Saturday, 11 September 2010

Baby vs The World

I've always tried to do my bit for the environment. I recycle as much of our household waste as possible. I give away things I no longer need on Freecycle rather than send them to landfill. I do my best to switch off appliances and lights, and I try to buy items with minimal packaging. I'm hardly an eco-warrior, but I probably fit in the "above average" category for environmentally sound gestures.

Baby Badger, on the other hand, is definitely a consumer to challenge my (pale) green principles.

Father Badger and I decided before Baby Badger arrived that we would use disposables at first, while the sleep deprivation and ineptitude was at its worst (and while the daily turnover of nappies was likely to be at its highest), but aim to move to a more eco-friendly alternative as soon as possible. Baby Badger is now three months old, so we're overdue. We've bought a handful of different modern washable nappies (Itti Bitti D'Lish, Bumgenius Flip and v4, Bambooty EasyDry and FuzziBunz OneSize) and tested them with similar results: they absorb wee for a good few hours, but Baby Badger has yet to test the leg holes to capacity, if you get what I mean...

It seems logical that reusable nappies must be more eco-friendly than disposables, but there are so many factors such as the energy used to produce the nappies and the energy and detergent used to clean them. There are lots of sites online where people trade and sell pre-loved nappies, which goes some way towards dealing with this; Cloth Nappy Tree is one such site. You can wash the nappies on half or quarter dose of detergent, and most are fine at 40 degrees, but use of a tumble dryer makes them almost as bad as disposables [although I honestly can't remember where I read this]. Experience of our trial nappies tells me, however, that even with a decent day for the washing line these nappies take a while to dry, so over winter we can expect soggy nappies on indoor airers.

Cue knight in shining armour: the Nappy Laundry Service. The county council website reliably informs me that our area is covered by a Nappy Laundry Service. They deliver a week's worth of nappies and take away the previous week's soiled nappies and wash them to suitably high standards. I'm telling myself that the fuel used to shift the nappies around must be offset by the ability to bulk wash the nappies in an industrial washer because the idea of being green without the ick factor of having to wash them myself is, quite frankly, highly attractive.

We've also trialled some "eco-disposables". These are nappies that are produced in a supposedly more eco-friendly manner (bleach-free, etc.) and also decompose in a more timely manner. Some, I've heard, may even be compostable, but I've yet to find the evidence. I'm hoping that we can end up combining the magic Nappy Laundry Service washables with eco-disposables for emergencies. Watch this space...

Baby wipes, the chief weapon in any mother's armoury, are equally onerous in landfill. There are brands that claim to have a lesser impact, and then there are the reusable, washable variety. I bumped into a mother at a Nappuccino (I kid you not) that uses flannels and a spray bottle containing water, tea tree and lavender oil to clean up. I'm not sure I'm quite at the stage of being able to cope with that when a poo-nami strikes.

There are, of course, many other ways in which to lighten your little one's impact on the environment. Gratefully accept second hand baby clothes; after all, what is the point of brand new clothes that last a month? Pass on clothes that no longer fit to other mothers - NCT nearly new sales are one way to do this. Minimise the number of toys that require batteries. Try public transport rather than drive everywhere with your little one: I managed a trip to London single handed on the bus, train and tube with only a baby carrier and rucksack and it actually wasn't that bad!

So... my plan of attack? Firstly get Baby Badger cloth bummed, then give the flannel a go (once I've worked my way through the baby wipe mountain in the cupboard*). After that? Who knows.

* The baby wipe mountain is courtesy of Father Badger, who became slightly over-enthusiastic when he spotted an offer at the supermarket and ordered packets totalling in excess of 1,400 wipes. Seriously.

Post inspired by imperfectpages:

Image: Phiseksit /

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