Roadtest: The Pros and Cons of Cloth Nappies

Image: Kingston & Merton Real Nappy Network

This article was originally published on 1 Million Women.

 

It’s amazing how things that are environmentally savvy also tend to be economical.

Almost four months ago I entered into a new phase of life. I became a mum. It has been exciting, rewarding, exhausting, and illuminating. One of the biggest surprises was discovering just how often a newborn baby ‘goes to the bathroom’ and just how expensive single-use diapers are. I had no idea.

It didn’t take me long to learn that it’s not unusual to change a baby as much as ten times a day which over the course of a year amounts to over 3500 nappy changes. For babies like mine that seem, to fill up a nappy that was put on just five minutes earlier, that number might be far higher!

By the time a child reaches that most highly awaited milestone of being fully toilet trained, most parents will have paid over

I love picking out cute nappies to match my baby's outfits

I love picking out cute nappies to match my baby’s outfits

$3,000 for single-use nappies and that doesn’t include the cost of wipes. Not surprising, the environmental ramifications associated with nappies are frightening as well. In the United States alone, enough single use nappies are disposed of each year to fill Yankee Stadium 15 times. And as a non-biodegradable product, that means that this giant mass of diapers just sits in landfills, growing year after year, generation after generation. The feces contained within the nappies also leak out and contaminate ground water but that’s an even bigger can of worms that we’ll open up another time.

As a greenie from way back, I was always planning to use cloth nappies when I had children but I’ll admit the process of actually doing this had me pretty intimidated. Most of the baby supply stores in my area didn’t carry cloth nappies and the Kmart and Big W type stores only sold the old fashioned ones that my mother’s generation used. They are basically square shaped towels that you fold and pin yourself in a form of bum origami. I did buy a few packets of these but, in the end used them mostly as burp cloths.

 

A few nappies from our growing collection

A few nappies from our growing collection

After my baby had finally arrived, I stumbled upon what are known in Australia as “Modern Cloth Nappies” or “MCNs”. They cost anywhere between $10 and $30 a piece and are easy to use, come in lots of different colours and patterns (so great for an Australian summer – who needs clothes!), and best of all – can be adjusted in size to fit your little one from the time they are about one month old until they are fully toilet trained. There are many types of MCNs. The ones that I use have a pocket in the back where you insert a large, absorbent microfibre pad. The moisture from the urine gets sucked into this pad and your baby’s bum stays dry.

 

 

There are also many nappy companies run by what the cloth nappy community call “WAHMs” (Work at Home Mums). Supporting these companies gives you the opportunity to not only save yourself some money and help the planet, but you also get that awesome feeling of knowing you’ve just helped out a fellow mum.

I purchased most of my nappies from one such WAHM company called Little Aussie Monster for $10 to $15 a piece. I didn’t have enough money to purchase enough nappies all at once to move into cloth straight away (most people recommend you have at least two dozen cloth nappies for a newborn – less for a toddler). Instead, I would buy two or three nappies each payday until I built up a collection large enough to kick disposables out of my life completely!

 

I’m only a few months down the cloth nappy road but I’m really surprised by how much I am enjoying it. I find that the cloth nappies do a better job at preventing blow-outs than the disposables and are much more stylish. If I were to move back to disposables at this stage in the game, it would be like exchanging all of my clothes for plastic hospital gowns! I just could not do it.

 

For those of you with little ones, do you use cloth nappies or have you thought about it?  Let’s discuss in the comments!

The two plastic bag habits by grocery stores that annoy me most

Plastic bags.  The nemesis of the environmentally-minded.  They are an old issue but they are still a big issue.  And there are two things about them in particular that make me want to scream.

 

.. But first, let me please preface this by saying that honestly, I could live in a world with disposable plastic shopping bags and not feel the need to go on a crusade.  I get that people use them as rubbish bin liners and without them just end up buying plastic bin liners anyway.  And I don’t resent people that re-use them in that way.  It’s what I do.  Mostly because even though I try to remember to say “I don’t need a bag, thanks!”, I sometimes forget and suddenly all my purchases are being put into one and I don’t always have the energy to ask them to take the stuff OUT of the bag.  But the stats say that only 3% of plastic shopping bags are ever re-used so the bin liner argument probably isn’t grounds to keep them.  But alas, this isn’t even what pisses me off about single use shopping bags.

 

Here is my first major pet peeve about them –

 

  1. Is it really necessary for merchants to put ONE SINGLE ITEM into a bag?  I mean, is it really that much harder to hold a bottle of juice than to hold a bag holding a bottle of juice?

 

I mean if I was buying a big black dildo or something, I’d be all for it.  Bag that shit up!  But juice??  My favourite phrase in the world is “would you like a bag?” because it at least gives you a chance to think about it and be like, “oh duh, no I don’t need a bag for this one single thing”.  Or if you’re a girl, you might think to yourself, “My purse is gigantic.  I might as well put these two lip glosses I just bought into my purse instead of the TINY plastic bag that they’ll give me” ..  because let’s face it,  you’re NEVER going to use that tiny, useless bag again because it’s way too small to serve any kind of practical purpose.  Nope, you’ll just throw it away as soon as you get home.  Of course you imagine it’ll go to a landfill like it’s meant to but there’s a good chance it’ll fly off the back of the garbage truck on the way there.  I’ve seen sooooo many bags fly off garbage trucks and I’ve seen soooo many animals with bits of plastic bags inside them.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

 

And here’s another thing that just kills me –

 

2.   Is it really necessary for merchants to wrap “wet” items in separate bags to save your other items from the moisture?

 

Often I bring a re-usable bag to a shop and will buy something like a bottle of coke.  The merchants almost always start putting the coke into a plastic bag to “save” my re-usable bag from the condensation.  This happened to me just the other day and the conversation went a little something like this:

 

“oh I’ll just put that in my bag here”

“but it’s wet, I’ll just wrap it up for you”

“no it’s ok, I don’t mind”

“you don’t want a bag?”

“no, it’s ok”

“you sure?”

“yeah, I’ll be fine”

“oooohhh kaaaaaayyy”

 

Ummmm.  Hello, have you not considered that I brought my own bag because I HATE PLASTIC BAGS??!!!  I mean I get that I’m not in the Pacific North West anymore and there is a very different culture here around the environment but I’m sorry, a tiny bit of moisture won’t hurt anything but plastic bags do  .. all the time!  Enough already!  I’ve realised that the wrapping cold items in separate bags thing is considered good service but it just drives me totally insane.  The coke bottle incident happened at my local convenience store which is about 200 metres from the Pacific ocean!  It just kiiiiiiiiiiiiills me.

 

Will we ever wake up?

 

I’m making a film!

Hey guys!

I am a hopeless blogger these days. I have been so busy at work (I find and relocate wild animals from major construction jobs for a living which can be really hectic!). I’m also so close to being done with my masters degree I can taste it. I was originally planning to go straight into a phd but I decided recently that I need a break. And I want to make a film.

I’ve been thinking a lot, too, about my cousin Sam who we recently tragically lost at 24 years of age. He was such a cool guy and I know that so many of you reading this knew and loved Sam like I did. He and I used to always talk about making a tv show or a film together one day. He always thought the stuff that I did was really rad and you know what, he would think I was incredibly retarded if decided to go to SCHOOL instead of making an awesome film. And he’d be right. School will always be there but wildlife film making has always been my dream. I have done lots of little films and random tv stuff before but never a really big project and I think the time has come.

Lots more about this later but for now, here is a little mini movie I made yesterday after a recent snorkel trip to Byron Bay. It was my first time using a go pro and first time using iMovie!

Sorkeling Byron Bay from Carly Wilson on Vimeo.

Homeless no longer! But keeping it simple.

Thank you to all who have followed me over the past year and a half on my journey to a simpler life. You encouraged me as I de-frumped my wardrobe, had several attempts at buying almost nothing for various periods of time, and eventually gave up any kind of structural residence and lived out of my car for three months. I went over a year with virtually no furniture to my name (just a book case) and learned that it is possible to be happy in life without all the ‘stuff’.

I also learned that I am more resourceful that I ever realized and I was surprised by the way that I really didn’t miss the many boxes of possessions that were safely stored while I ventured into volunteer homelessness. I also realized that despite all I had learned along the journey, I actually really do like having somewhere to live.

For most people that would be an obvious thing to know about oneself but for me it really wasn’t. I had always harboured this romantic notion of living life out of a car with no strings and the wind at my back. I soon realized though that the sense of liberation wasn’t worth the general annoyance. For instance, it’s not always easy to find a shady place to park up at night that is reasonably safe, close to a public toilet, and not out in the complete sunlight. It doesn’t take many hours of daylight, as I discovered, for the Australian sun to COOK a human woman inside a Subaru forester.
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I also found it incredibly challenging to find a way to complete all the writing of my master’s thesis that I was in the middle of writing when I started the volunteer homelessness challenge. Libraries were very helpful but I seem to be one of those people that strangers want to have long, in-depth conversation with for no apparent reason. I don’t usually mind that but when the library closes at four or at one on Saturdays and then doesn’t even open on Sundays you really don’t have time to socialize. Luckily my friends came to my rescue in this respect and a couple of them offered me their homes to stay and write as needed. I really don’t know what I would have done without them.

I normally wouldn’t have attempted such a full-on challenge with a major assignment so nearing its due date but I didn’t realize when I first started the challenge how much writing I was going to have to do for my thesis (I didn’t realize for a long time that a substantial literature review was required). When I embarked on the challenge I was also expecting to get a lot more away-work than ended up happening. I am usually away for weeks on end, happily living and working out of hotel rooms but ironically just when I got rid of a permanent structure over my head our company experienced a lull.

In the end I did end up moving into a smallish (though plenty ample for me) apartment which for me was the right move. The apartment is literally about 100 metres from the beach. Even with the windows closed I can hear the roar of the sea as I drift off to sleep. I don’t know what it is but there is something about seaside living that just perfectly lends itself to someone such as myself who is searching, amidst chaos, for a simple life.

Since moving in I have allowed myself the freedom to furnish the place but in keeping with the spirit of minimal consumerism for the sake of the environment I have purchased almost everything secondhand from Gumtree (the Australian equivalent of Craigslist). The place is by no means sparse but I am trying to maintain and employ many of the lessons I have learned in my dabblings into minimalism. I am trying to keep the space uncluttered and relatively – though not obsessively – organized. I want there to be room to breathe, room for the sea breeze to flow freely and not become stagnated and stale by getting caught on tchotchkes or other random objects with no use, purpose, or meaning.
uncluttered bookcase
I also want to have a purpose for every room and to not let other purposes infiltrate those spaces. For instance, I am going to make a serious effort to keep the guest room as a sanctuary for friends and family and not let it become an overflow storage space for myself (admittedly I have already commandeered the closet though … sorry guys).

restful bedroomMost of all I want to use what I have learned over the past year and a half to allow my new home and any future homes to be a place that you can enter after a long hectic day and find respite from the many troubles of the world.

It’s good to be home 🙂

Looking back through a mirror

Voluntary homelessness – progress update

Hi everyone,

Some of you have been asking me about my adventures in voluntary homelessness.

It’s been both good and bad. For some reason I had always had this romantic notion of what it be like to live out of my car – or in a van if I could be so lucky (which I am not although I love my little Subaru, not complaining!) The lifestyle had always seemed to me so delightfully gypsy-like and etheric. It’s so free. Nothing to hold you back. The world at your fingertips. No rent. The reality, however, has turned out to be somewhat different.

I’m a month away from submitting my master’s thesis which is a bit of a daunting thing. I have been making a lot of use of libraries which has helped but as much as I love libraries they are not always ideal. They are only open for limited hours and not at the times when I do my best work (aka at night). They are also only open for a couple of hours on Saturdays and virtually never on Sundays. I won’t rant on about this but I really don’t understand the point of that and why so many other institutions that we all need (the post office, the bank, etc.) are never open on weekends when people are actually free! Anyway … oh and you tend to run into a lot of colourful characters in libraries which isn’t always fantastic – especially when they want to tell you their life story and you really just need to get some work done. Despite this, libraries are truly incredible places, though. Especially considering that they are air conditioned!

That’s the other thing .. sleeping in your car is messy business when you live in Queensland, Australia and it is SUMMER! My car bed is actually really comfortable because my car is long enough that I can put the back seats down and stretch completely out. BUT shady parking places are not easy to come by which means you often have to park out in the open and will wake up COVERED in sweat. Suffice to say, I don’t imagine I will keep up with this lifestyle much longer. I have been impressed, though, by how possible it is to live this way. A good friend of mine has been living the lifestyle for over eight months, now. I love her, she taught me that you can always find a hot shower at a truck stop because the truckies need to have facilities. I had never thought of that before but it makes sense. I am also grateful for the experience in the way that it has hi-lighted for me what it would be like to be actually homeless – aka homeless because there was no other option. I have options. I am actually choosing to live this way. And I have a car. That’s a major, major thing. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to wander the streets with nothing and no-one. I was never one to judge homeless people but I especially never would now. People tend to judge homeless people as being lazy and wonder ‘why don’t they just get a job?’. Well I imagine they have tried. I imagine there is much, much more to the story.

Oh well .. I don’t really want to get into a rant about that either. .

I will just say I am grateful for the experience and even more grateful for friends who will extend to me the use of their couch. For now I am house sitting for a friend who is away for a couple of weeks. I’m so appreciative for that as it gives me a bit of an opportunity to work hard at my thesis and get it all squared away. I don’t want to move into a place of my own just yet because my day job situation is up in the air at the moment and I haven’t quite worked out what state I am going to be settling in. But I’ll work that out soon enough.

Blessings to you, everyone 🙂