My Green Nappy Discovering Modern Cloth Nappies and Eco-Friendly Disposable Nappies

August 21, 2010

Greenwashing Alert! Deceptively Disposable Nappies?

What’s 1 aspect of disposable nappies that you find is often ‘green washed’ in the minds of the general public?

“Disposable Nappies” – as we know, they aren’t – they sit around in landfill for decades, and more.

What is greenwashing, and does it get applied to disposable nappies?

In a society that’s increasingly aware of its own negative impact on the natural world, it’s no surprise corporations compete for consumer approval by promoting themselves as environmentally friendly or green. Such promotions might be as simple as sprinkling product packaging with leafy logos or as involved as publicizing investments in emerging technologies. Organizations spend billions of dollars each year in an attempt to convince consumers that their operations have a minimal impact on the environment. But can you believe the claims? How much environmental marketing is simply greenwashing?

For today’s topic we’ve asked our Nappy WAHM’s about the perceptions of the general public when it comes to disposable nappies and the green movement. “Green washing” is alive and well, and the myths quickly permeate general knowledge, but are often just a case of creative advertising and clever marketing, not environmental care at all…

I’m pleased to have contributions from many friends of My Green Nappy included in this article. We have Emma from Brindabella Baby, Melinda from Avanappy, Mel from Little Para PantsLouise from Scamps BoutiqueEva from Oz Baby Trends, Inge from Earth KidzCassandra from New Age Nappies, Annette from Iish Fly, Michelle from Issy Bear NappiesAlisha from Baby Safari, Cindy from Ticklefish TotsAshley from Cheeky Creations, Carli from MiniLaLa, Tracey from Flattery, Bec from Baby Chilli,  Julie from Cloth For Comfort, Chris froBaby Bullfrogs, Kate from Nappy DaysMichelle from Sustainable Hemp Products, and Karen from Baby Blossom.

Greenwashing as a term was originally related to a hotel chain that made claims about being eco-friendly in the way their towels were washed, yet it was found to be nothing more than a promotional ploy!  According to Wikipaedia:

The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices.

Let’s see what they have to say:

“What’s 1 aspect of using disposable nappies that you find is often ‘green washed’ in the minds of the general public?”

Emma of Brindabella Baby:

It’s OK because they make biodegradable disposables now.” Green wash – most people don’t use biodegradables. Of those who do, most use the ones readily available in supermarkets that are only 70% biodegradable – so there’s still a large quantity of nappy not breaking down in landfill. And even if you use a 100% biodegradable nappy, it won’t break down in landfill if it’s in a non-biodegradable plastic bag.

Melinda of Avanappy:

The chemical makeup of the absorbency layers.
Mel of Little Para Pants:
I keep hearing about the study that found cloth nappies use more water than disposables.  I think the study was assuming that you’re always washing your full stash at the same time.  I don’t know about anyone else, but the only time that’s ever happened here was before my son was born and he wasn’t wearing any yet!

Eva of Oz Baby Trends:

Eco Disposable brands. They still take a long time break down and only then under the right conditions. No matter how eco-friendly they might be (compared to normal disposables), they are still contributing to our disposable culture.
Inge of Earth Kidz:
That they are breathable. Duh, try putting plastic underwear on yourself!

Cassandra of New Age Nappies:

No worse than cloth re water use etc.

Annette of Iish Fly:

That using disposable saves on water in Australia’s arid environment. I find a baby in nappies tends to add an extra 2 loads a week, which in a front loader is around an extra 40-60 L a week, which is less than 1% of the average households water consumption. Another aspect  it promotes is that “It is ok to send hazardous body waste to landfill!

Michelle of Issy Bear Nappies:

The words ‘eco-friendly‘.’

Cindy from Ticklefish Tots:

Well, no mention of the hundreds of years a disposable nappy takes to break down is certainly one thing …. Do you think companies who thrive from the sale of disposable nappies would stay in business if they publicised the fact that their product was not as eco-friendly as they would have us believe?

Carli from MiniLaLa:

Lots of people argue that cloth nappies use so much water, without realising how much water (amongst other things) goes into the production of disposables.

Tracey from Flattery:

There was a study done into the environmental impact of disposables/cloth (they came out on par with each other) the thing that frustrates me is that this study was carried out when cloth nappies were terry cloth squares – that required soaking in napisan (which is not used for nappies now) and water usage was based on pre-soaking and water guzzling top loaders and electricity usage included drying in a dryer not on the line!

Bec from Baby Chilli:

The amount of water it takes to make disposable nappies, plus of course the crude oil, trees and plastic consumption that goes into each and every disposable nappy.
Julie from Cloth For Comfort:
I have found speaking with hundreds of people in my experience at the markets, one aspect which is ‘green washed’ is the amount of water used in the making of disposable nappies compared to cloth. I can understand this from the point of view of those who have not had any education regarding modern cloth nappies as the clever disposable nappy marketing campaigns can insinuate that less water is used in the making of disposable nappies.
Although this is true for only one nappy, it is much more when you add up the thousands of disposable nappies used for each child compared to the environmentally sustainable crops such as bamboo which is commonly used in modern cloth nappies and also the water it takes to wash and clean the nappies too!
Chris from Baby Bullfrogs:
Just how toxic the chemicals are that are used in them – blerghh!
Kate from Nappy Days:
That disposables are actually really good for the environment and that parents need to be more worried about spending time with their baby instead of doing mountains of washing.
Alisha of Baby Safari:
They think they are saving water by using them, the don’t think of the water that has been used to manufacture the nappies.
Michelle from Sustainable Hemp Products:

Marketing not focusing on the negatives like landfill and pollution problems and chemical usage in manufacture.
Karen from Baby Blossom:
Disposable are biodegradable. Although many parts of a disposable may be, wrap it in plastic and put it in landfill.
It still takes hundreds of years to break down.

Thank you to My Green Nappy’s Sponsoring Partners:

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3 Recommended Resources about Greenwashing and reducing the impact of using disposables :

  1. Greenwatch: All you need to know about Greenwashing.
  2. “The Six Sins of Greenwashing.”
  3. Make your eco disposables more environmentally friendly by emptying them.

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1 Comment »

  1. Virtually everything about disposable advertising campaigns irks me, but especially how they hide the water usage, and chemicals.
    I wish that true biodegradable disposable nappies were more readily available. If you could buy these in supermarkets, people might be more disposed to buy them instead of normal disposables, but when you have to go out of your way to get the good ones, or pay lots of postage, it turns people off. These still won’t be as good as cloth, but it’s a step up. Maybe we should be protesting to the big supermarket chains like woolies and coles to add brands like Moltex to their nappy shelves!

    Comment by Sara — October 28, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

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