How ethical are your nappies?

A large deciding factor when it comes to using real nappies is that they are less harmful to the environment than their disposable counterparts, not to mention they countless pounds they will save you in the long run. But do we lose sight of the ethical practicalities when it comes to choosing our nappies?

Sure enough, cloth nappies save us money, and in these hard times, we are all trying to find cheaper alternatives. But should it be at the cost of others? For example, are your nappies made in a local UK factory by Mums who are paid a fair wage or are they made in a sweatshop in China for pennies.

A recent poll taken by Fill Your Pants showed that environmental concerns was the main contributing factor to using cloth nappies, with cost coming up second. So one would assume that the majority of the users of real nappies do care about the environment and where their nappies come from.

So why are the very cheap alternatives becoming so popular? There has been a rise in sales of the cheap nappies available on Ebay. With prices as low as £2-3 per nappy, you really do question the integrity of such a product. Will the nappy be of a good enough quality to withstand constant washing and wearing for around 2-3 years? Were the materials used ethically chosen and produced, without the use of harmful substances?  Which is why we question the ethical impact of how they are made.

totsbotsworkersCompanies such as Tots Bots are committed to providing ethically sourced and fairly made products. Their main factory for manufacture is based in Glasgow with a small amount of nappies being made in Turkey. Information about their workforce is freely available on their website. And they have been given a Best Buy award from the Ethical Consumer Magazine.

Similarly, Bummis are a prime example of an eco-conscious cloth nappy company. Based in Canada, they have their own factories for the manufacture of their products, all except the organic cotton prefolds. They source locally their fabrics and laminations and subject them to stringent environmental controls – as opposed to many parts of Asia where there are zero environmental controls.

Although our fabrics and components are usually higher priced, they are worth it – on many levels.

Where production of their products is not based in Canada, they strive to find alternatives which fit their eco-friendly beliefs. For example, the very popular Bio-soft liners are produced in England, where their sourcing and manufacturing is probably the most sustainable process in existence at this time. bummisorganic

There are some products however that are simply not easily available in the so called “developed world” – woven cotton products, for instance, have for the most part disappeared in North America. Woven cotton is one of the most durable, long lasting and absorbent fabrics for nappies. Durability is also a sustainable choice environmentally speaking – because all the energy that goes into creating a durable product is not wasted if you can wash and use this product hundreds of times. Bummis Cotton Nappy are partnered with a cotton nappy manufacturer in Pakistan. When they switched to using organic cotton for their nappies, they decided to continue working with this company instead of moving to a company that was already producing organic cotton nappies. They would rather have converted one more company to certified cotton than have to source a new supplier.

footprintUnderstandably, more and more products are being manufactured in foreign countries such as China, to be able to offer lower prices to customers. This too has an environmental impact as the carbon footprint is likely to be higher as they have to be couriered around the world.
For example, Tots Bots and Bummis strive to locally source as much of their materials as possible, to reduce the carbon footprint of the products.  And to help reduce the carbon footprint, Tots Bots and Smartipants both use surface travel wherever possible to reduce the emissions caused by flying.

When choosing nappies, it can be easy to lose sight of the environmental impact when it comes to the low cost of some nappies but spare a thought for the additional impact that may be caused.

With thanks to Betsy at Bummis and www.totsbots.com

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