According to the audiobook* I’m reading at the moment, an old Djibouti proverb goes like this : “A man is only as rich as the number of children he fathers” and then, went on to the question “After all, what else does he leave behind?”
I can answer that one for you – Nappies.
If you consider the findings of a National Geographic’s research project, the average baby uses 3796 nappies in a lifetime. Other research puts it as high as 6500 nappies which equates to 40 black sacks per child per year and that’s just one child. Eight million nappies are used each day in the UK. Their manufacture requires a huge amount of virgin paper, water, chemicals and wood to produce. Combine that with the transport overheads to get them from factory to shop to bot and on to landfill, (where it’s estimated that it takes 30 – 500 years for nature to break down a nappy) and you’re looking at something that I don’t think it would be possible to make any more unenvironmentally friendly.
There are viable alternatives.
The alternatives are often overlooked, ignored, quashed by powerful counter marketing or disregarded through ignorance. We’re on our 4th child now (see opening gambit) so as well as exceeding our standard 2.4 baggage allowance, we’re acutely aware that we’re leaving massive carbon footprints all over mother nature’s carpet. This time round (with Annie Mo), one of the areas we’re actively trying to improve upon, is our burden on nature – with our choice of nappy.
With our first baby we used disposable. We were young and shell shocked. The big brands seduced us. It pains me to think that there’s probably at least 3796 nappies still out there, ‘created’ by us. By our second child we’d discovered ‘eco-friendly nappies’. They’re about the same price as non disposable, yet just as effective, with the huge bonuses of being biodegradable and made from natural, sustainable materials. These are reportedly much kinder to babies bot-bot, thanks to their lack of petrochemicals. There was one brand we were using that could be broken down in a wormery – these did let off a pungent aroma of weetabix though when wet, but that was a small price to pay. By the end of our third child’s nappy needs, we were into reusable.
The vision of ‘reusable’ nappies to me, initially conjured up the terry toweling numbers of old that needed to be boil washed for hours then hung on every available surface in the home and that needed to be fastened to the red-raw bottomed babe with a terrifying looking massive safety pin. What we got is very different. The modern day reusable nappy is a very simple to use system that involves two main parts – a pad liner and a ‘shell’ outer. You tuck the pad into the outer – and that’s pretty much it. Velcro holds it in place the same way as their disposable counter parts. You can use wicking liners but we’ve so far found the pads do the job admirably.
We don’t use nappy wipes – instead, we find a stock of clean cloths on stand-by, along with an atomizer bottle filled with water, infused with chamomile essential oil does the trick. A sealed, lidded bucket collects the dirty nappies which get washed on a 60 degree wash every other day. These get clipped onto a hanging clothes airer / dryer – the type used for socks and pants – which takes up very little space either indoors or out.
We were lucky enough to be given a full kit – that should take our Annie Mo through to potty training without needing to ever buy a nappy again – although we’ve retained the luxury of eco friendly disposables, for when we’re camping, or occasionally out and about. To kit yourself up, you’re probably looking at around £150 – £250 for all the various sizes you’ll need with accessories, but when you consider that the alternative – disposable nappies – will cost you £1584.70, you’ll be doing your bank balance, as well as the environment, a favour.
Just as a footnote – whilst surfing about looking looking at disposable and other nappy info, I stumbled across this reusable nappy. It’s got owls on it! For our little owl. Had to buy one immediately (because we are still consumers afterall..)