advice environment Nappies reuse

Using cloth nappies on a budget

Someone putting a pound coin into a pink money box pig

There has been a lot of media coverage recently about people who collect cloth nappies, and focussing on one mum who spent £160 on 2 nappies. Whilst it’s great that cloth nappies are making mainstream media, it is worrying that it is putting families with less disposable income off using them in fear of the cost involved.

A couple of weeks ago I did a cost comparison with the cost using cloth nappies versus the cost of disposables ( Are cloth nappies cheaper? ), but how much do you NEED to spend, in order to use cloth nappies.

Tip 1 – Choose 2 part nappies. The expensive part of making cloth nappies is the PUL (the waterproof bit) so if you are changing the whole nappy every time (as you do with All in Ones and Pockets), your nappies are likely to work out more expensive overall. Two-part nappies tend to work out less expensive as you only change the absorbent bit at most nappy changes. To have 20 nappies, you would need 4-5 wraps and 20 inserts, meaning 20 nappies could cost as little as £140 brand new. 2-part nappies are easier to pass down to several other babies too, as if the PUL wears out, you only need to replace the wrap, not the whole nappy.

Examples – Totsbots Peenuts (£18 for wrap and pads, £7.99 for additional pads), Grovia (Wraps £15, inserts £15 for 2), Ecobebe (£11.50 for complete nappy, £5.50 for replacement inserts)

Tip 2 – Buy second hand. There are loads of preloved groups on Facebook for buying second hand nappies, just type preloved nappies into the search bar. Some people sell second hand nappies on Ebay, but this is technically against eBay regulations and you may find that they won’t help if something goes wrong with the purchase. Freecycle or other pass it on sites also often have cloth nappies, if you are not too fussy about what you get. Things to look out for when buying second hand is whether the elastics and PUL are still going strong. Ask for close ups of waterproofing and leg holes and check them over carefully before using.

Tip 3 – Buy bulk packs and kits. If you know which nappies work for you (and we always recommend you try before you buy loads, whether that is via a nappy library or buying a select few of the ones you’ll thing you’ll like), then buying a bulk kit can work out cheaper eg a single Tots Bots Easyfit is £18, but a birth to potty kit costs £265, and includes 2 packs of liners and some washing powder.

Tip 4 – Consider using flat nappies some of the time. People are often put off using flat nappies (terry squares, prefolds) because the thought of folding them is overwhelming. However, I like to tell people I learnt to fold a terry square when I was four years old, so it can’t be hard. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube for the different folds. Flat nappies are really cheap, even new you are only looking at spending £2 a nappy, and as they dry really quickly, you don’t need quite so many of them.

Tip 5 – see if your nappy library has a relationship with any retailers. We often offer nappy libraries a discount code to allow their customers to buy nappies for a bit less.

What are your tips for doing cloth nappies a bit cheaper?

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Are cloth nappies cheaper?

I originally wrote a blog post on this a few years ago, but the disposable and the cloth nappy markets have changed so much recently, that it’s worth visiting again.

When I first started running a nappy library and retailing cloth nappies, it was as clear that using cloth nappies would definitely be cheaper. However, disposables have gotten a lot cheaper, especially since Lidl and Aldi have entered the market, meaning it’s not as clear cut as it used to be.

We’ll start with the assumption that the average baby will go through 6,000 disposable nappies a between birth and potty training as that is what research suggests. We will also use the assumption that you only buy 25 cloth nappies.

In Aldi disposable nappies retail at 85p for 24 or £4.39 for 98. Pampers were on at £12 for 52 or £18 for 104 or £8 for 39 for their “Eco” brand. That makes 3.5p per disposable for Aldi newborn 4.4p per bigger size disposable. Pampers are 23p to 17.3p for their normal brand, or 20.5p for their eco brand.

So, the cheapest disposables would cost £240 over 2.5 years, Pampers £1,038 and Eco £1,230.

Cloth nappies

Cheapest option – £100 for a birth to potty terry square kit – 24 terry squares, 6 wraps, bucket, liners.

Midpriced option – Ecobebe from Ecopipo all in two system – 5 complete nappies @ £10.99, 15 Ecobebe inserts @£5, 5 Ecopipo night nappies @£10.49. 3 wraps @ £10.49 = £213.87

Expensive option – 20 Tots Bots Easyfit – £360, 5 bamboozles @ £12 and 3 wraps @£12 = £456.

Accessories – Grow Up Green accessories kit (bucket, 2 x bucket mesh, wet bag, 20 fleece or 200 disposable liners) = £35

Washing – £1.00 for A or A+ machine and detergent = £125

Comparison of costs

So, from the table you can see, if budget brands suit your baby, then disposable nappies are fractionally cheaper. However, as you can use cloth nappies on more than one child and/or sell them on when you are done, then actually cloth would still work out cheaper. You could further save money by buying second-hand, bulk sets and kits and taking advantage of offers and sales. If you were planning on using Pampers or an eco-brand of disposables, you would definitely be saving money using cloth nappies.

Of course, the cost isn’t everything when it comes to using cloth nappies – there’s the environment and the cuteness to consider too. But knowing you aren’t breaking the bank while switching to cloth is always good to know!

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5 reasons why recycling isn’t the answer…

I bought a take out coffee at the weekend. I was manning a nappy info stall at a local nearly new sale, and had had the foresight to take my reusable coffee cup with me. I popped across the road to the well-known coffee outlet and ordered my coffee and handed over my cup. Unfortunately, my cup didn’t fit underneath their machine, so I watched in astonishment as the barista picked up a disposable cup to dispense my coffee and pour it into my reusable cup. I expressed my displeasure – why could she not have used one of their pot cups and put it in the washer? “Oh!” she said, “it’s OK, we recycle the paper cups!”

This attitude seems all pervasive. It seems that we don’t have to worry about what waste we produce because “oh well, it will be recycled.” People are even looking at ways to recycle disposable nappies as a way to remove the impetus to use cloth.

No. Recycling is at best third on the waste reduction pyramid. It comes after REDUCE and REUSE (but others would argue REPAIR and REPURPOSE need to go in there too). Here’s why:

  1. Recycling still uses huge amounts of energy and water. Admittedly, depending on what you are recycling, between 45% and 75% less energy then creating the product new, but still huge amounts of energy;
  2. Recycling doesn’t produce like for like quality. Whilst aluminium can be melted down and just made into more pop cans, most raw materials are acutally down cycled rather than recycled. Recycled glass tends to be slightly coloured and recycled plastic is at best discoloured and at worst is downcycled into something else such as infill for roads or “eco bricks”
  3. Recycling is cost inefficient and largely subsidised by local government (source Popular Mechanics );
  4. We do not have the capacity to deal with the amount of recycling we generate in this country and much is shipped overseas to countries such as Turkey, Malaysia and Poland which is a climate change problem (source The Guardian )
  5. Much of the waste we think we are recycling, may actually ending up in landfill either here or overseas. Recyclable waste that is dirty (or “contaminated”) cannot be recycled, so is diverted to land fill.

Now, obviously, I’m not telling you not to recycle. But don’t think of it as your first port of call when choosing whether something is good for the environment. Think first REDUCE (do I need it, do I already have something else that will do the job, can I borrow it?) then think REUSE (take a refillable bottle or coffee cup, reuse a carrier, use a cloth nappy, cloth san-pro) then, and only then, think can I recycle it.


How to raise outdoor kids

There are a lot of benefits to getting children active outdoors. It has long term benefits to their physical health, the mental health, their emotional resiliance, problem solving, better sleep and team-working capabilities. Yet many of us struggle with getting our children to be active outdoors.

As a parent who was raised to be an outdoor kid, and a Brownie Leader, I have quite a lot of experience getting kids to be active outdoors. So here are my top tips:

  1. 1. Go outside. Don’t wait for warm weather, fine weather etc.. just go do something outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a major expedition. Make mud pies in the garden, go explore a local wood, pop to the beach. Dress warmly if the weather isn’t great, as kids don’t like to feel cold, but don’t be afraid of a little bad weather. As I say to my kids (imagine this said in my best Yorkshire accent)  “We’re none of us made of sugar, and none of us will melt!”
  2. 2. Start small. A child who is driven everywhere won’t suddenly be able to go on a five mile hike. Build exercise into your everyday by walking or cycling to school, walking to the shops or the park. Gradually increase the distance within age limits.
  3. 3. Lead by example. Your kids are more likely to be active if they see you being active. Pick an outdoor sport and give it a go (there are lots to try and if you search on line you’ll find a local club offering beginners sessions). Being active outdoors is good for your mental and physical health too, and who doesn’t need an hour or so away from the kids! (My sport of choice is cycling, and I am one of a national network of volunteers that run women’s only bike rides to encourage women into the sport – it’s called Breeze, check out to find a ride near you)
  4. 4. Make it fun. Think of games to play en route, who can get up this bit fastest, who can count the most trees, who can find the most conkers, who can make the biggest splash in a puddle, make silly songs up about where you are, tell stories about how landmarks got their shape;
  5. 5. Don’t be afraid to resort to bribery – we’ll have our picnic when we reach the top, lets go for a bike ride to the ice-cream shop, if you scoot all the way to the park we can have a snack when we get there. Built in rewards make it all seem worthwhile and keeping energy levels up when exercising is important.
  6. 6. Be prepared for a bit of whinging. Outdoor sports teach emotional resilience, but young children don’t have it yet. So you might get a bit of whinging “my legs are tired” “this is boring” “are we nearly at the top yet”. See points four and five for coping techniques.
  7. 7. Enrol them in a club or activity that encourages outdoor play – Forest School, Scouting, Guiding, Woodcraft Folk, the young ramblers, whatever floats your boat, or at least find other outdoorsy families to hang out with. There’s nothing like a bit of peer encouragement to get your child trying something new.

So there you  have my top tips for growing outdoorsy kids. Let me know your favourite outdoors activities you do as a family.

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Six ways to reduce your waste…

This is the second in our series on the waste reduction pyramid. Last month we looked at REFUSE, just choosing not to buy, but sometimes we NEED it, so what can we do to reduce our impact on the environment when we do buy?

  1. 1. Buy loose. It’s a no-brainer, but 16 apples selected loose and put in a bag need less packaging than 2 pre-packed bags of apples. Bonus points if you take your own reusable produce bags, or if it’s something like a single pepper or bulb of garlic, just leave it loose in your basket. Supermarkets often have fruit, veg and break rolls. You might be lucky and find your local market has a scoop and weigh where you can get anything from rice to washing powder loose. Some pet shops sell pet treats loose. It also means you can buy just what you need and that will reduce your food waste. Buy packaging free alternatives. Hand soap in a pump dispenser can be swapped for bar soap in paper or no packaging, you can also buy shampoo and conditioner in bar form. Even things that come in some packaging, can often be bought in less packaging (any need for a glass bottle, inside a cardboard box, inside plastic wrapping, or can you buy just the plastic bottle for example). Every little helps, and you’ll soon see a difference in the amount of non-recyclable plastic you are sending to landfill.
  1. 2. Buy in bulk. Obviously only do this for things you use a lot of and/or doesn’t go off. It takes only a small amount more packaging to package 24 toilet rolls as 4, and 5kg sacks of rice or pasta don’t use much more plastic than 500g ones. I buy my washing powder direct from the manufacturer (I use Simply washing as it gets things clean, has strong eco credentials, and doesn’t aggravate my son’s eczema), buying it in the supermarket it comes in small plastic tubs, buying direct means it comes in loose in a cardboard box.
  1. 3. Refill.Certain of the more eco-friendly cleaning and toiletry brands are moving back to refillable bottles (anyone remember when Body Shop did this? I miss it!). Ecover and Faith in Nature have refilling stations in certain outlets (these can be found on their website), Splosh deliver refills for their household cleaning products to your door, and refills for Method products can often be found in supermarkets.
  1. 4. Cut paper waste. Get rid of unwanted mail and junk through the letterbox. I have to say that a significant amount of the waste my house produces comes through the slot in the front of the door. Registering with the Mailing Preference Service prevents organisations sending you speculative direct mail. It won’t stop organisations you have a relationship with from sending you stuff, but you shouldn’t get anything from companies you don’t have a relationship with and you can take action if you do. Affix a sign to your door requesting no free papers or circulars to stop takeaway menus, estate agents flyers etc coming through your door. Investigate whether companies you do have a relationship have a system for reducing paper mail sent to you (opting out of marketing by mail, switching to paperless statements etc).
  1. 5. Buy quality or for longevity. I have a 1980s Kenwood chef. It was my aunts, she used it a lot. I use it a lot too. They are built to last, but not only that, just about every moving part is replaceable. My kids scoot to school on JD Bug scooters. My kids scoot about 400miles a year (yep, you read that right, they scoot an average of 2 miles a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks of the year, and that’s not including any ancillary journeys in the school holidays). We have in the past replaced wheels, hand grips, quick release pins and more, we didn’t need to replace the whole scooter because a small moveable part needed replacing. There are brands that have a reputation for being built to last, ask around and avoid brands/products designed to need replacing in short periods of time.
  1. 6. Use what you already have. There is a temptation when starting on the waste reduction journey to think we need to buy things to be able to become zero waste, but often we don’t. Don’t buy reusable bags until you’ve used up all the life in the millions of carrier bags, old school bags, produce bags etc that you have knocking round the house for example. At the end of the day, waste reduction is about simple thrift and using what you have. This is the best way of reducing your waste.

So there we have, 6 quick tips to start reducing your waste. Next month we will look at reusable products.

But share with me. What are your quick tips for reducing your waste?

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Do you really need to buy THAT?!

Waste reduction ladder grow up greenYou know the feeling, you walk into the store and the brightly coloured, well lit display shouts “Buy ME!” You pop it in your basket, pay for it and take it home, filled with a sense of almost euphoria. Even more pervasive are the little ads on your computer, you browse that pretty dress, then every time you log on to check your email or browse Facebook, there it is, looking at you, whispering “go on buy me, you know you want me”  Marketing is everywhere and our whole economy is based on the buy more, buy more mentality.

There’s just one problem. Our earth’s resources are limited, and everything we buy has to be disposed of eventually, whether because we have fallen out of love with it, or because it has worn out.

This is why the first level in the waste reduction triangle is REFUSE.

It is also the hardest of the steps to zero waste for me. I’m a retailer, I love things. My personal achilles heels are stationary and clothes. I end up with so much. The other day I found a jumper at the back of my cupboard. I’d forgotten I even had it, yet I loved it when I bought it. It is enjoying a new lease of life as I am wearing it again, but I was horrified that I had so many clothes, I could forget I owned some. (A piece of research by M&S and Oxfam in 2016 showed that people only wear an average of 44% of clothes in their wardrobes regularly, so I’m not alone).

It’s also hard because there will be times we actually NEED new things (children grow out of things, things wear out and get broken).

So what’s the solution?

For me I started with a no spend month. It was back in September, prompted by a large purchase that came sooner than I had budgeted for (taking advantage of a second-hand bargain that came up!). It was amazing. I could ignore adverts, walk past shiny displays, let the whole marketing industry flow past me.  I was not too hardcore in my no-spending, if you want a really inspirational read check out this lady – she gave up spending for a whole year!

A month, however, gives you chance to ask “do I really need it?” “Can I borrow it from somewhere?” (there is a growing network of libraries of “things”, I run a sling library for example) Just accepting less into our houses will reduce our waste automatically.

Next time I will be looking at the next rung of the waste reduction ladder – reduce – but in the meantime, let me know how you are getting on with REFUSE!

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Great Cloth Diaper Change 2017

Pic of happy mums with babies and cloth nappies at Great Cloth Diaper change 2016

What is the Great Cloth Diaper Change? Well, it’s an international event run by the Cloth Diaper Association in the USA, but with events hosted by cloth nappy libraries, businesses and enthusiasts around the world.

The Great Cloth Diaper Change, Newcastle  will be a fun morning, with entertainment for the wee ones, stalls for parents to browse, refreshments and a chance to meet other cloth bum mums. We have entertainment provided by Kalma Baby Newcastle.

We have a raffle, with great prizes supplied from cloth nappy manufacturers and local baby and toddler focussed businesses (if you run a baby related business and want to get involved, let us know!). Oh, and not forgetting special offers from us at Grow Up Green!

Parenting North East sling library will be in attendance and refreshments will be provided by the very yummy Van-Illa Treats 

22nd April 2017

Held at Broadacre House, Market Street, Newcastle, NE1 6HQ

Starts at 10am and finishes at 12pm.

Change happens at 11am prompt!

Free to attend, please register your place here

For more information, check out our facebook page and event 

Participants will receive a goody bag and there will be a raffle on the day to win cloth nappies and other baby goodies.

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Why we need Zero Waste Week!

Zero Waste Week logoLast week there was a discussion on a local business forum about the best coffee maker to get for the office. Opinion was divided between various big brands of pod-based coffee machines. I took a deep breath and bravely suggested that none of these were ideal, as they all generated a huge amount single-use plastic waste. Well, you’d have thought I’d criticised someone’s choice of baby name, the reaction I got! It all boiled down to “why should we be challenged on the waste we create?!”

It was ironic that this conversation came just before Zero Waste Week. The point of Zero Waste Week is to encourage everyone to think about the amount of waste they create and think of ways in which they can reduce it, with an ultimate goal of not creating any waste at all. It is a challenge, and challenges are hard!

Sculpture made of WEEE waste
Sculpture made of WEEE waste at the Eden Project

The average UK household produces 1 tonne of waste a year, and alarmingly this amount is increased by 3% every year. We throw away twenty times more plastic than we did 50 years ago. The main reason for the increase is that convenience is prized far higher than sustainability. And yet, it estimated that Britain will run out of landfill in approximately 8 years.

So, this is the reason we DO need to be challenged about the waste we create. I don’t claim to be perfect, I am a long way from being Zero Waste, but I do think about the purchasing choices I make. The waste reduction scale starts with REFUSE, then REDUCE, then REUSE, then RECYCLE and finally landfill, and yet a lot of people think they are doing their best by recycling that which is collected kerb side.

I agree that some of our problems with waste are the cause of companies, who have things such as built in obsolesence, contracts that encourage further purchase etc and these need to be tackled by government and by campaigning, but that doesn’t completely absolve the individual of the need to take responsibility for the products they introduce into the supply chain. I’ve blogged before on easy ways to reduce your waste or even just your single use plastic, but it starts with thinking.

Thinking: “Do I REALLY need this?” “Do I have something else that can do the job?” “Can I source this second hand or borrow it from someone?” “How will I dispose of this when I have finished with it?” “What waste products does this product generate and how will I deal with them?” “How long do I expect to use this product for?” If we all did this, then the amount of waste we produce would reduce, and the land we have be kept for housing, for green spaces, for farming and forestry, not filled with 31 tonnes a year of consumer waste!

So, this Zero Waste Week, what steps are you planning on taking to reduce your waste?


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Four easy ways to reduce your plastic (or maybe five!)

#plasticfreejulyIn the exciting world of waste reduction, July is known as Plastic Free July. It’s not a catchy title, but the premise is to see how much you can reduce your use of single use plastic during July. Whilst there are some truly amazing Zero Wasters out there, whose waste for the whole year will fit into matchbox, for most of us, cutting down our plastic use can feel quite terrifying.  Here are 4, maybe 5, easy fixes that reduce your plastic waste.

1. Water bottles. In 2015, the UK population consumed 2,141 million litres of bottled water, an increase of 40% since 2008. Most bottles end up in landfill or downcycled to low grade plastic. Taking a reusable water bottle out with you and refilling it from the tap would save thousands of bottles of water ending up in landfill (if you don’t like tap water, get a filter jug and put it in the fridge and fill you bottle from there);

2. Coffee cups. How often do you get take out coffee? Once a week? Twice a week? 52 – 104 coffee cups a year that end up inreusable coffee cup landfill. Most are plastic coated, with plastic lids. Carrying a reusable coffee cup in your bag is easy. Choose a size that suits the kind of coffee you drink. I’ve been doing this since April and have only had it refused once (by a silly lady in a Costa concession, who said that it needed to be one of their’s!!). I love my reusable cup and can feel suitably smug, walking down the street sipping on it! We have some awesome bamboo ones available here

3. Straws. How many of us think about what happens to our straws. Drinks in the pub, take away soda from the fast food joint, iced coffee, we probably throw away hundreds of non-recyclable straws. Solution? Stainless steel straws – easy to carry in your bag, easy to wash and reuse. I’ve gone one step further and got a reusable soda cup and straw.

4. Produce bags. How often do you have to get those flimsy, polythene bags in supermarkets to put your loose fruit, veg, pastries etc in. These thin, translucent bags often end up in our oceans and get swallowed by sealife. There are a number of options for providing your own. A nappy net makes a good produce bag, a reusable cotton shopping bag, a string bag or a specially purchased reusable produce bag.

So there you have it, the BIG FOUR, as they are known in Zero Waste circles. Any of them take your fancy?

(The fifth is of course cloth nappies – did you know that a cup of crude oil goes into creating the plastic and absorbent gel in every single disposable nappy? Swapping to cloth, especially if you go 2 parts so only changing the plastic (PUL) part of your nappies a couple of times a day, can seriously reduce your plastic consumption!)

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What temperature should I wash my nappies at?

Reason's not to wash your nappies at 90If you spend any time at all on Facebook cloth nappy forums (and for your own sanity I suggest that you don’t), you will be aware that there is a lot of debate out there on how to wash your nappies. Grandparents, remembering terry squares and twin tubs often recommend washing at 90°, the uber-eco conscious recommend 30° and a whole host of other temperatures in between.

Go Real, the reusable nappy campaigning body recommend washing at 60° (there full washing instructions are here, as do the UK Cloth Nappy Library Network. The reasons for washing at 60° rather than a lower temperature is that research shows that a good dose of detergent, combined with washing at 60° will kill or remove most bacteria. 30°-40°is very close to body temperature and can encourage bacteria to breed.

Advise to wash at 90° is particularly worrying. The Environment Agency report of 2008 specifically mentioned that washing at 90° was one of the reasons why using cloth can end up being as bad for the environment, whereas washing at 60° or lower reduces the carbon footprint of your nappies (washing a full load and line drying when possible also helps with this – see my blog on whether cloth nappies are actually greener). A very hot wash can also cause your nappies to delaminate (when the waterproof layer comes away from the fabric). I actually had this happen when my husband put the nappies on at the wrong temperature by accident. Finally, from a financial point of view, washing at 90° will invalidate your warranty with the manufacturer. Most manufacturers recommend washing at 60° (and some even as low as 40°) so always check the wash care label on your nappies when washing them!

If you are worried about staining, a cold rinse before washing can help prevent stains from setting.

So remember, wash at 60° or lower to protect your nappies, protect the environment and protect your warranty.