Zero Waste Babies

Today I wanted to talk about zero waste parenting.  It was around the time I was in my third trimester while pregnant with my daughter that I really started looking at ways to reduce the vast amounts of waste we produce in the process of raising a child.  I was determined not to contribute to that and it was in my research that I became aware of zero waste living.

Baby Wipes

I’m going to start with one of the easiest zero waste things I do as a parent.  I make my own baby wipes using only 3 ingredients: coconut oil, tea tree essential oil and boiling water.  Have you ever read the list of ingredients on a package of baby wipes?  I suggest you check it out because most of those ingredients boil down to being formaldehyde and phthalates.  I keep a packet of Water Wipes in our diaper bag for outings, but when at home, I make my baby wipes using Cheeky Wipes* which are much nicer and are inexpensive.  (You could use just cut up squares of terry cloth, muslin or flannelette if you are on a very tight budget or if you want to use organic textiles).   Be sure to check out my video below which shows you how to make them in 10 seconds flat!

Nappies/Diapers

So lets talk about that number one environmental parenting problem – nappies (or diapers as we call them in Canada and the US).  Disposable nappies take 500 years to degrade in landfill (note I don’t say biodegrade) and the average baby will fill up 12 wheelie bins per year with disposable nappies.  Now multiply that by the number of babies on your street, in your neighbourhood, in your city and…yeah, that’s a lot of garbage which will still be sitting in landfill when your great, great, great grandchildren will be sitting in their nursing homes.  But the good news is that modern cloth nappies are  easy to use.  We use a brand called Applecheeks which are made in Montreal, Canada, and they are wonderful (and easy to find for sale here in the UK).  They fit our baby beautifully AND – here’s the best part about them – you don’t have to pull the stinky, pee-soaked insert out before washing.  I’m a total wuss when it comes to touching anything gross or dirty (like poop) and they are brilliantly designed so the insert comes out in the wash automatically.  When it comes to dealing with um… solids, we buy these flushable bamboo nappy liners* which catch the poop and you can neatly pick it out of the nappy by the clean corners and toss it in the toilet and flush it (you probably shouldn’t really flush the liners even though they’re biodegradable – see why here – but I confess to having done it myself a few times when the poo was just too gross).  I’m a big proponent of using second hand items normally, but I will share from my own experience that it will save you money and frustration in the long run if you don’t buy second hand when it comes to cloth nappies.  Often the PUL material (the waterproofing part!) or the elastics in the legs can be degraded from improper care or simply from the nappy having reached the end of its lifespan and you will end up with lots of leaks and frustration, before ultimately  giving up on cloth diapering.  While many recommend having around 24 cloth nappies, we found that because we use biodegradable disposable Naty nappies for overnight and longer day outings, we actually only have needed around 15 newborn nappies and around 10 of the size 2 nappies.  For the first couple of weeks as you’re getting to grips with being a parent, you also might find it easier to use biodegradable disposable newborn nappies before moving into newborn size cloth nappies.  With this number of nappies there is no messing about with sloshy buckets of disgusting water.  I just line a pedal bin with one of these PUL (waterproof) lined drawstring laundry bags*, throw the used cloth nappies straight into the bin and every 2-3 days throw the whole thing – bag included – into the washing machine.

Baby Stuff

Now what I’m about to say relates to just about everything you buy for your baby.  Clothes, furniture, baby baths, slings, highchairs, strollers…you can get it ALL second hand.  Regardless of the size of your pocket book and ability to buy everything shiny and new, the environmental impact of buying and using second hand baby stuff will make a difference.  There are some things you should buy new for either safety or functional reasons and as far as I’m concerned these are:  car seats (unless its a friend giving you a hand me down which you know is still new-ish and safe to use), mattresses (you don’t want to risk giving your baby a bed bug filled mattress or something…urgh) and cloth nappies/diapers (for the reasons I’ve already mentioned).   I appreciate this gets harder as babies turn into toddlers and toddlers turn into kids and they’re much harder on their stuff and properly wear it out.  In particular newborn stuff is barely used at all, so head to your local charity shop, the Oxfam Online Charity Shop, nearly new sales or go onto eBay (or hit up your friends with older kids who can give you hand-me-downs).  Its not just all the baby ‘stuff’ that creates a mountain of landfill, its the packaging that all the baby ‘stuff’ comes in and the garbage that creates, not to mention the shopping bags its put in when you buy it.  I’ve found its emotionally easier to part with things I bought second hand as well, and not create a shrine to my child in the loft.  “Awww, that’s the tub we bought in John Lewis.  Let’s keep it ‘just in case’.”  Its much easier to just be happy that I only spent a few pounds on something second hand, be grateful for the service it provided and then send it on its way to a new home where it can be used again by another baby.  I live in a fairly well-to-do area and its not just those on a budget who have tapped into the second hand baby market, but everyone.  So whether its for financial reasons or environmental reasons – or both – think about what you could get second hand for your baby or child.  If you are pregnant and you’d like more advice on what you actual need for your baby – the real essentials and not all that other stuff they’ll try to sell you in shops – check out my post on Baby Essentials.

*I’ve included a few affiliate links for a few products in the article above.  

 

 

 

 

 

19 thoughts on “Zero Waste Babies

  1. JessicaLouise (@JessycaLouise)

    This is a great post. I can imagine you go through so many wipes and nappies as a parent and it’s great to see you’re making a conscious effort to recycle and be environmentally friendly.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thank you so much! You do go through a lot of wipes (which aren’t biodegradable by the way) and nappies, so its kinder to the bank account and the environment this way. I hope my post at least influences one person to implement one change…even if they don’t have children yet, but sometime in future. 🙂

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  2. Milly

    Love the idea of DIY baby wipes – something I’d have never thought of! I sometimes use face wipes myself, and definitely thinking about using something like this instead!

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  3. busygreenmum

    Great post. Don’t know what kind of nappies you use but you may not have the same issues buying second hand with prefold cloth nappies. You could combine with new outer wraps . We started off with these from a laundry service before buying our own. Just used water on cloth wipes with no problems.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thank you so much! And what a great point about the prefolds. We did use prefolds when she was a newborn – some second hand ones and some new organic ones from Bummis – and they were great, but the second hand wraps were less of a success than the new Bummi wraps which were fantastically waterproofed. The prefolds themselves just seem to get better and better with age though.

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  4. Joanna @mumbalance

    Very informative post Kelly 🙂
    I agree that using something like Naty nappies for the first couple of weeks is a good idea. We’ve done that with both the kids. It gives a little bit of time to get the hang of things.
    I didn’t know you do videos! Your editing skills are very good.
    I use cotton cheeky wipes at home, and once we run out of water wipes I’ll be using them on the go as well. I usually use just water, but if I have time I like to put a few drops of oils to make them smell lovely: 1 drop chamomile, 1 drop geranium, 2 drops lavender. It reminds me of a lovely organic bum cream I was given when going on maternity. It was from Bamford.
    I’ll be scheduling this on my FB and Twitter 🙂

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thanks so much Joanna! I love the cheeky wipes and they work the best, but I have so many of those white muslin cloths from when E was a tiny baby, I’m going to cut them down and hem them to make some extra cloth wipes…you know…if I ever learn how to use my sewing machine I bought 6 months ago! 🙂 Your oil blend for the wipes sounds like it would smell amazing. I really must order some chamomile EO when I do my next Young Living order. Its such a basic and yet I don’t have it yet.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Yes I remember learning about cloth nappies ages before I got pregnant and I thought it sounded like a great way to reduce the amount of damage to the planet that one sweet little person can inflict! I agree they are the way to go and thank goodness they are so easy to use and clean these days.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      To be honest, I didn’t get into the zero waste baby wipes for a while, thinking it would be too much hassle but its actually one of the easiest things ever. And normal baby wipes are awful – they aren’t biodegradable and they clog up the sewers and septic tanks and if they get into the Ocean, they cause a lot of damage to sea life.

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  5. Pingback: Zero Waste Challenge – Roundup | Our Little Organic Life

  6. Alicia

    I’m sure you’re probably well past diapers at this point, but I wanted to perhaps point out that the liners you linked to don’t appear to be flushable? Even “flushable” wipes shouldn’t really be flushed. But the Amazon listing didn’t mention that they were flushable. Maybe that’s changed since you used them? It did say biodegradable, but my underwear is biodegradable. And obviously just because it biodegrades eventually does not mean it will in time to not clog waste processing systems. 😬

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Hi Alicia, you’re right that bamboo disposable liners biodegrade much more slowly than toilet paper does so those with concerns about their drains should not flush liners. Liners which have only been peed on can go into your compost bin and this will dramatically cut how many liners potentially go down the drain if you choose to flush or into your rubbish bin. I will confess to being a liner flusher when I used disposable liners and when I wrote this article, which I probably would not do now that I know about fatbergs and the like! You are certainly right to be cautious. But I think it is far better to opt for liners in reusable diapers/nappies than using disposables, and if that’s your deal breaker (it was for me – I struggled with the poop issue at the beginning!) then I think overall it will cause less damage. But again, as I said you are right to urge caution, especially now that we know so much more about the damage items like this can cause to sewers, so I will do some more research to see what is on the market these days. I think some mamas need to make eco options as painless as possible and I try to help guide in that direction – because that was me once upon a time. Sadly, as my little one is far past the diaper/nappy stage, I won’t be able to road test any new products though! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article and for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I do have an article on the London fatberg and what not to put down the drain which you might enjoy too! Stop by again soon 🙂

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