What is the EcoScore?

What is the EcoScore?

The EcoScore is an easy way to judge the sustainability of a toy at a glance. Sustainability in this sense means that a toy is non-toxic and environmentally friendly, and thus sustains the health of your child and the health of the planet. We developed the EcoScore by compiling the characteristics of natural, organic, and sustainable toys:

  • Free of plastic and vinyl
  • BPA-free
  • Lead-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • Free of toxic paints, dyes, and flame retardant chemicals
  • Uses renewable energy
  • Made with renewable energy
  • Made of durable materials
  • Made of natural materials
  • Made of sustainable materials
  • Fair trade
  • Recyclable and biodegradable packaging
  • Meets European Toy Safety Directive standards

These characteristics are weighted, and toys are ranked according to the degree to which they meet these criteria. EcoScores range from 0 to 100. All toys sold on the EcoToys website have a score of 80 or higher.

Comparison: EcoToy vs. Common Toy

For example, a typical vinyl doll from Mattel such as the Little Mommy Bedtime Baby Doll has an EcoScore of 11, while the cloth Waldorf doll from Kathe Kruse has an EcoScore of 98. What are the differences? The Mattel doll is made of plastic that likely contains BPA, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals, and may be contaminated with lead. In fact, millions of Mattel toys made in China have been recently recalled for lead contamination. In contrast, the Kathe Kruse cloth doll is made from 100% natural, sustainably sourced materials such as cotton and wool, and is tested to be free of the above toxic chemicals. In addition, the Mattel doll uses batteries, and is not made with renewable energy like the Kathe Kruse doll.

Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics that comprise the EcoScore.

Free of plastic and vinyl

Most plastics are endocrine disrupters, and the production of plastic releases toxic chemicals into the environment that poison fish, birds, and other animals, including humans. Vinyl is a form of plastic that is often contaminated with other toxic substances, such as lead and phthalates, during production.


BPA is a form of plastic that is known to be highly toxic to humans. Its documented effects on health include obesity, neurological issues, thyroid problems, increased risk of cancer, reproductive system problems, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and heart disease. Because of these problems, BPA warrants special attention for avoidance.


Lead is a naturally occurring metal, but it is toxic to humans and other animals. Exposure causes neurological problems, slowed growth, learning difficulties, mood disorders, digestive problems, and can be fatal. In 2007, a random testing of plastic toys found that more than 20% contained high levels of lead. Millions of Chinese-made plastic toys have been recalled in the last decade for lead contamination. Lead is often found in paints and in vinyl products such as dolls.


Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals often found in vinyl products. Many commonly used phthalates are classified as probable human carcinogens, meaning that they cause cancer in humans. They also disrupt sexual development and cause reproductive system toxicity.

Free of toxic paints, dyes, or flame retardant chemicals

A number of other chemicals used in the production of toys and textiles (fabric) are known to be or suspected to be toxic to human health. However, some standards have been developed to assure consumers that certified products do not contain harmful substances. For example, the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 tests products for formaldehyde, pesticides, heavy metals, preservatives, and toxic dyes. Natural fabrics such as cotton can also be certified organic, meaning that they do not contain pesticides or chemical additives.

Uses renewable energy

Energy usage is a big issue affecting our environment. Many forms of energy production, such as coal power plants, are highly toxic to the environment, and “plug-in” toys contribute to this energy production by their consumption of electricity. Batteries are also highly toxic because they contain lead, mercury, cadmium, and toxic acids. The disposal of batteries is a huge challenge facing our planet, so battery-operated toys are best avoided. The most eco-friendly toys are “hand-powered” – they use only your child’s energy! Wind-up type mechanical toys are another eco-alternative. EcoToys does not sell toys that require electricity or batteries.

Made with renewable energy

Toys that are made in wind- or solar-powered factories are more eco-friendly than toys produced in factories powered by coal or even natural gas. Hand-made toys are even better!

Made of durable materials

The durability of a toy plays a large role in how sustainable the toy is. Most toys sold to American children today end up in landfills within a few years because they break. This build up of cheap plastic is poisoning our planet. At EcoToys, we strive to sell “heirloom quality” toys that can be handed down for generations. These toys hold up well without breaking and don’t “go out of style” like many toys that come and go in fads.

Made of natural materials

Toys made of natural materials are more eco-friendly because less energy was used to produce the material. They are also less likely to contain toxic chemicals.

Made of sustainable materials

Toys that are made of natural materials may have certifications that the material was sustainably produced. For fabrics, this can include organic certification, meaning that artificial pesticides were not used in the production of the fabric. Wood may be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, meaning that the trees were grown and harvested in a way that protects biodiversity (rain forests, wildlife habitats, etc.) and uses water responsibly. Products with such certifications are more eco-friendly choices because they document their environmental protection.

Fair trade

Fair trade products contribute to a more sustainable planet because workers are paid a living wage and work in safe conditions. Fair trade protects the health of the workers, and thus, the health of the planet. Although not all products sold on the EcoToys website have a Fair Trade certification (most toys do not), the majority of our products are produced in the United States, Canada, or Europe, all of which have laws regulating the minimum wage and working conditions. Products sold on our website that are produced in other countries are researched to ensure that they meet fair trade standards and do not employ child laborers or use forced labor.

Recyclable and biodegradable packaging

Product packaging is a large source of waste and pollution on our planet. We strive to select toys that are packaged in recyclable or biodegradable packaging, and we use all recyclable material to ship your toys to you.

Meets European Toy Safety Directive standards

As of July 2013, the Toy Safety Directive of the European Union has new, stricter standards regulating toy safety, including chemical toxicity from harmful substances. The list of prohibited chemicals includes those that are suspected to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing), mutagenic (causing genetic mutations), or toxic to reproduction. Many of these chemicals are commonly found in plastic or vinyl and are not regulated in the United States. Thus, toys that meet the European standards are much less likely to be toxic to your child than toys that are produced for the American market.