Company transforms pre-loved plushies into sustainable toys: 'We can change the industry forever'

Charlotte Liebling stands next to a display for Loved Before in a department store; two plushies from Loved Before sit in a cardboard box

London-based Charlotte Liebling has one goal in life: to “save the world, one teddy at a time.”

The creative spirit and stuffed animal lover was volunteering at a charity shop when she realized how many second-hand soft toys were being donated.

“These pre-loved toys, often handed over with cherished memories and sentimental significance, were carelessly cast aside, sometimes relegated to becoming dog toys, or even more dishearteningly, destined for landfill,” Liebling wrote on her company’s website.

And she was right: Plush toys or stuffed animals are often made with synthetic materials that can take hundreds of years to decompose. Not to mention, the mass production of these toys requires heavy amounts of oil, natural gas, and water. 

Liebling knew there had to be a sustainable solution, and that was the impetus for her company: Loved Before.

She calls it “the first eco-friendly soft toy adoption agency.”

A teddy bear with one arm and one leg
Photo courtesy of Loved Before

Here’s how it works: Instead of tossing aside a beloved toy, donors are encouraged to write a small story or card about the personality of the toy — think Beanie Baby tag-style. Then, donated plushies are cleaned at the “spa” to make sure they’re fully sterilized for a new family.

The unique wonder of each of these toys is special to their stories; Loved Before doesn’t “fix” imperfections, but rather ensures that these items are safe to continue their journeys as they are. Once cleaned, the toys have their own photo shoot to be listed on the website.

“By redefining our attitudes toward pre-owned items through the medium of pre-loved toys, we aim to demonstrate that, far from diminishing in value, an eco-friendly toy, once cherished, is made even more valuable by the love and life it has already experienced,” Liebling shared on the Loved Before website.

And that value has been proven; Loved Before toys are now carried in three Selfridges locations, one of the biggest department stores in the UK. 

Charlotte Liebling stands next to a Loved Before display in Selfridges
Photo courtesy of Loved Before

The plushies come with printed cards telling their stories and are wrapped in fully recyclable and sustainably sourced gift packaging.

Toys can also be purchased directly from the Loved Before website, but they sell out quickly. An online forum welcomes anecdotes and photos of the plushies on their new adventures, and — like an animal shelter — the website has a tab of previously adopted animals so their former owners can check in on them.

There’s Hugh, a pug dog who is “afraid of cats,” or Grover, a gray bunny adorably called a “Culinary Explorer” for his penchant for dipping his toe into various foods. 

Even the plushies who might be easier to toss in the trash — with stains or missing limbs — have a home under the Loved Before roof.

A screenshot of the "Adopted" page on the Loved Before website
Photo courtesy of Loved Before

“We believe there are enough soft toys in the world to never have to produce another again,” the company’s website states. “We can challenge perceptions, rewrite the rules and change the industry forever.”

Additionally, Liebling is interested in using the format of soft toys to teach children to do more good. Whether it’s learning about the importance of preserving the planet or giving back to charity, Loved Before is all about providing comfort to children and inner-children alike.

In fact, since the inception of Loved Before, over 50% of its profits have been donated to charity. Currently, the company supports Make-A-Wish UK to grant life-changing wishes for young people living with critical illnesses.

This mission — combined with the sustainability-centric approach of the business — has earned Loved Before many fans. In a recent viral TikTok, commenters gathered to celebrate Liebling and her work.

Charlotte Liebling packs boxes of shipments for Loved Before, holding a teddy bear in her arms
Photo courtesy of Loved Before

“Sobbing,” one commenter wrote. “My stuffed animals were there for me when adults weren’t, so thank you for saving other stuffed animals!”

“Coming from someone [whose] entire collection was tossed, this means so much,” another person chimed in. “Thank you.”

Under another recent video, someone summed up exactly how it feels to see these plushies rescued and rehomed.

“Why am I bawling over stuffed animals?” they asked.

Liebling replied: “Because you care.”

While Loved Before is based in the UK, anyone can donate if they’re willing to cover shipping costs, or check out local road shows that will bring donations back to Liebling.

Header images courtesy of Loved Before

Article Details

February 13, 2024 1:34 PM
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