Jim is the owner of Jim Barber Studio, Inc, a well known still life photography studio that counts over 100 of the Fortune 500 companies as clients. His work has won many awards for advertising and annual report photography. He is also a judge of the ARC awards, the premier worldwide award competition for the annual report industry.
For the past two years, Jim has been researching and developing a way to make toys here in the U.S. that are more sustainable than toys made in China. He and his son, Luke Barber, have developed a line of toys made with an innovative new material that incorporates sawdust into regular plastic resin, replacing 30-40% of the plastic resin with sawdust. The toys have the look and feel of traditional wooden toys, but with features and designs that would be too expensive to mass produce, yet these toys sell at prices comparable to toys make in China.
How did you first get involved in the green industry?
A few years ago, I was cleaning out the basement, trying to get rid of some old toys. This was around the time of the recalls of tainted toys from China, and I was shocked to find that we had some of those recalled toys. I started learning about the toy industry, and working on ways to make toys safer, which eventually led me to discover that there was a way to replace some of the plastic with wood. I started doing research, and when my oldest son graduated college, he joined me in forming the company.
What interests you most about being green?
I like the process of discovery, and the idea of working with the many suppliers in the U.S. who are also committed to the process.
What is your biggest “green” pet peeve?
The notion that it is easy and simple to manufacture a green product, when the reality is much more complex. At least with toys, there is a need to balance the “green” aspect of the product with safety, and you have to be able to compete on price, or your products won’t sell.
What green trend is most exciting to you or your industry?
In the plastics industry, there is a trend to incorporate recycled and waste products into the materials, as well as develop injection-moldable materials that are not derived from oil.
August 4, 2014
Jim Barber discusses the challenges in bringing domestically made, sustainable toys to the marketplace.