City Hippy

The diary of our struggle to live a green and fair life.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

NEWS: Crappy nappy but happy

Today all over the BBC and tons of other UK media are articles about a report commissioned by the Environment Agency (the UK equivalent of the US' EPA) about how Green diapers/nappies are no better for the environment than disposable diapers/nappies.

To say that 25 nappies, washable in cold chemical-free water, made of organic cotton, are no better for our planet than 2000 non-biodegradable nappies with reported health risks (see below), coated in plastic derivatives and sold in even more plastic is ludicrous and goes against all common sense! No matter what any report just goes against everything we know.

This issue is very close to out hearts as at least two of the City Hippy collective are having babies.

We will try and read the report in full if we get the chance although at a whopping 209 pages please forgive us if we just skim it and summarise for the sake of brevity and our sanity.

After a good skim through we reckon that the study does not take into full account a number of relevant issues including packaging, total transport, component production and alledged health risks.

Overall it would appear that the study had far too narrow a focus as to negate any conclusions arising from it.

For a great range of eco-disposable diapers/nappies and washable diaper/nappy systems check out Spirit of Nature. They offer FREE SAMPLES and provide a lot of info to help you decide what type of diaper/nappy suits your budget and lifestyle.

You could also check out One Life World who do a great disposable and reusable diaper/nappy.

Surfing the web we came across the following information about potential health issues arising from using disposable nappies:

Alledged health problem one: Disposables apparently contain 'Nonylpheyl ethoxylate, a proven oestrogen mimic, linked to sex changes in fish and dropping sperm count, is only recently being phased out of disposable nappies.' - taken from

Alledged health problem two: 'Research undertaken in 1999 suggests that chemicals released by disposable nappies could cause or aggravate asthma. Nappies were tested as soon as they were taken from the packet for their level of emissions, which were high enough to produce asthma like symptoms. The chemicals released were Tolune, xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene and isopropylbenzene amongst others. These chemicals are by products of the manufacturing process of disposable nappies that contain gel.' - taken from

For a full breakdown of why disposables are bad for the planet read more at the

Well if there is no difference between them then I still choose to use products that make more sense. I urge you to do the same. Then again I have not had my baby yet...will report back in about 7 months.

What do you think? Have you used disposables and/or re-usables? Do you agree with the report?

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UPDATE (20/07/05): Just found a great reply to this 'report' from the Womens Environmental Network. Read it here


At 6:27 PM, Blogger timx said...

Yes I would like to know more about this. It seems absurd, but I would like to be sure of my facts! Not that I'm having a baby or anything...

At 6:48 PM, Blogger City Hippy said...

Hi Timx

Thanks for your comment.

There is a lot of debate going on (just search using google).

Seems to fall into two camps:

1) those justifying their existing use of disposables. Apparently the report makes people feel less guilty about using disposables.

Question is why do they feel guilty in the first place...? We all do the best we can right? Making people feel guilty is not the answer. If they genuinely cannot manage to use or afford greener systems then that is fine. If they are just using disposables without exploring greener solutions then of course guilt is inevitable.

2) those exposing the report as flawed.

The sample sizes were totally out of balance. The number of reusable nappies used appears ludicrous and we even saw on a website (can't recall wheer sadly) that the report counted the energy cost of ironing disposables.

Now not sure about you but who on earth would iron disposables?

Wish we had made note of those sites when we saw them.

For us this report is ludicrous...we give it zero credence.

However, this whole debate raises an interesting point.

We must not take green solutions for granted.

We are currently working on article exploring this topic further. Watch this space!

At 12:25 PM, Blogger meika said...

we have two girls under 4

we've used a mix of sewn fitted nappies locally made and disposables when necessary, we prefer to use our 'zappy nappies'

here in australia the water issue is paramount, it takes a lot of water to clean nappies

they are a lot of work and people feel guilty whenever they do less work, becuase you cannot have you cake and eat it, people have less time, work takes up a lot of it, dispoables save time, but cost money, if youre earning then the time factor however badly felt will win out

i known single mums whose alternative record was pure, but gave up on the nappies

but then we know working mums with partner with TWINS who use the old style nappies!!!


read the report and find the marketing spin, target it, nail it

it will be there somwhere

At 6:54 PM, Blogger City Hippy said...

Hi Meika

I think using a mixture sounds like a great idea...sometimes you just need to rush off and use a disposable...but when you can you use a more ethical choice. None of us are perfect after all.

I think if someone does a lot to be as green and ethical a consumer as possible and then they slip up on nappies alone then that is fair play.

None of us are perfect and we all do the best we can.

City Hippy is not into judgement of people. We are just trying to encourage as much positive action as possible really.

After all, we're not perfect either. So we start with ourselves and our lives.

I guess the point you make about water usage is valid...

The report left us asking how much water, oil and so on it takes to produce a disposable in the first place...and transport that many more of them to the market place and so on. Did the report cover that? If so we missed it in there.

I agree that the guilt issue is resolved if you have the money to cover is not meant to be inconvenient after all.

On the other hand life should not be all about compromise for the sake of convenience. And people do manage to watch an average of something like 2 hours of tv a night.

The real question is about comsumption impact. We need a far-reaching study to ascertain the real costs of things we take for granted. Otherwise how can we make decisions?

If we knew for 100% sure that disposables and re-usables were equal in resource use then fair play but for me this report fails by miles to cover certain key factors.

Conversely if a report told us conclusively that our lifestyle will mean that in 20 years we will have to buy breathable air I suspect we would act accordingly.

The bigger problem this report highlights is that there is no independent voice to examine the issues and present reliable and trustworthy conclusions.

Now what on earth do we do about that? Where do we find a non-corporate credible objective research body? Does one already exist? Anybody?



At 1:27 PM, Blogger meika said...

on a recent "gardening australia" program (ABC-TV) a viewer suggestion was to reuse the gel inners of disposalble nappies (i'll whack word "diapers" in for US consumers who may find this via a search) by tearing it out of the wet one (not the pooey one) and putting it into a bin, and using the saved nitrogen rich water absorbing gel as an additive to potting mix, as (a) it hold and absorbs water and nutrients really well, and (b) does not go into landfill

we're trialling it right now

anything that helps our chillies from drying out is a godsend

At 10:41 PM, Blogger City Hippy said...

Hahaha nice one Meika

Please do keep us posted...and check out the update to this article that we posted on June 21 2005.




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