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How green was 2012?

14 Jan

I’ve reviewed 2012 with personal highlights here but I’ve also been thinking about the green highlights (and lowlights) of the year. I’m hoping that it will provide me with inspiration for living green in 2013!

Baby

I had my second baby in 2012 (and an utterly gorgeous baby she is too!). We didn’t buy much for her – there’s something very special about seeing your second baby in clothes that your first baby has grown out of!- but we did buy a newborn insert for our Ergo. And we loved it and recommend it to anyone who’ll listen.

We also treated ourselves to a Tummy Tub for her first months – I had wanted one with my son but was given a bath & a bath seat so couldn’t justify it. This time we couldn’t resist and it was a joy to use – bath time was so special, as her 2 year old brother could really get involved and it was a lovely bonding time for us all. I’d definitely recommend it.

Diapers-wise, this time we used some Bummis prefolds & wraps to boost our washable diaper stash, as our son was still using his Bumgenius v3 and Flips. I was nervous, as I thought they seemed like a lot of hassle but we needed an inexpensive solution until our daughter could start using her brother’s diapers. And not only was I won over, but I fell for them utterly! Gorgeous soft fabric, fast and easy to use, quick drying. Very enjoyable to use and I highly recommend them.

But a green lowlight was that we used far more disposables than we should have. During our first month in the US we had no choice – our washables were being shipped over with the rest of our stuff – but then we got lazy. We got used to the convenience…and used “eco” brands to assuage our guilt. Luckily we’re back on track using washable diapers & wipes now but it was a lesson in how easy it can be to slip into bad habits.

A resolution for 2013 is to primarily use washable diapers & wipes.

Housekeeping

2012 was the year I started using white vinegar…which doesn’t sound like much but honestly, it is a revelation. I love it!

I’ve always tried to buy green cleaning products – Ecover was a favourite brand in the UK but I now use Method (which are now, conveniently, the same company!). The impact that cleaning products can have on our eco systems is something that really matters to me. But when my baby started eating her food off the table I was suddenly very bothered by even my green surface cleaner. I didn’t want any unnecessary chemicals polluting her food. So I switched to a 50% white vinegar solution and I love it – surfaces are clean & sparkling, there’s no vinegar-y smell, it’s super cheap (which is a big factor now I’m a stay-at-home parent) and I don’t have to worry about contamination of her food. I’m a convert.

A resolution for 2013 is to switch to more homemade green cleaning products.

We’ve also had our first experience of using a tumble dryer. We didn’t have one in the UK and never missed it. When we spent a month in Manhattan we had no choice but to use it – there was no other way to dry clothes in the tiny apartment – and I really didn’t like it. I shrank some clothes that I really loved and just felt guilty about it. But it became a habit that carried over into our new home.

But we have a spacious basement and my husband picked up a big sturdy clothes horse (it dwarfs our trusty clothes horse from our London life!). So we’re back to air-drying clothes with the tumble dryer for emergencies only. But it’s something to keep an eye on as I can now see how seductive the tumble dryer can be!

A resolution for 2012 is to primarily air dry our laundry.

Food

We had the joy of baby-led weaning all over again with our daughter. Like her brother, she’s never had processed baby food and it means we all eat more healthily as a result (since we watch the salt & sugar intake in everything we cook so she can handle it). I recommend baby led weaning to all parents as it is really a wonderful time in your baby’s first year – so much fun as your little one discovers the fun of food (my 9 month old daughter is going through the phrase of intentially dropping food on the floor, watching it falls…she’s like a mini physicist discovering gravity!).

We’ve also decided to eat more vegetarian food to reduce the carbon footprint of our good (read up on the environmental benefits of vegetarian eating here). So today was lentil soup & spelt bread for lunch and the Moosewood’s super tasty sweet potato quesadillas for dinner.

A resolution for 2013 is to have at least 2 vegetarian days a week.

Household Waste

I’ve already admitted to our disposable diaper addiction above, so that was a definitely green lowlight of 2012 in terms of household waste. But we’ve also had to sacrifice our home composting in our new rental home in Maplewood. We have no garden, so have no where to use any compost we create, and food waste isn’t collected by the town (oh how I miss Haringey’s food waste collection!). But we’re hoping to buy our own house this year and having an enclosed back yard we can garden is a priorty so I hope that by the time 2013 ends we’ll be back to home composting most of our food waste.

A resolution for 2013 is to start composting as soon as we can.

We’ve also just stared having milk delivered from the Green Market Dairy – and we love it! There is something so satisfying about the lovely glass bottles. And since the bottles are then reused it is also help cut down the volume of single use plastic or tetra packs we recycle.

OK, quite a rambly post but I hope that this informal green audit helps me move into 2013 more committed than ever to living green!

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Top reasons for using real nappies

23 Nov

While I’ve made it clear that I love washable nappies I thought I’d set out some the reasons for choosing to go real on the nappy front. 

 1. Environment
 
Each baby who uses disposable nappies is responsible for 300lb of wood, 50lb of petroleum feedstocks and 20lb of chlorine in its first year. This is in addition to adding to the stinking mountain of nappies sent to landfill every day (8 million disposables a day are thrown away in the UK) where they sit for hundreds of years (if not longer, since we don’t know how long they’ll take to break down). These sorts of stats make me feel a little depressed and I just couldn’t be responsible for making such a decision on behalf of my baby. So I decided to skip the bin bags of stinking disposables and invest in 24 washable nappies instead. 
 
According to the 2008 update to the Environment Agency’s Life Cycle Analysis on nappies, washable nappies can be up to 40% better for the environment than disposables. You can maximise the benefits of choosing real nappies by modifying your behaviour, eg washing your nappies at lower temperatures, only line or air drying, reusing your nappies on a second or subsequent child. Check out Go Real’s site for good advice on how you can make sure you’re getting the best for the environment by using washable nappies. 
 
There are also environmental benefits to using nappies made from hemp or bamboo, which are less demanding of water/pesticides than cotton. Or, if using cotton, sticking to organic cotton. You can also find nappies made under ethical conditions and made in the UK or Europe, to minimise nappy air miles. 
 
2. Money 
 
Real nappies definitely involve a lot more upfront cost than using disposables. But there are significant savings to be made over using disposable nappies (particularly if you choose to buy premium “eco” disposables). 
 
I estimate that we spent about £300 pounds on nappies/accessories plus £54.15 voucher we got from Haringey council. There’s also the cost of laundering (which I’ve never calculated!). But we chose quite expensive nappies (mostly Bumgenius and Tots Bots birth-to-potty options) on the basis that we can use them until he toilet trains and can also use them on our next baby. 
 
You may prefer to spread the cost of your nappies by using sized nappies, where you only purchase new sizes once your baby reaches that size. Or use prefolds (or muslins) and wraps, which I think are the cheapest option. 
 
Many local councils offer incentives to use real nappies (because of the landfill burden caused by disposables) so it’s definitely worth investigating where you can get a voucher or cash back on a purchase. There’s also a thriving second-hand market for real nappies – check out Cloth Nappy Tree.  Buying second hand is very cost effective and has the added environmental benefit of getting even more use out of real nappies. 
 
We also use washable wipes, which helps cut waste but also helps add to your savings in the long term. 
 
3. Ease of use
 
Modern washable nappies are easy to use, look and feel fabulous and are very little extra work. Using something like a Bumgenius or Tots Bots Easyfit honestly feels just like using a disposable, except that you’re not chucking them out afterwards! The modern velcro or popper fasteners that are super easy to use, even with the wriggliest baby. I’d have to recommend poppers over velcro, as after 20 months of use our velcro is looking quite worn. And my son can also open the velcro very easily, which is not always ideal! 
 
For me, the biggest proof of how easy they are to use is the fact that my mother (a complete and utter real nappy skeptic after raising 6 children in terry cloth nappies and plastic pants and having no fond memories of them at all!) is a convert. She loves how easy they are to use (and how cute they are) and wishes that her older grandchildren had been in them too. We’ve also never had a problem with childcare providers using them and in fact a positive response to real nappies was one of the key things we looked for when checking our childminders and nurseries. 
 
4. Helping to tune into your baby 
 
A washable nappy helps you to tune into your baby’s weeing capacity much more easily than a disposable (which always feels dry!). This is particularly reassuring in the early weeks of establishing breastfeeding as you have tangible (and soggy!) evidence of your baby getting enough to drink. It also helps if your little one gets sick, as you can get an indication of impending illness by drier nappies (or impending recovery by wetter nappies). 
 
There are also reputed benefits in terms of earlier potty training, but since we’re not at that stage ourselves yet I can’t say whether it’ll apply to us! 
 
Of course you can always choose to try elimination communication and attempt to avoid the environmental impact of nappies entirely. 

I Love Washable Nappies

22 Nov

I appreciate the title of this post reveals me as a total saddo but there you go! I can’t resist the cuteness of real nappies (as ably demonstrated by my son in the picture below!).

My son aged 6 months on a sunny beach in South West Portugal

We’ve been using washable nappies on our son since a few weeks after his birth (I had a c-section, so disposables worked for us for those very early days) and they’re great. Since it’s European Week of Waste Reduction I thought it was time that I revealed my love of cloth nappies…

Deciding to go real on the nappy front actually caused me a bit of stress when pregnant. Almost everyone I mentioned it to reacted negatively. I was told my life would be dominated by laundry, by endlessly boil washing stinking buckets of soaking nappies, of pricking my fingers (and my baby’s skin) on nappy pins. I was told that disposable nappies were a Great Leap Forward for feminism and going against this grain made me anti-feminist (this was the most irritating, as I’ve been a feminist, and proud, since I was a small child! I’m sure I’ll write more another time about my thoughts on environmentalism and feminism). Even my husband was reluctant. His brother and wife had used a laundry service when diapering their two sons in the ’90s (they live in the States) and advised us to do the same.

Of course this reaction just made me even more determined to use cloth nappies. In London we’re lucky enough to have Real Nappies for London so I could use our voucher to buy several nappies to get a feel for what we wanted before having to fork out the quite big upfront cost of buying enough nappies to see us through.

We ended up mostly buying Bumgenius v3 all-in-ones and Tots Bots Bamboozles for nighttime use. We then got some Bumgenius Flips once our son was about 9 months and this combination has worked really well for us. Our main issue is drying time, as we don’t have a tumble dryer but do have a garden with a washing line. We needed nappies that dried quickly and the Bumgenius dry almost overnight, even on a cold radiator. The Bamboozles take longer but we have enough so that while some are drying others are in use.

Now that I’m pregnant with no 2 (22 weeks and counting!), I want to try some prefolds and wraps for the early months. I was a little nervous of prefolds first time around, but I’ve now used some on my son (and nappi nippas mean that nappy pins are a thing of the past) I’m quite excited about them.

For anyone considering using cloth nappies I’d highly recommend finding a local nappuccino where you can learn about different types of nappy systems and find out what would work for you and your family. There’s also loads of good information on the web (check out Go Real or Nappy Go LuckyNappy Ever After or Twinkle on the Web for loads of info and tips).