Real nappies – better for the environment than disposables?
As we are celebrating Real Nappy Week, Downshifting Week and it’s Earth Day, I thought we’d talk about nappies. After all, it’s our children and Grandchildren we are taking action for.
The jury is still out whether real or disposable nappies are the better option. Some say that the amount of water, chemicals, non-renewable resources, transportation, packaging and burden on the landfill used in the life of a disposable make them far worse for the environment.
Others suggest that all that soaking, washing and drying of real nappies places a different kind of burden on our planet that is just as bad in different ways.
I don’t have the answer and I’m not about to sit here working out the maths. What we can all agree on, is that using washable nappies will help reduce the 8 million disposable nappies that are sent to the landfill every day. That has to be a good thing!
Below are a few tips to help lessen your impact on the earth if you decide to use real nappies.
1- Give an unwanted nappy a loving home!
Start with buying second hand (or see if you can get lucky on your local Freecycle). It’s better to buy something already made and used, even if it was non-organic and dyed using toxic chemicals, than to buy brand new organic, chlorine-free because the damage to the environment has already been done.
When you bear in mind that new nappies need a good half a dozen washes until they reach maximum absorbancy, all this work will have been done for you, if you get hold of some pre-used nappies.
2- Don’t boil them alive!
Back when I was a young babe swathed in terries; our mothers used to boil wash. This is unnecessary. Most of the time you can get away with a 30 – 40 degree wash; just boost nappies with a hotter 60 degree wash once in a while.
3- Reduce the toxins.
You don’t need to use toxic cleaning products to get your nappies clean. Using an earth friendly cleaner such as Ecover or Bio D will do the trick and is kinder for your baby’s skin too. For the ultimate in skin and earth friendly, consider giving soap nuts a go. These are particularly helpful for babies with eczema.
4- Don’t be a softie.
Don’t use fabric softener. Conventionally, fabric softener can be more toxic than the washing product. In addition, fabric softener reduces the absorbency of nappies, which means you need to wash them more often.
4- Turn down the heat.
Don’t tumble dry! Use free energy from the sun and wind to dry your nappies. Use airers in your home during the winter months and if you absolutely must use a tumble dryer, don’t over fill it so that the nappies dry quicker and take them out while they are still damp to finish drying in the air.
5- Use a laundry service
It is suggested that a nappy laundering service is better for the environment than washing at home. They can wash in bulk, so the amount of water and detergent use per child are lower than washing at home. Contact your local council to find out more – some offer incentives such as lower cost for first time usage, so it’s worth giving them a call. Visit the Real Nappy Campaign to find your nearest laundry service.
6- Spread the love.
Remember to rehome your nappies when your toddler no longer needs them. Pass them onto a friend who is expecting a baby, offer them on Freecycle, take them to a women’s refuge or keep them yourself for when the patter of tiny feet graces your life again.
If you want to give real nappies a go, then this is the perfect week to try:
If you visit the Nappy Lady; there is an free, online comprehensive questionnaire about your baby’s requirements for real nappies. Fill in all the details and a tailor made suggestion will be made for you. I used this for my daughter and the advice was excellent – the first purchase I made was the right one because I took the advice of someone who really knew her subject! I can’t thank that woman enough for sharing so freely of her knowledge – what a great service to the environment she provides.
Over at Tree Hugger Mums, they have a Real Nappy Week Offer – save 10% on all Cloth Nappy products AND there is free delivery on your first order.