Keilthy realized that getting the green option off the shelf – and working to make it the only option was essential. . With 80% of toys made in China and 90% from virgin plastic, she saw the toy industry as “a great place to step in” to help the environment.

Its ecological formula boiled down to “plastic free” and “locally made”. Plastic-free to keep toys away from the “messy truth about petroleum” – from which plastic is made – the destructiveness associated with exploration, drilling, hydraulic fracturing, pipelines, oil spills, disputes with indigenous peoples. With very few Irish-made toys – plus they are expensive – “local”, she found, means made in Europe.

Keilthy started selling eco-friendly toys at his St Anne’s Park market in Raheny. Two and a half years later, his company, (named after Pinocchio’s conscience Jiminy Cricket), is Ireland’s largest eco-specialist distributor of children’s art supplies, crafts and toys. With over 500 items, they are 93% completely plastic free.

“The other seven percent are mostly plastic-free, but contain pieces of Velcro or tiny pieces of shrink wrap.”

Keilthy sees the switch to bioplastics as a big and relatively accessible opportunity for the toy industry to become more sustainable. Made from plants, the carbon footprint of bio-plastic is neutral / negative. sells online and supplies 45 stores in Ireland and UK. “We are not here to get rich, but to solve a problem, to make the toy industry sustainable. Small businesses need to be the forerunners of this technology – so consumers are starting to demand more from toy stores. ”

Sharon Keilthy with her daughter Ava

Cardboard jungle

A Dublin company has created a range of cut-out, eco-friendly jungle animals – and it all started when a six-year-old fell in love with the dog Dulux.

Ronan Conway, Managing Director of P + D – a large format printing company in business for over 50 years – says Georgia Lloyd, daughter of the company’s COO, inspired the Cardboard Jungle eight-animal line.

“She saw a 3D stand-up of the Dulux dog. She fell in love and asked her dad to do more. We came up with the concept of coloring animals at waist height on an adult and we tested them all on our own children, ”says the father of two sons, aged seven and five. He adds that the impact of Covid over the past year has also led to a desire to explore new opportunities.

P + D is an FSC (Mark of Responsible Forestry) approved “ chain of custody ” supplier, assuring customers that products have been made from responsibly sourced paper and board. This eco-consciousness can be found in their Cardboard Jungle brand.

“The materials used come from responsibly managed forests that offer environmental, social and economic benefits and are 100% recyclable. The Cardboard Jungle range is produced in Ireland, ”explains Conway.

Along with tigers, giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos, deer, camels and gorillas, there are plans to conceive more, including a lion and a zebra. No matter what animal you choose, each pack contains a booklet with fun and educational information about the animal – including information about the importance of that animal, its importance in the ecosystem – how the animal was cut and child-friendly instructions on how to make it. the cardboard jungle animal.

Children are encouraged to design their own unique version of each animal using whatever colors / patterns they want.

“Cardboard Jungle will stimulate creativity, keep kids busy and off screens,” says Conway.

Lough Boora Discovery Park

Typically attracting over 100,000 visitors a year, Lough Boora Discovery Park recorded 85,000 visitors last year despite the pandemic.

Developed by Bord Na Móna for 25 years, the 2,000 hectares of reclaimed peatlands of Co Offaly were once a beehive of the bog harvesting industry. “Today it is an open free space that has seen an absolute transformation of habitat and environment,” says Thomas Egan, founder and director of Lough Boora Discovery Park.

“It’s a paradise for biodiversity, a true sanctuary for nature,” he explains, citing the 2012 BioBlitz where environmentalists recorded 940 species in 24 hours.

Egan says young families are the “main core” of visitors.

“The park is a mix of nature crossed by boardwalks and cycle paths – easy, flat terrain means you can walk a bit of distance. Over the seasons, the children of the region come to see the changes in the flora. It’s very exciting in May – the peat bog cottons begin, the first orchids arrive. It’s colorful – everything is waking up.

Lough Boora Outdoor Sculpture Park has been ranked among the top 10 of its kind in the world. It uses materials naturally present on site or linked to the industrial heritage of peatland exploitation. Sculptures such as a large stone pyramid and an array of painted industrial trains scattered around the park – one of which is laid out as a Thomas the Tank Engine – really draw kids into the wilderness.

“They are drawn to trains, but at the same time, they interact with nature at its best.”

Lough Boora features a large-scale fairy trail, the development of which was helped by a local craftsman, who works with the willow tree. The Irish Fairy Door Company was also involved.

“Among the birches and willows there are paths crossed where children find these little fairy havens,” says Egan, adding that the schoolchildren who take part in the tours available at Lough Boora “come away with a rich knowledge of nature. and biodiversity ”.

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Joseph Hedrick

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