If I have learnt one thing over the last week of trying to live waste free is that I need to get more organised. Being caught on the hop makes for a very difficult time trying to find low waste solutions!
I am also compiling a list of things to buy when my self-imposed spending embargo is lifted. I still believe the best way to reduce my waste is to limit what I buy in general, and to that end I will wait until Lent is over to purchase anything. However, on my shopping list are: a metal razor (for years I’ve wondered how to get away from plastic razors, now I know!), wooden or bamboo toothbrushes, net bags for fruit and veg and a reusable soda cup!
Monday: I was feeling good about the fact that I was in the craft shop and ONLY bought what I needed for Messy Church (I am a craft supplies and stationary addict!). But, I was out longer than intended and had brought no food or drink with me. Luckily, I am a northern lass and managed a Greggs pasty and a tin of diet coke. All recyclable packaging. Hurrah!
Tuesday: I began to realise that habits are hard to break. I took the children out for the day and took a packed lunch, with crisps and cartons of juice. It did at least allow me to have a frank conversation with the children about waste and recycling. We sorted our waste into recyclable and not. The venue had paper and can recycling, and we opted to take our juice boxes home as our kerbside collection recycles tetrapack.
Wednesday: Chocolate bar wrappers and a plastic tray waste as we ate up one of our remaining selection boxes on the drive down to nana’s house. However, I am not feeling guilty about waste created by goods already purchased as waste in the house is still waste and we may as well use the products in the way they were intended!
I also made stock with the remains of the chicken. I have frozen it in icecube trays to replace the plastic intensive “stock pots” I use for slow cooking. Now I just need to work out how to make my own “flavour pots”.
Thursday: Actually was a waste free day! We had a lovely day out and lunch at a friend’s house. She had made pasta sauce from leftovers and desert was home-made ice cream! A total treat and made me consider a bigger freezer and an icecream maker 😉
Friday: You can’t buy birthday cakes without plastic. I could have made one, but I wasn’t home, so was reliant on the supermarket.
Saturday: Once again fell foul of a badly planned packed lunch. Cakes in plastic packaging. Must do better.
Sunday: Was amazed in the supermarket – needed baking fat. I usually buy Stork and reuse the box, but found I could buy supermarket’s own in butter wrapping. However, I’m not sure “foil” as it is described is better as it is not recyclable. Can anyone tell me what it actually it is?
It’s getting better. Let’s see how much less waste I can produce next week!
Just before the start of Lent, I read an interesting article inciting people to give up plastic instead of chocolate. As someone who both worries about the amount of waste I create, and preferring Lenten fasts to make me think, I gave it some serious consideration.
Then I looked around my house and went into blind panic. I read a few blogs on giving up plastic waste and panicked even more. It just seems so hard. I have so many questions – like how do you wash your hair, let alone dye it, clean your teeth, buy meat, or pasta…
I still wanted to reduce my waste and really think about the waste I was producing though. So here is what I am going to do, post a new thing I did to reduce my waste each day of Lent (40 days if you don’t include Sundays).
So here we go:
Day 1: I hereby undertake to buy nothing new before the end of Lent. I decided this, then went for a meeting with a potential new volunteer in an out of town shopping centre. It was amazing how hard it was to walk past the special offers, and displays. Our whole society is based around encouraging us to buy more, consume more, create more waste.
Day 2: One of my bad waste habits is drinks when out and about. Whether it is coffee in a take out cup, or fizzy pop in a single use plastic bottle, drinking on the hoof is a potential waste minefield. I had already swapped to taking a reusable coffee cup out with me, but today took a sports bottle of squash too. Unfortunately, I also took my toddler, who drank quite a lot of the juice and by mid-afternoon we were both thirsty again. Most of the coffee shops in our town do coffee in washable mugs, but if you want a cold drink you have the choice of disposable cups or single use bottles. I opted for a hot drink to avoid the waste, but unfortunately had to buy a drink in a single use bottle for my son. Must do better next time!
Day 3 – was quite easy to not buy anything, I just didn’t go to the shops! However, I once again struck by how difficult it is to eat meat without producing plastic waste – the bacon at lunch time came wrapped in plastic and the meatballs for dinner were on a plastic tray. I clearly need to have a chat with my local butcher about me bringing my own bags to reuse. Vegetables are easier as I get most of my veg delivered from North East Organic Growers. Although it comes in plastic carrier bags, I send these back to be refilled, so no waste there!
Day 4 – this was a massive fail on the waste production front. My son was having a belated birthday party and I failed to plan for party bags in time. This meant buying plastic bags, and plastic wrapped sweets to put in the plastic bags. In an attempt to reduce the amount single use waste in the bag, the gift I included was a small metal Hot Wheels car. A discount shop had packs of 5 for £5, so not too expensive and more useful that your average party blower or plastic snake! The kids even played with them together at the party, so clearly a win. Unfortunately the pack was also wrapped in single use plastic. Must plan better for my daughter’s birthday in a couple of weeks. Also did my weekly fruit shop – everything comes in plastic! Resolved to find a way to bring my own bags next week – even if they are reused plastic bags and maybe shop in the my local market rather than the supermarket. Finally I bought a chicken for Sunday dinner. On the whole I buy chicken to have a low food waste week – check out my four meal chicken here (although now my toddler is eating whole portions, it’s more like a 3 meal chicken!). The cashier tried to put the chicken, which was on a plastic tray and shrink wrapped in more plastic into a plastic bag (because the law says she can without charging!). I stopped her, and gave her a reusable plastic bag to put it in, separate to my other shopping!
That brings us to Sunday, and as traditionally Sunday is a day off the Lenten fast (if you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday you get 46 – so you take the 6 Sundays off). I shall pause for the week. I haven’t significantly reduced my waste this week, but I have 36 more days to go!
I remember each of my 3 children’s first Christmases. It is an exciting time, and, as I have winter babies, they were nearly a year old.
Everyone says Christmas is a time for families. This year, finally you have your own. It is exciting, thrilling. Finally, you get to share the wonder and magic of Christmas with your own tiny bundle of joy.
Then the question pops into your head. What are you going to get this precious little child for it’s very first Christmas. Surely it should be something amazing, awe-inspiring, a thing to entertain them for months to come. You start to see the posts on social media, showing mountains of presents. Baby forums start to fill up with the question “what are you getting your baby for Christmas?” The budget some people are stating in the hundreds.
Well, you see, I like to be a bit counter cultural. All of my children just got stockings for their first Christmas’. Yes, that’s right, a large sock filled with things I knew they’d love – a bath toy, their favourite food (I really did put a banana in my eldest son’s first stocking), a board book, a new beaker. Small things, nothing significant.
You may think I am a bit mad (many people do!). But they way I saw it was this. At not quite 1, my children had no understanding of what Christmas is all about. As far as they are concerned, it is just another day. In fact, a lot of babies are a bit overwhelmed on their first Christmas day with all the hustle and bustle, presents, food, people – just take a look at the face of my youngest on his first Christmas in the picture above, and we hadn’t arrived at Nana’s yet, with all the people that involves!
In addition, we are blessed with a HUGE extended family. So my children are always inundated with gifts, far more than any one child needs (I have been known to give away presents to other families, and I am training my family on more ethical gift giving – there are some ideas here)
No, a tiny baby does not need lavishing with countless gifts on Christmas day. They need that which they need every day – to be loved, to be cuddled, to have their needs met and to feel secure.
So spend your baby’s first Christmas with those that love him or her, cuddle them, hold them, sing to them. Start family traditions to carry forward if you will (we do stockings in front of the fire while eating a continental breakfast picnic – my kids look forward to this as a big part of Christmas these days!), but don’t overspend on gifts. They are not needed just yet.
(If you want some ideas of nice stocking fillers for your little one, check out our gift range here)
In the almost 10 years that I have been using cloth nappies, the market has expanded beyond recognition. I take great delights in explaining to trial kit customers that when I had my eldest is a Motherease One Size was considered an innovation!
This growth in the market is all for the good, it means there really is a nappy for every family out there, but it does mean that the choice can be somewhat overwhelming. I wrote a post before about how it is important it is to try before you buy if you can, but in the meantime, here is a quick fire overview..
The first thing to note is that all nappies require an absorbent part and a waterproof part. How the absorbent bit and the waterproof bit go together is what differentiate the different nappy types.
All in Ones
All in ones (AIOs) are so called because each nappy is a complete unit – ie the absorbent part and the waterproof part are sewn together. The advantage of these is that they are easy to use and change just like a disposable. This is particularly useful if lots of people are going to be changing baby’s nappies (eg grandparents, day care etc). The downside is the cost. The most expensive part of a cloth nappy is the waterproof bit, so the more often you’re changing that, the more expensive your nappy system is going to be.
Pockets are so called, because they are made up of 2 parts – a pocket which tends to be waterproof material on one side and fleece on the inside. You then put absorbant inserts into the pocket to make the nappy usable. Inserts vary from brand to brand, some are all microfibre, some are bamboo (more on materials later in the guide). Once “stuffed” with their absorbant inserts, a pocket nappy is as easy to use as an AIO, with the added advantage that you can choose how much absorbancy to add – meaning you can make them slimmer fitting for a newborn, and more absorbant for a toddler. Like AIOs, they tend to be more expensive (although there are cheap chinese imports on the market).
These nappies get their name from the fact that the absorbent parts popper into their waterproof outer. Once poppered together they are very easy to use. Their main advantage is that if the nappy is only wet, or the poo has been contained by the aborbent pad, then only the pad needs changing and a fresh pad can be poppered into the waterproof outer. The advantage of this is that you can usually use several absorbant inners to each waterproof outer, which brings the cost of your system down.
These nappies get their name from the fact that they are often a sized nappy (most of the AIOs, pockets and AI2s are birth to potty). They are a 2 part nappy system. The nappy itself is absorbant, it is then covered by a waterproof cover. When the nappy needs changing you just change the internal nappy, not the waterproof outer (although these will need changing at least once a day). As a rule you will need 1 waterproof cover for every 4 or 5 nappies. The advantages of these are that they tend to be better fitting, work out as cheaper than all in ones and many people find them more reliable as there are two lots of leg elastic to hold any “explosions” in! The disadvantage is that each time you change a nappy you have to put 2 layers on.
Flat nappies are, well, flat pieces of material that are folded to fit baby. There are 3 main types – terry squares, prefolds and flips.
Terry squares are squares of cotton towelling which can be folded into a variety of different shapes to fit any baby and secured with a nappy nippa (a y-shaped piece of rubber with grips) and a waterproof cover putting over.
Prefolds are a pad of layers of smooth cotton which are folded in 3 and placed in waterproof cover, they also can be secured with a nappy nippa. These come in sizes depending on the size of the baby.
Flips are a budget option from Bum Genius. There are a choice of inserts, including an organic cotton flat nappy that can be folded in a variety of ways to fit a baby of any size!
Some people also use muslins as newborn flat nappies as they can be folded very small. The main advantages of flat nappies are that they are cheap and flexible. As well as being used as nappies they can be used as sick cloths, as emergency change mats and for nappy free time. (they also make great floor cloths!). The disadvantage is that they can be tricky to fold.
Brands include Junior Joy and Bambino Mio
Things to bear in mind:
Wraps Waterproof covers for 2 part nappy systems
Inserts Absorbent pads for use in pocket and snap in 2 systems
Boosters Additional absorbent material mostly used with AIOs, but also fitteds and other nappies
Liners Sit inside the nappy to make dealing with poo easier. “Flushable” ones are generally made of plant cellulose manufacturers claim can be flushed down the loo, however water companies advise caution. Fleece ones are washable once the faeces has been tipped into the toilet
Micro fibre A man made fiber that is quick drying. Moderately absorbant
Bamboo Also viscose/rayon from Bamboo – a man made fibre from natural sources. Bamboo is highly absorbant, but slow to dry.
Hybrid This can be a confusing term because different manufacturers use it differently. It can mean a nappy like the Gro Via and the Flip which can be used with disposable inserts. Other manufacturers use it to describe a thick fitted nappy with a thin water repellant layer that can be used for short periods as an all in one
PUL A waterproof material (polyester urethan laminate) usually used for waterproof outers
Minky A fluffy material that can be laminated to make it absorbant. Laminated minky is often used for the outside of pocket nappies. Nonlaminated minky is sometimes used as part of the absorbancy in some AIOs
Wetbag A waterproof bag for bring cloth nappies home in
One of the questions or comments I get about cloth nappies is whether they will cause fit issues with clothes. It’s a question, like many in the cloth nappy world, where the answer is “well it depends!”
It depends on the shape of your baby. My babies tend to be long and thin and so actually cloth nappies made their clothes fit better, and we often found we had more problems when we potty trained.
It also depends on what nappies you are using. A lot of modern cloth nappies are very slim fitting, and won’t add much more bulk than a full disposable (remember, disposables are slim when you first put them on, but as they absorb urine, they swell).
However, if you are finding that you are struggling to get trousers to fit your cloth bummed baby, here are some tips.
1. Some retailers are more generous with their hip allowances than others, so it can be a case of trial and error as to which ones fit best, but the cloth nappy users in chat groups routinely recommend H&M, Morrisons/Nutmeg, Sainsbury and Frugi as ones that tend to fit cloth nappied babies.
2. Go for stretchy fabric and elasticated waists. Leggings, joggers, tights etc.. will work better than jeans or cords. We have a lovely range of leggings with designs to suit all genders here
3. If it’s your vests that are the problem, consider vest extenders. These nifty little devices add a couple of inches to the bottom of your baby’s vests, meaning you don’t need to go up a size.
4. Consider the nappy as clothes! If your baby is in a cute nappy, just add a top and your good to go. In cooler weather you can use leg warmers to keep baby warm.
5. Shorts or crop trousers can work as long trousers the next size up.
Comment below with which brands you find work on your cloth bummed little one.
Well, it’s Zero Waste Week and the theme this year is reuse, which I am sure you will appreciate, is a cause close to my heart! Each year the average UK household produces over a tonne of waste, and even if most of that is recycled, it is still a waste of resources and energy. The best waste reduction strategy is not to buy it in the first place, but second best is to reuse.
So here are some easy reusable alternatives to mainstream disposable products:
1. Paper plates. Hands up – who buys paper plates when entertaining because it’s easier? I am as guilty as the next woman! I run a monthly event for families for my local church, which involves a meal. We were going through so many paper plates. So, we invested in several packs of the plastic kids plates and cups from Ikea. It only cost a little bit more and they are lovely bright colours. They don’t take much washing, and if I’m feeling lazy I take them home and stick them in the dishwasher.
2. Bottled water. Buying drinks out and about is probably one of the biggest reasons for plastic bottle waste in our house. I have 3 children, that’s a lot of plastic bottles. Then last year we all took part in a Sky Big Ride in Newcastle and were given sports bottles for all participants. That summer was a revolution. We filled our bottles with a drink of choice before leaving the house. No thirsty children, no thirsty parents, no plastic bottles!
3. Lunch boxes. A friend of mine posted on Facebook last year that her husband had been using the same empty icecream container as a lunch box for the previous 5 years, when it had finally given up the ghost and had to be thrown out. She offered to go out and buy him a lovely new lunch box to take his lunch to work. “Tell you what,” he said, “go out and buy us some icecream, then we get a treat for tea and I get a new lunch box!” Wise man!
4. Dishcloths. I grew up with Jeyes cloths for washing up. You know, those blue thin material ones that go really slimy and have to be thrown away every day? When I moved into my own home I switched to washable cotton ones. Since then I’ve progressed to brightly coloured microfiber ones as they are fab for cleaning with limited need for chemicals and detergent.
5. Food. Tonnes of food is wasted every year and binned unnecessarily. Learn to love your leftovers and create more meals from your ingredients. You’ll save money.
6. Plastic bags. In October, the Government is bringing in a law that will require all larger retailers to charge 5p for every plastic bag taken. We’ll all need to be more organised. But before you rush out and buy reusable bags – use the plastic bags you’ve already got until they fall to pieces! (However, as an additional incentive, I’ll pop a free cotton Grow Up Green shopper in your order!!)
7. Clothes. Buy second hand, pass on when your done. It’s not hard. Even if you have a specific brand you like or style that suits, there is always ebay and Facebook buying groups that give you access to specifically what you are looking for.
8. Nappies!! Obviously I had to mention this one. Disposable nappies add a huge amount to landfill. Reusable nappies no longer necessarily need folding, pins, soaking and boiling. Contact your local nappy library to find out more!
9. Wipes. If you can’t face the idea of washing nappies, or if you already are, then consider washing your baby wipes. Washable wipes are a really cost effective alternative to disposable baby wipes that are actually more effective at the job they are designed to do. Check them out here
10. San-pro. Queue screams of horror from the women and men looking confused! However, if you haven’t investigated it before, there is a whole range of reusable items out there to help you deal with your period sustainably. I stock Mooncups which are a silicone cup, worn internally like a tampon and emptied, washed and used again. You can also get washable pads, just rinse in cold water and wash in the machine.
So there we go, 10 tips. But I suspect I am stating the obvious for a lot of my readers, so feel free to share below your top tip on reusing!
One of the first questions I am often asked when talking to new parents about cloth nappies is “How much do they cost?” This is a difficult question to answer as there is a huge gap between the cheapest and the most expensive cloth nappy systems, but I always reassure them that they will save money no matter which nappies they go for.
“But, really?!” they ask, “Even with the cost of washing accounted for?”
So here is a breakdown:
For disposables: The average child goes through 5,850 nappies in it’s lifetime. At an average of 15p per nappy that equals £877. £93 on nappy bags and £200 on wipes. Total £1170
Yes, that much!
Right, assuming 24 nappies and washing every other day:
In summary, depending on which nappies you go for, you can save between £625 and £321 (although the actual amount will depend on which disposables you bought). However, if you use your nappies for more than one child, or you sell them on when you are finished, you can save even more!
This week is National Breastfeeding Week and the theme is Celebrating Breastfeeding. I have agonised over writing a blog post in support all week. I really want to talk about the environmental aspect of breastfeeding, but I’m always wary of posting about breastfeeding. Why? Because everytime anyone posts about the positives of breastfeeding, those who needed to formula feed get upset.
So, before I start, I will make this assertion – THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT YOUR BABY IS FED.
This post is not to make anyone feel guilty about circumstances, it is just food for thought for those on the fence and celebrating the awesomeness of nature.
Now, why do I think breastfeeding has anything to do with the environment? Well, here are some thoughts:
1. At it’s most basic you don’t need to buy any equipment (one of the main reasons big business is not breastfeeding friendly, it can’t make any money from it!). Whereas formula feeding requires bottles, sterilisers, bottle warmers, bottle brushes etc.. In reality, most women in the UK will use some of the equipment needed for formula feeding for expressing milk, but perhaps not as much. I managed with 2 bottles and a cold water steriliser.
2. You don’t need any external energy to prepare the feed. Boiling water to prepare feeds safely uses electricity. Sterlisers are often steam or microwave sterilisers which also use electricity.
3. Most infant formula is produced from cow’s milk and the dairy industry itself has an environmental impact. The dairy industry in the EU is responsible for destruction of habitat for natural wildlife and loss of biodiversity, pollution of waterways with nitrates, over fertilisation of the soil by manure causing build up of chemicals and air pollution caused by methane (yes – cow farts are an environmental problem!).
4. Packaging – it is estimated that if 50% of British mother’s fed with infant formula, then 26 million tubs of formula would be discarded every year, although some of the materials involved can be recycled, not all can or will be. In particular, there seems to be a rise in single use cartons that are discarded in general waste.
5.Turning cows milk into formula uses lots of energy. The milk is heat-treated at very high temperatures and mechanical procedures are used to remove certain aspects of the milk and to add others, then to pulverise the milk. All of this causes pollution.
6.The cans of formula have to be transported to shops and from shops to home, which also has an environmental impact.
7. Finally, the formula industry produce huge amounts of advertising material to promote their products, which in themselves have an environmental impact.
So there you go, reasons why breastfeeding is the greener option!
But as always, if you need formula to feed your baby, for whatever reason, a healthy baby and mother is most important.
The question I dread being asked when talking about cloth nappies is “What should I buy?” You’d think, being a retailer that I would love that question, an opportunity to sell, to recommend an expensive product. But I don’t enjoy it at all, because there is no right or wrong answer.
So I tend to answer like this:
I recommend you book a trial with us for after baby is born.
This is not so that I get extra money from you, the hire fee and a nice sale at the end. On the contrary, it is to stop you making an expensive mistake.
You see, every baby is a different shape, every family has a different budget and every household has different priorities and facilities for washing and drying. What suits one family perfectly might be a nightmare for others. I have heard too many horror stories of “I bought a full birth to potty kit of (insert brand name of nappy of your choice), but… they were too bulky/they kept leaking/I couldn’t get a good fit/they took too long to dry…
By trying cloth nappies before you buy them you can work whether you want to use the full time or part time, what styles and brands suit you and your lifestyle best, how easy they are to wash and dry and how that fits in with your lifestyle, with little or no commitment up front.
The Grow Up Green trial kits are available to hire in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, and surrounding areas. One of our agents will bring the trial kit to you, talk you through all the different kinds of nappies, their pros and cons, how to care for them and wash them. There are 14 or so nappies in it, 2 different kinds of liners, a wet bag and washable wipes. It even comes in a bucket, so you don’t even need a bucket to get started! Check out our trial kit page for more details and to contact us.
If you don’t live in the North East, don’t despair! There is an amazing network of cloth nappy libraries, staffed by wonderful volunteers, throughout the UK. These are cloth nappy using parents who are very knowledgeable about cloth nappies. Check out this map to see where the nearest one is to you. Your local library should have a Grow Up Green discount code for users of their service, so ask them! But if they don’t, tell them to get in touch to get one…
If using nappies used by someone else makes you feel uncomfortable (and I hope it doesn’t – they are all washed at high temperatures with sanitiser before rehiring), then drop me a line to chat about your lifestyle and only buy one or two nappies until you’ve tried them out. With a little perseverance and patience, I am sure we can find a nappy that suits you and your lifestyle.
Yes, I know that is controversial. As a nappy advocate, I should be convincing people that modern cloth nappies are a far cry from the “old-fashioned” terry square. I am supposed to tell you that modern cloth nappies are so much better; no pins, no rubber pants, no folding, no soaking…
And I do. I am a huge fan of modern nappies, their ease and simplicity mean that switching from disposables is really not very hard at all.
There are many good reasons why all parents, especially cloth bum families, should have a pack of terry squares in the house:
1. You never run out of nappies. So you forgot to pick up your disposables when you did the supermarket shop, or your fancy all in ones are refusing to dry and your tumbler is on the blink. Never fear, a few quick folds (youtube is your friend here), a nappy nippa and a waterproof cover and you are good to go until you sort the problem. One size fits all, birth to potty. I used them exclusively for the first 6 months with my eldest, and as a back up nappy with both the other two, And they dry on the line in about an hour!
2. They are great for nappy free time with a not-yet-mobile baby. Just fold a terry under their bum while they kick and catch any unfortunate accidents.
3. You have an emergency burp cloth, no matter where you are. Forgot the muslin, no fear, you have a terry in your bag.
4. You have an emergency bib. Weaning children whether spoon fed or self feeding make a terrible mess. If you forget to take a bib out for lunch Oh Oh! But tie and terry square around a babies neck and they are protected pretty much head to foot!
5. You can clean up any mess or spills – crawling baby knocks over someone’s drink? No problem. Slide too wet to use after a summer shower. Dry in seconds.
6. It is effectively, a towel, so if your toddler is terrified of hand dryers (mine is!) then you can at least dry their hands (and yours when you have nipped to the toilet)
7. Finally, they are quite literally a God-send when you are potty training. As a mother of 2 boys (and it is more of a problem with those who pee out an appendage) – I found a stack of terry squares, plus a bottle of anti-bacterial spray was the only way to get through the “oops I miss-aimed” “mummy I forgot to point my penis down” moments.