Since their conception, stuffed animals have been one of the greatest comforts to people of all ages. They are soft, adorable, and make great company. Perhaps the only thing that could make having a cuddly friend even better is knowing that it was created with sustainably sourced materials and is helping to positively impact the environment. One such stuffed animal is the $15.59 giraffe from Aurora World’s Eco Nation Collection, manufactured with 100% recycled materials. After visiting the Aurora World website, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of their concerted efforts toward sustainability over the past few years, with this new collection as the pinnacle. Going forward, I hope that they stay true to their mission and work toward manufacturing all of their stuffed animals with only 100% recycled materials. In addition, it is imperative that they make an effort to improve the sustainability of their manufacturing and transportation practices across the globe, and offer more transparency on the working conditions of their facilities. Though far from perfect, Aurora’s efforts are comparatively pretty significant in relation to other popular stuffed animal brands in the U.S.
Since 2018, Aurora World has transitioned to using “eco-friendly plush” for all of their products, a stuffing made out of 100% biodegradable post-consumer pellets instead of the standard PET plastic pellets. They note that this saves over 3 million pounds of recycled plastic annually. In addition, they began adopting 100% post-consumer polyester for the fur of all of their products, as well as a 100% recycled satin label and paper hang tag. These changes highlight a significant willingness to do the hard work of completely altering production processes and searching out more sustainable materials. Aurora’s most recent environmental endeavor is the 2021 Eco Nation collection, including the Eco Nation giraffe. These stuffed animals are made out of 100% recycled materials: recycled fabric and filling, recycled sewn in labels, and embroidered eyes rather than plastic. The fur and pellets are made of reclaimed recycled plastic bottles, helping the company save over 400,000,000 bottles each year. Aurora also transitioned to using recycled cardboard shipping boxes, and will begin to use paper packing tape and fewer plastic bags for shipping. Most stuffed animals have a pretty long life cycle as a result of emotional attachment, meaning that these items are often kept by individuals for entire lifetimes and passed down over generations. When stuffed animals are made with more sustainable materials, such as recycled plastic bottles, their long life cycle will be even more beneficial.
On the Eco Nation Collection’s homepage, a graphic depicts a small penguin saying “I once was a plastic bottle... Plastic bottles are shredded into pellets. Pellets are turned into yarn and fabric and... Ta-da! An Eco Nation friend is born!” I appreciate this simplistic language and transparency, as it is likely accessible to even some of the youngest consumers. The accompanying illustrations of a penguin completing each task may even help children who are too young to read gain an understanding of the process. This web page also includes a promotional video for Eco Nation, narrated by a young girl. She explains that the production process of each individual animal recycles 8 used plastic bottles, taking plastic waste out of the oceans and turning it into cuddly friends. Further, Eco Nation notably became a 2021 Toy of the Year finalist in the plush category, highlighting the fact that people are paying attention to Aurora’s sustainable efforts.
Aurora World appears to be a fairly responsible and ethically minded company, putting forth a concerted effort to create smiles and protect the environment. Their interest in sustainability reads as genuine given significant efforts to locate sustainably sourced and recycled materials and create an entirely new production process for all of their animals– especially the 100% recycled Eco Nation Collection. In addition to changes in stuffed animal production, Aurora has made shifts at the corporate level, such as cutting paper usage by over 30% through a switch to a digital filing process. On their website and in interviews, they also repeatedly emphasize the fact that they own all of their manufacturing facilities and factories, and employ extensive in-house research and development teams, allowing them to control the entire design and production process from start to finish. As a result, they pride themselves on the unique quality of their products, highlighting the fact that every stuffed animal is hand stitched and sewn. This is undeniably a good thing, as it signals that Aurora is not owned by a larger corporation and does not excessively mass produce their products. However, if they are going to boast about how much control they have over their processes and practices, I think they could be doing a bit more. At the very least, they should have a page with a timeline outlining the changes that they are committed to making in the near and distant future. In this regard, I was frustrated that I could not find any information on working conditions at the Aurora design and development center in Seoul, and manufacturing facilities in Indonesia and China. The ethics and sustainability of a company are often most visible in the way they treat their workers, so the lack of transparency on this front raises questions about labor conditions. Further, any US company with a manufacturing base on the other side of the world must ship their products across significant distances, leading to excess carbon emissions. I found no mention of this detail anywhere, but I certainly hope that this is something they have considered and are looking into improving. While I think there are many positives in regard to Aurora World’s efforts and commitments towards sustainability thus far, there are evidently some glaring gaps in transparency and practice that require immediate attention. Overall, I would generally recommend Aurora stuffed animals, especially in comparison to other popular companies, but it is clear that they still have some work to do.