Reducing the waste mountain after baby
The Nappy Lady Kate Meads says there’s a shift back to traditions that help cut waste, like using cloth nappies. She’s got some tips for choosing the right cloth nappies and becoming a more conscious consumer after having a baby.
What are the biggest stumbling blocks you hear about why people don’t use cloth nappies?
The biggest issues that parents face are deciding which ones to buy, the second one is the cost of the nappies and the third is they think it will be an onerous, time consuming task to wash them. When it comes to choosing them, the best thing is to wait until the parents have had the baby and choose them once the baby is there. Often they buy the wrong nappies up front and then they hate cloth nappies. You can’t buy underwear for a baby that isn’t there yet because you don’t know what size is going to fit. And if you don’t know the types of nappies or have never had any experience with them, you don’t know that there are some very real differences between the styles and brands. That’s where my workshops are mostly based on getting people to trial them first. I tell everybody that every single brand is the best to somebody. To be honest most people end up with a combination because they’re all good for different times - some are good for daytime, some for night time or for going out.
What advice do you have about washing cloth nappies?
A lot of people’s worries are about extra washing costs. The cost is actually quite minimal. Washing wise, cloth nappies still come out significantly cheaper. It’s easy to conserve water by washing the nappies with the baby’s clothes. [My husband and I] never did separate loads. We ran a pre-rinse, then ran [the nappies] together in one load at the end of the day.
Do you think there is a move back to some of the traditions that can reduce waste, like using cloth nappies and growing our own produce?
I think absolutely. People are excited about going back to the way things were. We’re going full circle now. It gets to the point where people realise they can’t keep living like this and keep throwing stuff away and not being mindful. People are talking about eating natural foods and what’s in what they feed their baby. I do think there’s a big shift back and with that has been the move to cloth nappies. I’ve had a lot of interest in the waste free living workshops I started this year. Things like useable menstrual products are becoming more common and people are keen to talk about it, whereas five years ago people would almost have balked at that.
What spurred you to cut down on waste after having a baby and what are some products parents can avoid buying to make their own waste reductions?
After having a baby your waste just about doubles instantly. I think that was the big motivator for me and my husband. As two grown adults we produced one small bag of rubbish a week. When we had our son we were producing a giant wheelie bin of rubbish. Over 10 years my husband and I have made little changes to our lifestyle to the point where we’re sustainable. We’re not perfect, but we do our best.
The first thing is car seats. They’re really bad waste products because they’re only used for six years and then they’ve had their use. You don’t necessarily have to buy new – you can rent from Plunket and Baby on the Move also hires them out.
Also being aware of the packaging baby food creates – you can make your own food and use re-useable containers. Then there’s all the ‘old school’ stuff like ice cube trays and Tupperware and lunchboxes. There’s so much waste in the average kid’s lunchbox, with prepackaged food.
What types of waste minimisation and management systems do you use at home that you’d recommend to others?
We have a much bigger recycle bin than waste bin - and I run the business from home so the recycling from that has to come into it. I did a lot of learning around recycling because weren’t recycling very well either. We have a compost bin, two worm farms, and two quite big raised bed vege gardens. We grow vegetables between us and neighbours so we can pick them either side. We have about 20 different fruit trees. We wanted to turn the backyard into something where if you feel like fruit you pick it yourself and it’s organic and it hasn’t been sprayed. The other big thing we’ve done is we’ve stopped buying so much. So much of food waste is just what’s bought and thrown away without being eaten. We’re a lot more aware of what we buy – we don’t just buy things because they’re buy one, get one free. I’m a much more conscious consumer now.
‘The Nappy Lady’ Kate Meads says she used to be the “ultimate consumer and master waste producer” before having son Daniel in 2005 and becoming a “waste free parenting warrior”. Visit her website to find out more on cloth nappies, waste free parenting and her workshops.