Starting the world’s first eco toy store

Sharon Keilthy: My personal story

By Sharon Keilthy

I’m Sharon Keilthy and I’m an environmental activist. My activism is running the world’s first eco toy store, Jiminy Eco Toys, in Ireland. I’m delighted to launch my new ‘sustainable toys’ column here at Spirit of Play by sharing my personal story - of why and how I started the world’s first eco-activist toy store, the impact we’ve had so far, and my vision for toys’ sustainable future.

How it all began

It was 2018 and my daughter’s 4th birthday was approaching. I went to a nice Irish toystore for a gift. By then I was awake to the plastic problem - the carbon emissions, the trash crisis. I wanted a gift she’d enjoy and I could feel good about - something plastic-free and made locally in Europe. But there was nothing like that in the store and I left empty-handed.

I thought: "How can we expect people to choose sustainable, when sustainable isn’t on the toystore shelf? We have to make it easy to do the right thing! And if not me, now - then who, when - to change this?"

Starting a eco toy store

So, I started the toy retailer I wished already existed - offering all types of toys, for every age from babies through teenagers - just the ‘eco version’, meaning strictly no virgin petro-plastic, and made locally in Europe.

Jiminy was born in my local park market on a cold, dark Saturday morning in November 2018. It was a folding table, about 20 products, and me – terrified and not knowing what I was doing. My friend helped choose a name - after Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio’s conscience.

Four years later, is an online store and one of the largest independent toy retailers in Ireland. What difference has it made so far?

Impact of the eco toy store

Well, we’ve empowered over 15,000 people to choose gifts they could feel great about. We've sold over two million euro of sustainable toys. Assuming that replaced the same value of unsustainable toys, our climate impact is like saving 4,500 mature trees from deforestation.

Raising awareness of the necessity of eco toys

We've brought awareness of why and how to choose a sustainable toy to a mainstream audience: through our customers and community, a Christmas pop-up in Ireland's largest department store Arnotts, and features in all the Irish media including The Irish Times and Ireland's most-watched TV show: The Late Late Toy Show.

Meet me at bio!TOY from March 21-22, 2023

I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned with the global toy industry including co-founding a Sustainability Learning Community at Women in Toys, lecturing on sustainability to toy design students, joining the (American) Toy Association Sustainability Committee, and co-organising a “sustainable plastics for toys” conference for March 21-22 this year (bio!TOY - hybrid in Nurnberg and online - sign-up here).

And in February, speaking at the world's biggest toy fair Spielwarenmesse was a highlight of the past 4.5 years for me. As a disruptor of this industry, I was encouraged by the progressive, inclusive, industry-leadership mindset at that invited me to speak.

That’s my story – Read more of my sustainable toys column at Spirit of Play magazine soon.

About the author

Sharon Keilthy from Dublin, Ireland founded the world's first eco-activist toy store and has sold €2 million of eco toys to date - all carbon-neutral and minimal-waste. She co-founded the Women in Toys Sustainability Learning Community, sits on the Toy Association Sustainability Committee, and is faculty at the Toy Design Degree Otis College Los Angeles.

Join the bio!TOY conference March 21-22, 2023

Learn more about sustainable plastics (recycled and bio-based) for toys at the bio!TOY conference 21-22 March 2023 hybrid in Nurnberg and online.

To bio!TOY conference

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