But where does that wood come from?
The hardwood pieces so frequently seen on toys are mass produced from wood gathered from all across North America. Granted, maple and birch are in a fairly plentiful supply, but that does not mean good practices are used to harvest them. Despite all logic, loggers do not always take care to leave young trees and/or replant trees for future gathering. Because of the huge number of wood pieces being produced by the large companies that supply most toy makers, and because they make no mention of sustainability on their website, I assumed they did not worry a bit about where their wood came from. So I called one of the largest of these companies, and after a long conversation with a very friendly man who tried quite hard to skirt my questions, I finally (just barely, he really did not want to answer) was able to get that presumption confirmed.
So, does this mean I think you should stop using all those lovely chippable beads and stars? No, that is not realistic for most people, and that is ok. However I do think everyone should look into truly sustainable options for their wood chippers, to replace at least part of their toys and parts. And lucky for you, there are several great options available that might even have you, and your little feathered beaver, forgetting that mass produced wood parts ever existed in your house!
Of course the first wood that comes to many peoples minds when they think about sustainable options is java wood, or coffee tree wood. When the coffee trees are past production age, instead of being burned, they are taken, cleaned, and carefully selected for bird toys, perches, and playgyms. This is a good thing, but I will be honest and say I did not look very heavily into this option. I consider part of being sustainable being fairtrade, and none of the vendors I could find mentioned this.
I decided instead to focus on options that are close to home, so not only I can talk directly to them, but you can as well. All of these wonderful vendors are always happy to answer questions, talk about what you are looking for, or even customize items for you. They all also have sustainable wood, and while that may not be the only wood they use, I know they would be happy to make you a boatload of toys strictly with this green option should you ask.
Danita, of Things for Wings, is always very careful about her toy parts, and takes safety as well as sustainability seriously. She sells a wide variety of toy parts, and her natural shredders are some of the only ones I will use, although that is for another post! She has gorgeous perches and platforms (so cute!) that are both sustainable, as well as her incredible toys. Really, really, incredible toys, both custom and pre-designed. So pretty. And in response to my wood query, her own words-
At Things for Wings, we take pride in sourcing the most beautiful, natural and sustainable woods available. The bulk of our wood parts for parrot toy making are hand harvested, with no damage to the eco-system in the areas where it is gathered. Our interesting, barky varieties of wood come from the western US and Canada. The suppliers we deal with, harvest primarily from naturally fallen trees.Untreated, completely natural; these woods include willow, elm, mulberry, dogwood, apple, yucca, cholla and birch. The drying processes practiced by our suppliers, ensures a properly aged wood product; ready for toy building by us and for our clients. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing trees and thrives in many countries. We carry this highly sustainable wood as another natural toy making part. Canada is a world leader is practicing sustainable forestry; for that reason, we take pride in dealing with our Canadian suppliers. In addition to the various woods mentioned, we also use untreated Canadian pine.
A great place for pine toys is Shelly at Avian Antics and Avian Antics Boutique. They have both highly chip-able slats as well as thicker cut pine. They also have very fun toys made with their pine as well as various other toy parts. I do not have a very large bird, but I have heard from reliable sources with Greenwings that they have wonderful thick cut pine that can stand-up, if briefly, to that formidable beak. About their wood-
We have about 5 acres of Pine trees. 2-3 years ago we harvested a number of these trees, had them milled locally to our specifications and we use this wood when making our bird toys. When we harvest we replant. We currently have enough milled wood to last several years. We will harvest again in 2012, as the milling and drying process takes about 2 years.
And if you want the ultimate in sustainable wood toys you can do no better than the lovely Susan at Olivers Garden. I assure you, once you have seen her website, you will never be able to look at those plain big box store toys again. And if you contact her with what your bird likes, she will be more than happy to help you find something suitable, as she simply has a gift with knowing what birds will like. Many of her toy designs are not listed online, so I really do recommend contacting her before ordering. On the subject of wood, though, almost all of her wood is sustainable, both pine and hardwood. She does have a few pieces of mass produced wood left, mostly birch pieces, so do ask. It is not much, though, and she is trying to phase it out. Also, I should mention, Susan is careful about safety and all of their wood pieces are un-sprayed.
I buy most of my wood for a local landowner that thins his woodlots. It then goes to a local mill. I now employ an older couple that do most of my pieces since I can't keep up anymore. My apple and dogwood come from my yard (I've planted many-my husband didn't know I was going to cut them all down as they mature) and a few neighbours. Every spring I thin them out.
So there you have it! No excuse to avoid replacing at least part of your bird toy orders with more sustainable options.