A Shift Towards Sustainable Parenting By Victoria Penfold

A Shift Towards Sustainable Parenting By Victoria Penfold

Since starting Bio-Baba nappies five years ago, I have been pleased to see a radical shift in thinking towards the inclusion of cloth nappies in a nappy routine. Originally, when people discovered that they had to wash them, they simply were not interested and stopped listening to reasons why it was a good idea, citing lack of time or sheer disinterest in ‘someone else’s problem’ as the basis for not wanting to go the ‘eco-route’.

However, that was before we had to pay for plastic bags, before the tsunami, before the ‘fuel crisis’, before the discovery of a mountain of plastic in the ocean that stretches from Hawaii to Japan:

“The vast expanse of debris – in effect the worlds largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.” (http://www.independent.co.uk)

Now people are finally waking up to the sad reality that there will not be a planet for their beloved children to inherit if they do not take the warnings seriously. After all, if learned people such as George Orwell are to be believed, “We humans are capable of convincing ourselves of something that is not true long after the accumulated evidence would convince any reasonable person that it’s wrong.”

So are South African parents really prepared to make a change? Do the rich and affluent still suffer from ‘affluenza’ – a sickness where you believe that because you are successful and can afford to buy and throw away as much as you like, environmental concerns have nothing to do with you?

Misconceptions about switching to cloth nappies

1. “Cloth nappies are too much hassle, I don’t have the time”

You have to ask yourself – do you have to change a babies’ nappy? Obviously you do, (this is where the design of the cloth nappy you choose really comes into the equation), so if you use a super absorbent all-in-one hemp nappy like Bio-Baba, it is just as easy to fit as a disposable; it is also just as effective as you only have to change after 3hours and, with extra hemp boosters, it can effectively be used for a ‘sleep through’ night! Okay, so it is easy to fit, is just as effective as a disposable (with no chemicals), but what about the washing? For a start you will not be washing as many nappies if you use Bio-Babas since their added absorbency means you will not be changing as often; so washing is done every second day. If you have a washing machine, not to mention any form of domestic help, then this is simply no excuse!

2. “I can’t afford Bio-Baba nappies”

This is possibly one of the biggest misconceptions, since if you have a child in disposables for a 2½ year period (6000 nappy changes) then you will be spending (at today’s prices), between R12 000 and R15 000 for the sake of convenience. If you use Bio-Baba nappies (including at night), you could save up to R10 000 over this time! The catch is that you have to buy and pay for them all at once, which makes it seem like a lot of money for nappies. However, since Bio-Babas can be conveniently paid over several months on credit card, even the upfront expense can be reduced and the saving over that 2½ period is huge.

3. “I can’t make a difference”

I once had one of my well educated friends tell me that her mother-in-law had refused to use Bio-Baba nappies as she considered herself ‘above that sort of thing’. Her actual comment was that she was going to ‘let the next generation worry about it’. Well, what can you say to that? Ironically, she was an incredibly caring and attentive grandmother who had taken on the responsibility of looking after baby when my friend returned to work, she just seemed unable to make the connection between her choices and the future of her grandson. Are you one of those people that Mr Orwel was talking about? Did you know that:

Disposable nappies are one of the world’s biggest household waste contributors, behind newspapers at No.1 and containers/packaging for food in second place. Your household is no different, millions are thrown away annually in SA, 9 million a day in the UK and 20 billion a year in the US and Canada. This equates to 750 000 tonnes of nappies being buried annually in landfill sites around Britain and they do not biodegrade! In desperation, several municipalities in the UK are now offering mothers a “£80 incentive to cut ‘nappy mountain’. The Daily Telegraph -UK, Feb 13, 2006

  • If you have a baby in disposable nappies your household waste doubles
  • During the 2½ years in disposable nappies a baby will have used 325kg plastic and 20 trees worth of paper and produced 1 tonne of landfill space
  • Many municipalities in South Africa are facing major landfill airspace crises…for example – out of 6 sites in Cape Town – now only 3 remain; Bellville, which will close in approx. 2013, Coastal Park in approx. 2022 and Vissershoek in about 2017.
  • Waste in South Africa is currently growing at 5% faster than the population growth…where are we going to put our waste is a very serious question. In other countries they have been dumping in the sea and as a result have created huge ‘dead zones’ where nothing except giant jelly fish (who can live without oxygen for extended periods of time) can thrive. This is particularly alarming since approx. 90% of the world’s oxygen comes from the sea
  • Disposable nappies are classified as medical waste and should be incinerated – however individual municipalities in South Africa do not have the resources to do this; it is actually illegal for health reasons to dispose of human faecal matter in municipal bins, but nobody I know flushes what their child does in a disposable down the toilet before throwing it away. This poses a health and environmental threat as there is danger of the leaching of live viruses (given in the form of vaccination to babies) from landfills where disposables are dumped into our water system. We have just had a recent wave of mysterious baby deaths from contaminated water in the Eastern Cape, you have to wonder?

4. “My crèche only takes disposables”

I have found that this is not true, without exception, the people who run crèches are more than willing to use something that is just as easy to fit and change as a disposable, especially when the parent takes the time to explain that they are changing to Bio-Babas for financial and environmental reasons. In a country where people are working to sustain themselves, very often for less than R2000 a month, it is not only an environmental, but a social injustice too that some of them are spending as much as a third of their salaries on disposable nappies and childcare!

Children really do live what they learn. I encourage all parents to choose a sustainable future for their baby by incorporating a cost-effective and easy to use cloth nappy like Bio-Baba into their nappy routines; limit disposable use to holidays and emergencies, use cloth nappies around the house, when visiting friends and at crèche. Future generations depend on us, the time is NOW, we all can make a difference!

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1 Comment
  • nadelsteyn
    Posted at 10:00h, 27 May Reply

    The playschool where my son goes to, asked me to pack disposables instead of my mother nature nappies. According to the teacher, she has difficulty pulling up the waterproof and the snaps are too difficult for her to close. Please! She has to pull up all the other children’s pants, what’s so different to pulling up a waterproof?? (I use normal waterproofs together with the ones provided by mother nature nappies).

    Does anyone by the way know of an Afrikaans or bilingual playschool in the northern suburbs which won’t give me trouble with diapers? Oh, yes, she also doesn’t want to potty train my son and also, after I explained to her I don’t give my son sweets and chips and stuff, she went and gave him some!! Really, isn’t she supposed to respect my way of parenting, even though she does not share my views?

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