Archive | February, 2012

Environmental impact: Real Nappies Vs Disposables

27 Feb

There’s a question that I’ve been asked many times before:  Are reusable nappies really any better for the environment, once you allow for washing and drying?

Unfortunately, it is very hard to accurately quantify the overall environmental impact of real nappies vs disposables.  Different nappies are manufactured differently, using different levels of energy use and resources.  Real nappy usage varies from individual to individual – some people boil wash and tumble dry, others wash at 30 and line dry.  Some people use their real nappies on 2, 3 or even 4 children, thereby reducing the energy from manufacture per use. For disposables its more straight forward; once used they go in the bin and in most cases end up in landfill where they can take up to 500 years to rot away.

Well, the closest answer we have at present came from the Environment Agency’s 2008 report “An updated lifecycle assessment study for disposable and reusable nappies”.  This report looked at the lifecycle of a nappy – in other words, its manufacture and use.  It did not attempt to address what happens to a nappy after it is taken off your baby’s bum. 

The report made various assumptions and I obviously won’t list them all here.  However, the key assumptions as regards real nappy use were:

  • Nappies are used on one child only
  • Nappies are washed at 60 using an averagely rated machine
  • Nappies are line-dried 75% of the time and tumble dried for 25% of the time
  • Nappies are pre-washed before every main wash cycle.
  • Nappies are mainly washed alone, rather than with other laundry.

Based on these assumptions, the report found that the overall impact of real nappies was roughly the same as that of disposables.  However, the report stated that the conclusion is highly dependant on the way that real nappies are laundered.

So, for instance, washing in fuller loads would reduce the overall impact of real nappies by 16%.  Line drying rather than tumble drying reduces the overall impact by the same amount.  If you assume that nappies are washed in fuller loads, line dried and reused for a second child, then the overall impact of real nappies works out at 40% lower than that of disposables.

Unfortunately, some ambiguity just means that the different camps can quote the figures that show themselves in the best light!  But to me the report seems to say that if you wash and dry sensibly, then you really can make an environmental difference. 

Looking at the assumptions used, there are many I don’t fully agree with.  I rarely washed at 60, for instance, generally preferring to wash at 40.  And I don’t own a tumble dryer!  Best of all, my nappies saw me through my two boys and then went off to an orphanage in Tanzania.

Another important point is that with real nappies you are in control.  Want to reduce the impact of your real nappies?  Fine, you could wash them at 40 and line dry them.  Want to reduce the impact of your disposable nappies?  Erm well, you could use less of them I suppose….

As I mentioned above, the biggest problem with the 2008 report is that it does not consider what happens to the nappy afterwards.  So no allowance is made at all for the issue of nappies going to landfill.  Which seems to me to be missing the point somewhat.  Even if this report had concluded that disposables are better for the environment, would that mean that we suddenly found the space to put the 8 million disposable nappies we throw away each day in the UK?  Of course not.  I am glad that the issue was looked at, but I wonder if there is much real benefit in the conclusions when the main point of difference was ignored.  The report considers the reuse of reusable nappies, but not the disposal of disposables. 

For more information, please contact me at

Blog provided by Vicki Jordan at Real Choice Nappies.

Nappies on a Budget

22 Feb

It’s generally accepted that using cloth nappies works out cheaper in the long run than disposable nappies.  However there is a fairly significant upfront cost, which can be a problem for some people, or put people off.  However there are also ways that you can reduce the cost of that initial outlay as well as getting the best value for money.

  1. My top tip would be to start thinking about your nappies as soon as you can.  Buying before your baby arrives means that you can spread the cost and buy bits and pieces as you can afford them.  If you’re working, it also means that the money will come out of your salary rather than your maternity pay!  Some suppliers will allow you to spread payments over a few months, whilst still taking advantage of bulk buy deals.
  2. One-size nappies can be a cheaper option overall, since you only have one size to buy.  However, they generally cost more per nappy than a sized nappy so you may have a bigger initial outlay.  Conversely, if the nappy you choose comes in different sizes then you can just get the first size to start with and so spread the overall cost.  This also means that you can see how the nappy suits you over the first few months, and possibly make changes before you get the second size.
  3. You don’t need to get a huge amount of kit.  There are lots of accessories that do make life easier, such as disposable liners and laundry mesh bags, but they are not essential.  You may prefer to get the absolute essentials to start with and then add accessories as you need them.  Similarly, resist the urge to buy a load of funky nappies or patterned covers – plain white works just as well and is often cheaper. 
  4. Be wary of very cheap nappies –   You need a good quality waterproof layer to ensure a leak-free nappy, and to ensure that your nappy lasts.  In other words, don’t scrimp on the waterproofing. Its better to go for a cheap nappy (absorbent layer) and get a good quality waterproof cover.
  5. Don’t be put off by flat nappies – they are a great way to economise.  Personally, I like the bamboo terry squares as they are so much softer and more absorbent than cotton.  They are also slimmer fitting, which means you can usually get away with just one size of terry to last from birth to toddler.  OK, you’ll need to learn to do a few folds, but it’s not too difficult once you’ve done it a couple of times.  Paired with a good quality cover, this system makes for a cheap option, whilst still performing and lasting well.
  6. If you’re unsure, try a few brands/styles out before committing to a full set.  Cloth nappies are a personal choice and you want to make sure you get what’s right for you, before forking out hundreds of pounds.
  7. Washable liners and wipes are a great alternative to their disposable counterparts, and will certainly save you a lot of money in the long term for a fairly small initial cost.  Just wash with your nappies as normal.
  8. Consider using second hand nappies.  There are plenty of places to get good quality, well looked-after second hand nappies – such as or on parenting forums.  Look out for nappies that have been well used, as this usually means that they did the job well.  If a nappy that looks immaculate and barely used, it may be because it didn’t work properly and just sat in a cupboard!
  9. Look after your nappies to make them last as long as possible, especially if you want to use the same nappies again for another baby.  Don’t use too much detergent (and never use fabric softener), and avoid avoiding soaking any nappies or covers.  Try to avoid tumble drying as much as possible, and wash on as low a heat as it takes to get your nappies clean (40 degrees is usually fine – although I recommend adding an anti-bacterial nappy sanitiser to your wash if you’re washing below 60 degrees).

If you would like any advice or information, please feel free to contact me at

Blog provided by Vicki Jordan at Real Choice Nappies

Top Tips When Buying Real Nappies

6 Feb

There is a huge array of real nappies available today, and the level of choice is amazing.  There really is a cloth nappy to suit every family!  If you are confused by the choices out there, then here are my top tips for starting out with real nappies:

  • As a first step, check out your local council to see if they offer any incentives to real nappy users. At the very least, they may have information about real nappies and about where you can get advice locally.  This is a great starting point!
  • Next, have a quick think about what you’re after and what your priorities might be.  What drying facilities do you have?  Are natural fabrics a priority for you?  Do you plan to use the nappies for more than one child?  If you think about these things first, it will make your research much easier and help you to narrow down your choices.
  • Do some research before you go shopping, and resist the urge to buy the first thing you see on the high street, or to be swayed by a very cheap brand.  You may end up getting a load of nappies that you never use as they don’t work well for you, wasting you money and time.
  • Speak to a local nappy expert for advice.  I spoke to a nappy advisor when I was first looking for real nappies (9 years ago!) and it really helped, although I had to do it via e-mail as there wasn’t anyone local.  I found their advice to be much more valuable than advice on parenting forums, for instance, as nappy experts will have a much broader experience and can offer impartial advice.  Many offer face-to-face advice, or may run information events (“nappuccinos”) that you can drop into.  Go Real also has information on nappy retailers and advisors in your area.  If you prefer not to travel or if there is no-one close to you, many online retailers can offer advice via phone or email.  But go to see them if you can – it’s so much easier if you can see the nappies in the flesh
  • Accept that real nappies are an investment.  Real nappies will work out far cheaper in the long run than disposables, but there is a fairly significant upfront cost.  Think about getting the best value for money over the time you will be using your nappies – very cheap nappies tend to be false economy if they don’t last the course.
  • If possible, have your nappies ready to go as soon as your baby arrives.  In my experience, the earlier you start with real nappies the more likely you are to continue to use them.  It also means you get the best value for money out of your nappies.  Also, you may not feel like doing nappy research when you have a newborn baby to deal with!
  • Having said that, it is never too late to start using cloth.  Many people switch to cloth after a few weeks or months of disposables, or sometimes for a second child.  You will still save a lot of money and waste, and sometimes real nappies seem less scary when you have a bit of parenting experience under your belt (not that they are scary really, honest!)
  • Consider using washable wipes, whether you are using real nappies or not.  Washable wipes are a no-brainer in my opinion – cheaper and less wasteful than the alternative, and just as easy to use.  If you’re using washable nappies, then you may as well wash some wipes too.  And if not, then the wipes can be washed with your normal laundry.  Also, with washable wipes, you are in complete control of what goes on to your baby’s bottom or face.
  • Last but not least, have fun!  Real nappies are cute and gorgeous – why shouldn’t you get excited about a funky new pattern?!  We know that real nappies are better for the environment, cheaper, easy to use etc – no reason why they can’t be fun and look great too!

If you would like any advice on choosing your nappies, please feel free to contact me at

Blog provided by Vicki Jordan from Real Choice Nappies.

Two Part Nappies vs All-In-Ones

3 Feb

Another major decision when choosing your real nappies is whether to go for a nappy that requires a separate waterproof cover, or one where the waterproofing is built in.  Again, there are pros and cons with each type.

“Two-part” nappies, as their name suggests, are made up of two parts – the absorbent nappy part, and a separate waterproof cover.  Two part nappies can also be referred to as “nappy separates”, because there are two separate components. 

Two-part nappies are generally considered to be the best choice for containment, since there are two lines of defence!  A good fitting nappy, with a good fitting cover over the top, is pretty bomb proof and so this system may be the best option when containment is a priority (especially for pre-weaned, breastfed babies).

An “all-in-one” nappy here is meant to refer to any nappy that has a waterproof outer and an absorbent inner.  With this sort of nappy, the waterproofing is built into the nappy so there is no need for a separate waterproof cover. 

A true “all-in-one” nappy is one where the absorbency is sewn into the outer and is not removable.  However, with some nappies, it is possible to separate out the absorbent material from the waterproofing, usually to aid drying, and there are different terms used to distinguish these variations.  For instance, “all-in-two” would describe a nappy where the absorbent material is removable, and either lies on top of or pops into the outer waterproofing.  And “pocket” would describe a waterproof outer with a pocket, in which absorbent pads are placed.  All these names can be very confusing though, and for ease I tend to call all such nappies “all-in-one” – after all, these nappy types are all one piece when you put them on the baby.

The main advantage of all-in-ones is their ease of use – there is only one bit of nappy to deal with and they are certainly the closest to disposable nappies in terms of their use.  This sort of nappy may therefore be the best choice where ease is the priority, perhaps for childcare or for out and about.

It’s a personal choice and what style you choose will depend on what is most important for you.  If your priority is containment, then maybe a two-part would suit you best.  And if your priority is ease of use, then you may want to go for an all-in-one style.  Or you could choose a combination of the two – two-parts for home and all-in-ones for out, for instance.

If you would like any advice on choosing two-part or all-in-one nappies, please feel free to contact me at

Blog provided by Vicki Jordan from real Choice Nappies.