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  • Writer's pictureMike Piddock

A Tale of Toys and Tomorrow: How Toyi is helping play become purpose-driven

Updated: Apr 9

One frosty February morning, Rob, our intrepid founder, was up with the larks, catching a flight to Nuremberg. When he said he was jetting to Europe’s largest toy gathering we thought he was a tad eager to be ticking off his festive shopping list . But, as it turns out, his jaunt wasn't an early shopping spree, but a deep dive into the toy industry's eco revolution.

As it turns out, Rob's Bavarian adventure aligned serendipitously with the story of Toyi, led by Elif Atmaca (pictured) and Ögeday Uçurum, whom Rob had been introduced to by Madeeha Ansari from Cities for Children. Toyi is a small but fast growing business with big aspirations, entwining creative play with a mission of sustainability. We want to tell their story too.

The greening of playtime

Across the board, the toy world is waking up and smelling the eco-friendly coffee. It’s a shift that’s seeing the industry trade in its old habits of excess consumption and planet-harming plastics for a badge of sustainability. This green awakening is resulting in real, impactful ways: toys that sprout from the earth, packaging that shuns the superfluous, and a lifecycle for toys that goes round and round instead of ending up under the ground.

Crafting a greener narrative with Toyi

Toyi’s journey began with Elif, who saw the magic in the mundane, creating toys that transcend traditional gender roles using everyday objects. With Ögeday, she's built Toyi into a champion for creativity and a cheerleader for sustainability.

Elif describes how Toyi first came about:

"I spent my childhood living in different cities, most of them located in the countryside of Turkey. I saw a lots of families from different cultures but with poor educational experiences. I started to study industrial design and volunteering in different NGOs, and I realised play is the most powerful and magical thing for protecting childhood experiences. Not only for children, but also adults. I knew wanted to make something that made our day lives more playful."

As their journey has progressed, they've teamed up with folks like Nestle/Nesquik in their native Turkey, turning discarded plastics into playtime treasures and proving that toys can be both fun and kind to the planet.

Co-founder Ögeday takes on the story, explaining how the Toyi products work:

"We've designed it so that you can send a kid a toy kit, that means they can do whatever they want. They can assemble it, and disassemble that, and then make different choice. The idea behind it was to support children's creativity and imagination."

From local inspiration to global aspiration

As Rob found at Nuremberg, there are a myriad eco-conscious initiatives in the toy industry, and he describes a 'palpable buzz' around sustainability.

This eco-evolution sees the back of traditional, polluting plastics, welcoming materials that the planet would give a nod to. LEGO’s pioneering with bricks from sugarcane and plans for all packaging to be eco by 2025. Meanwhile, companies like Green Toys are revolutionising packaging by opting for the bare minimum, all recyclable and devoid of nasties, and PlanToys championing ethical manufacturing alongside environmental stewardship.

We also love the impact companies like Edx Education are having, contributing to children’s education in remote parts of Asia and Africa, and international costal clean-ups here. They are directly supporting charities including the Zi Shan foundation, Gecko On the Move and the Kuro Shio Ocean Foundation.

As you'd expect, the toy sector also has it's share of B Corps, embedding their purpose-driven mission into the heart of their business. Some of our favourites are Bontontoys,

It’s a whole industry shaking up its act, from what toys are made of to how they’re made.

The circular economy and beyond!

Circularity is the new black in the toy world, with rental schemes and repair shops popping up, proving toys can have nine lives too. Toyi embraces this ethos, is brainstorming ways to keep their toys in the cycle of play, reducing waste and championing reuse.

But it’s not just about reducing waste; it’s about powering play in greener ways. Thames & Kosmos are on it, with renewable energy kits teaching kids about the power of sun and wind, making play a lesson in sustainability. And then there’s the art of upcycling, with EcoBirdy leading the charge, turning old plastic toys into new treasures, proving that what’s old can be new again. Meanwhile, Loop's Toy Rental Platform represents a significant leap towards sustainability, emphasising the reuse and recycling of resources.

Toyi and Cities for Children

Toyi is a company that’s not just about selling toys but about sparking change. From their Kickstarter beginnings to their collaboration with grassroots NGOs, Toyi’s ethos is about making a dent in the universe, one toy at a time. They're making toys out of waste plastic, yes, but they're also crafting stories of resilience, creativity, and a brighter future for our kiddos.

Their collaboration with ‘Cities for Children’ is particularly close to our hearts. Elif participated in the Ashoka Changemaker Community five years ago, which focused on emotional education and empathy. During a retreat in Germany, Elif shared their story and projects and decided to create a play experience for refugee children.

The project aimed to address the interaction problems between local children and refugee children. Play was found to be one of the best ways for children to interact and get used to each other. Elif supplied the children with kits and workshop content, leading to the development of the toy product.

Madeeha from Cities for Children describes the toys going on to have an impact again and again, bringing joy to life after life:

"We’ve used the kits we got five years ago in so many different settings to get kids to express themselves - unaccompanied kids at a shelter in Pakistan, out-of-school girls in an urban slum, and refugee children in London."

This tale tells us it’s not just about toys; it’s about using play as a bridge, connecting worlds, helping kids from all walks of life find common ground and understanding. Through play, Toyi is tackling bigger issues: inclusion, empathy, and the social fabric that binds us all.

Wrapping up

So, what do Rob’s Nuremberg escapades and Toyi’s purpose-driven philosophy tell us? That the future of toys is bright and green.

It’s a tale of two worlds colliding in the best possible way, where the joy of play meets the imperative of sustainability. It’s about ingenuity meeting global challenges, crafting a narrative where toys not only delight but also educate and inspire.

We see an industry transformed by the green revolution, led by companies like Toyi and supported by the global community. It’s a future where toys come with a lesser footprint but a bigger impact, where playtime is as good for the earth as it is for our spirits.

Toyi's products are currently available in 16 countries, and they will be launching in the UK in the 2nd half of 2024.


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