Our History and Mission Statement
Tree Blocks® is one of the first companies in the US to have offered toys and games made almost entirely from reclaimed, recycled and sustainably harvested wood. Our ethical commitment to the environment and to the community where production is housed has been central to the company’s philosophy since its inception in 1995. The third pillar of our business is the dedication to make compelling and wholesome toys for children.
Karl Oppen, founder of Tree Blocks, always followed the wood. Early production came from a citrus orchard of a local community college that was shifting its focus from agriculture to computer science. We quickly outgrew the shop in the garage. Full production began in Mexicali, BC in 1996. The coming water scarcity from the Colorado River demanded that Mexican farmers shift from Citrus farming to less thirsty and more profitable mixed vegetables. Karl traveled the countryside identifying orchards in decline. He purchased the trees and removed the stumps; providing clean fields and seed money to begin modern farming and beautiful material for Tree Blocks®.
In 2001 it was time to move to Poland as the European market grew. In Poland Elder wood came from the tree tops, unusable and surplus from paper production. Branches also came from nut and fruit tree pruning.
In 2007, Karl opened a new factory in northern Vietnam. It is under the direct control of Tree Blocks® USA. Tree Blocks contracted with a government owned, timber company as the primary wood supplier. Sustainable forestry is the only type which is legal in Vietnam. This firm manages its forest by harvesting small plots in a seven year cycle. We still offer barkless blocks from here as the bark slips easily from Spring and Summer harvested wood in a tropical climate.
In 2011, Karl opened a new workshop in Southwestern Wisconsin, USA. The blocks are made by members of two families from the local Amish community. The entire shop, including the kiln is now off the grid. Some wood comes from the clearing of invasive species on arable land. Ash, maple cherry and walnut are among the types of wood sawn in a non-electric sawmill just up the road from the shop. Tree Blocks® uses its discarded off-cuts to make planks and our Tree Castle. The US made toys are finished with baked in, food grade wax. Tree Blocks® continues to expand domestic toy production to include our popular Tree Houses and many new designs. Tree Blocks® USA also makes small production run curriculum materials for schools and special needs classrooms.
Tree Blocks® uses only materials in our toys which are of the lowest environmental impact as is possible. At this point 95% of the materials used are from sustainable sources. We will continue to use only non-toxic, child-safe finishes, and to test each toy for safety before offering it for sale.
Tree Blocks® will always provide toys that are of the highest quality, have excellent play value, and of course the best value for its customers. All our toys are guaranteed without condition and for as long as you own them.
In 2015 Karl passed and his son, Lander, is priviliged to take over this family business.
in memory of Karl Oppen, Founder and Inventor of Tree Blocks®