Millions of mums are now dressing their babies in eco-friendly and ethical clothing as the world increasingly focuses on environmental issues, but choosing the right nappy to compliment the natural organic baby clothing is a more complicated issue. Which nappies are best for the environment and are they the also the best for mother and baby?
Disposable or Reusable?
On the face of it you have two choices, one time use disposable nappies or the reusable cloth variety. Disposable nappies end up in landfill and account for a significant proportion of modern waste, they degrade slowly, their manufacture is not necessarily eco-friendly and they are expensive and so the choice not to use them looks easy. In reality, however, the situation is not that clear cut.
There is no denying the convenience of disposables and with many busy mothers already fighting a losing battle to manage their lives the decision to leave these time savers behind is daunting. Disposables can simply be used and discarded and they are generally more absorbent than reusable nappies, requiring fewer changes. For those who would struggle to leave the convenience behind there are now some options to make your nappy use more environmentally friendly.
New, greener nappies are now available from brands such as Bamboo Nature, Moltex and Tushies. These nappies have more eco-friendly production methods, use sustainable materials and have green packaging. They also degrade more quickly and some are even compostable. Another new innovation is the semi-disposable nappy. These products have a reusable outer with disposable inner pads which are bio-degradable and can be flushed away after use. The downside of all these products is the price. There is no doubt that using environmentally friendly disposable nappies will cost you significantly more than their conventional counterparts.
Reusable nappies are certainly the most economical route to take and many local councils now offer incentives to use them in the form of cash back, samples and vouchers. The environmental issue is not entirely clear here though. In 2008 the Environment Agency reported that reusable nappies were up to 40% better for the environment than disposable ones but only if you reduce the impact of washing and drying them. Consider using an energy saving washing machine and tumble dryer and line-dry where possible. Wash in full loads and at the lowest possible temperature for the product.
Lower Your Impact
Mums might also consider the use of second hand nappies thus reducing the impact of production and using new materials. It should be remembered that once cloth nappies have been discarded they will degrade quickly but produce methane gases in doing so. New greener nappies are now available from brands such as Bummis and GroVia using ethical production and organic cotton. If convenience is an issue shaped nappies are easier to fit than conventional towelling squares. These still require the use of a waterproof outer, but all-in-one products include the waterproof layer and are fully washable.
Being kind to the environment with your nappy choice is a balancing act between cost, convenience and ethics but the right option is out there and the choices available grow by the day. For many mums the solution is simply to use cloth nappies when circumstances allow and disposable ones when convenience is paramount.
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Sally S writes on a range of subjects including environmental issues, travel and music. A fan of organic clothing, Sally recommends that you take a look at www.olivelovesalfie.co.uk for a great range at reasonable prices. You can find out more about Sally Stacey via her Google+ profile.