What can we do to make London air cleaner for our children?

As a London cyclist I am very aware of air quality.  So when I set up Nappy Ever After’s nappy laundry service in 2003 I was very keen to find out whether we could do our collections and deliveries without tailpipe emissions.  I attached a trailer to the back of my road bike to do the first delivery and collection.

Since then we’ve acquired a bike with a motor.  We’ve tried an electric van and a vehicle with a diesel engine.  We’re back doing our deliveries by cargo bike with batteries charged on Good Energy – because it’s far more efficient.

It’s great to know our nappy laundry service deliveries are not contributing to air pollution.  However London’s air is bad and it’s getting worse.  Yes, we now have a mayor who understands the urgency (unlike Boris) and is going to do something immediately – replacing diesel taxis with cleaner taxis and putting less polluting buses on routes with the worst air quality.

But what can we do?  Afterall,  we are the traffic.

1   When you buy on the internet choose companies that don’t deliver to your door but drop off at collection points within a mile of your home.  This reduces diesel emissions in your street and is being considerate to others. (To be honest this is something we have not organised yet – although where possible we deliver by bike.)

2  Support more space for cycling.  Segregated cycling lanes are important to increase the number of people cycling.  They encourage people who are nervous of cycling in traffic to have a go.  This is especially important if you want to carry children on your bike or have your children cycling,  with you or independently.

3  Cycle with your kids.  Tomorrow, Sunday 5 March sees the launch of the Family Cycling Library.  This is a great initiative to help parents experiment and find out which bike is right for them and their children.

4  Ditch your car – if you are one of the few Londoners who still own one.  You are wasting money.  You will save money and stress by not owning one.  Take taxis and join a car club so you can hire the right vehicle for your journey when you need it.  If you think that’s more expensive than owning one, do the maths!

Most importantly have fun!  Being on two (or three) wheels is one of life’s pleasures!  We need to work to make it safer so more parents feel confident to ride with their babies (and kids) on bikes as is the norm in Amsterdam.

 

 

 

When the Going Gets Tough …

Today a report was publishsed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health saying child health in the UK has improved over the last 30 years.  ‘But seven years after the Marmot Review, “Fair Society, Healthy Lives”, it is tragic that the future health and happiness of a significant and growing number is in jeopardy because of an alarming gap between rich and poor.’

What I’m going to say is probably not going to be popular but it comes from experience of bringing up children in London over the last 20 years and retaining a high level of contact with expectant and new parents and child health professionals through my work at Nappy Ever After.

The truth, I’m afraid, is that if we leave child health in the hands of government, local authority and health professionals and just keep measuring how bad things are getting and saying more money will solve the problem, we, as families, as communities indeed as a country  will be the losers.  The money isn’t there.  The last Labour government invested in early years.  It worked to an extent.  But the trouble was that those in least need were the main beneficiaries – yes, including me and my family.

My view is that those who are capable of providing services for each other must do so.  Local authorities are closing children’s centres.  There’s no reason why local parents can’t get together and create facilities like shared childcare for themselves.  We may need some relaxation of regulations that prevent us from doing it but we need to recognise that the majority of us can look after ourselves.  State and local authority resources need to be targeted at those in dire need, who are extremely vulnerable and need help.

Life changes dramatically when you have a baby.  In many cases you find you don’t want to return immediately to the career you’ve left but move into a new space that opens up for you when you have a baby.   What’s missing is the knowledge and tools and confidence to empower new parents to get on and look after themselves.   This is what is lacking and it harms us all.  There are parents who set up their own nurseries and creches in the 1980s when childcare facilties had experienced a period of long and harsh cuts under Thatcher.  Find them and ask them how to do it.

Beating new mothers with sticks, really?

“The terry nappy brigade (or washable nappy brigade) like the breast feeding brigade is  just another stick to beat new mums with,” said actress and mum of triplets, Jackie Clune on Jeremy Vine’s lunchtime BBC2 radio show, last Thursday (20 Oct 2016.)  I’m really sorry that Jackie* (who is currently playing Julius Caesar in an all female cast at the King’s Cross Theatre) feels like this.

For the last 20 years I have been watching parents spend far too much money on disposables and struggle with getting their 3 and 4 year olds out of them.  In 2003 I set up a business, Nappy Ever After to help people use washable nappies and find out if they worked for them.

It hasn’t been easy to get the message out there:  there has been a virtual media blackout on talking about washable nappies and potty training in an informed way because the disposable nappy companies spend big money on advertising space.  Even the BBC doesn’t like to say anything that does not reflect public opinion, even if that ‘public opinion’ has been bought by huge multi-national corporations.

But this nappy news item, despite what Jackie Clune said above, turned out to be different.  What was supposed to be a story celebrating the life of Valerie Hunter Gordon, the ‘inventor’ of the “disposable” nappy, became an item about the benefits of the modern washable nappy and the problem of nappy waste in landfill.  Hunter Gordon’s daughter even called the programme to correct the view that her mother was the inventor of the modern “disposable” and thus responsible for the nappy waste nightmare.  Hunter Gordon’s invention, the Paddi was a bio-degradable pad that sat inside a washable nappy cover – a very different product to the single-use nappy that contains super-absorbent material from polymers known as sodium polyacrylate.

You can hear the Jeremy Vine show nappy item here, fast-forward to 1 hour 9 mins.

For the record, the real nappy industry is  a small percentage of parents who have enjoyed reusable nappies and who want to share their knowledge.  We give information  and sell washable nappies because we have found them better for us, our wallets and most importantly for our children.

*Jackie, you asked on the show, what’s the point of giving up the convenience of disposables when wars are being waged around the world.  That thought has occured to me, but sadly, there is nothing I can do to stop the wars.  However I can help reduce nappy waste.    I can understand that real nappies may not work for you, but please don’t disrespect us with ill-informed cliches:  the other London nappy laundry company, Number One for Nappies was started and is still run by a father of twins (black and not middle-class.)

As people who are privileged to live in a land of peace it’s our responsibility to act in ways that work for us.  We can also try to increase the demand for single-use nappies that do not contain SAPs and could be composted locally.  I talk about this here.  That could be the best solution we know about for now, along with better knowledge about potty training as publicised by Kandi Burruss.  Humanity is at stake as shown by another theatre company, Complicite in its ground-breaking show, Encounter.

And Jackie Clune, if your triplets are still in nappies I’d be happy to give you a set of gNappies to try out on one of them.  Even if you only use washables some of the time you’d be reducing waste and you may even discover that you love them.  Actually they can be used with disposable inserts and are not unlike the product invented, so long ago, by Valerie Hunter Gordon.

Engel and Disana pre-order service

Every Autumn, Nappy Ever After puts in orders for organic woollen clothing to Engel Natur and Disana. This year our ‘Wool Event’ at the shop is on Saturday 15 October from 4 to 5pm. Preorders are due by Tuesday 18 October.

At our instore event, you can see and touch samples of  Engel Natur and Disana clothing.

Disana's new 'Melange' range of knitwear – jumper and hat

We keep down the price by taking pre-orders and pre-payment. This way you get high-quality organic merino wool and silk clothing (for babies, children and adults) at about 50% of the cost you would pay normally in a shop. Looked after properly these clothes are an investment; they last for ages, and baby and children’s clothes can be passed on.

For those of you who have a fear of washing wool there’s one simple rule: wool must be washed and rinsed at a similar temperature or you shock it.   If you do this they remain as good as new. We will have samples to show you.

Disana's new 'Melange' knitwear range

We do this event because we want to give business to the companies that continue to make these truly magnificent products but also we want your babies to have the experience of wearing them. We can also order for children and adults.

In the past, customers have ordered natural wool/silk vests for babies, sleepsuits with feet (for babies who kick off the blankets), colourful sleeveless and long sleeve vests and leggings for kids as well as adults . From Disana, we have ordered many boiled wool baby jackets and overalls.  The knitted jumpers (311), leggings (332) and trousers (331) are just so gorgeous and practical too.

If you know what you want send us an email and we’ll let you know the prices (No price list as we can never predict what you want to order and there are sometimes differences in prices according to size).  If you decide to order pre-payment is required.

After the event, you have until 21 October to choose, make orders and pre-pay. Engel products usually arrive within 10 days.  Some Disana boiled wool items may not arrive until December as they are made to order.

Please let us know if you’re coming so we know how many people to expect. info@nappyeverafter.co.uk or call 020-7014 3006

PLEASE NOTE: Discounted prices are only available on pre-ordered items, not our usual stock lines. Prepayment is required. All orders are taken at the customer’s risk however we can advise on sizing. There are no returns or refunds on pre-ordered goods.

Soft merino wool bonnets by Engel

Soft merino wool bonnets by Engel

Why doesn’t Nappy Ever After have its own laundry yet?

We’re 13 years old this year.  Isn’t it time we did our own washing?  Why don’t we run our own laundry yet?  This is what I was asked at Zero Waste Europe’s annual conference in Ljubljana last week.  I was asked the same question in January when I met the Mayor of Tower Hamlets about the closure of the laundry we currently use.

It’s not that we haven’t tried.  Indeed,  our last application for investment in a laundry was turned down the very afternoon after I had met JM Simon, the director of Zero Waste Europe.  Coincidentally he was in London that day waiting for a connecting flight and he came and visited Nappy Ever After.

To say I was disappointed when we did not get the opportunity to even show our business plan to the investors is an understatement.   Not least because I had found the ideal person  with the experience, passion and desire to manage a nappy laundry – creating green jobs and reducing London’s nappy waste.

But the delay may not be a bad thing because  we continue to learn from others.  At the Zero Waste conference in Ljubljana I heard Joan Crous talk about how he has established a nappy laundry, Lavanda in Bologna which serves 40 nurseries.

Significant investment was needed for this laundry but the magicimage is in this  book that he created and distributed for the children in the kindergartens.  It is a beautiful picture book for kindergarten children showing why washing nappies is better than burying nappy waste.  Art and stories have the power to move hearts and minds.  I’m thrilled to have a copy of the book at Nappy Ever After.  Do ask to see it next time you visit.

So how do I cope with these setbacks and disappointments?   My philosophy has become the slower we progress, the more information and experience we accumulate and the more likely we are to make good decisions and succeed in the long-term.  Meanwhile we give business to an existing inner London laundry and continue to help London parents choose washable nappies and reduce London’s nappy waste.

My message to the zero wasters at Ljubljana who wanted to reduce nappy waste was to just help real nappy culture grow.  Start or support others in setting up a nappy library, an online nappy shop, nappuccinos, potty training sessions.  All these small initiatives will start having an effect in reducing nappy waste, raising awareness, building a network and growing real nappy culture.  It’s our friends and family who influence us the most.  The more people who start using real nappies, the more the behaviour spreads incrementally.

 

 

Popping the Weasel

It’s 1999,  I’m on a radio journalism course and for an assignment I put together an item about nappy waste for Real Nappy Week and pitch it to ‘You and Yours,’ the popular mid-day BBC Radio 4 consumer magazine programme.  At the time I had no plans to set up a real nappy company … I was hoping for a career in radio journalism!

To liven up the item and punctuate the piece I made up a song and recorded some boys singing it at our local park..  Or to be more precise I put new words to the tune of the nursery rhyme ‘Pop! goes the Weasel’ which contains a verse “Up and down the City Road, In and out the Eagle, That’s the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel.”  I can’t remember all the words of the nappy waste version now, but there were lines like “That’s the way a disposable’s filled, pop it in the landfill.

By coincidence, the company I founded almost 13 years ago, Nappy Ever After, moved last year from Camden to Hackney to premises just off the City Road, indeed very very close to the Eagle pub.  So, to find us, get a bus to the City Road and get off at the Eagle.  Or take the tube to Old Steet station, walk up the City Road and turn right at the Eagle pub on Shepherdess Walk.  (Your phone will show a quicker route.)  We’re more like a warehouse than a shop and don’t have normal shop hours.  We’re open every Tuesday 2-6pm and by appointment.

image

A real nappy item was aired for Real Nappy Week 1999 on Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ programme.  They used my idea and research but remade the item themselves.  The show’s producer said I’d included too much about nappy waste and this was not relevant as it was a consumer choice programme!  We think differently now, right?

To replace the nappy waste content they gave 2 mothers some real nappies to  test for a few days.  Would the consumers like them?  They were disappointed that both mums found they worked really well and intended to switch from disposables!  However as it was all so late in the day they had to run the item like that.

I was on the radio again recently.  BBC Radio London called me to ask me to talk about nappy recycling on Eddie Nestor’s drive time show.  The mic was closed on me when I wouldn’t shut up about 35% of children arriving for school in nappies.  Eddie Nestor didn’t ask me what relevance this had to the topic of recycling disposable nappies, he just told me it wasn’t relevant and closed the mic.

This is the sort of silo mentality that fed the financial crisis.  We need to connect issues.  Just as 17 years ago what happened to disposable nappies after you’d thrown them in the bin wasn’t supposed to concern consumers, now 35% of children arriving at school in nappies in one of the most deprived schools in the UK has nothing do with whether or not £20million should be invested in a new Knowaste nappy recycling plant.  How about spending a little bit of a public health budget on giving parents good information on how to potty train their children?  It could halve the amount of disposable nappy waste Londoners generate and then, work out whether you need the nappy waste recycling plant or not.

PS Pop was cockney for pawn, and weasel, coat.  There’s a metaphor in that nursery rhyme about nappy waste and the planet that I didn’t see at the time; if we waste all our finite resources on single-use nappies (which aren’t of course disposable at all, such a clever name, like clean diesel) our descendants may find themselves wihout a coat/protection from climate chaos.

 

 

 

 

Image

Potty Training this Summer?

If your toddler is not already wearing cotton nappies in the run up to potty training (ie taking away nappies during the day) I suggest you start using them.   Cotton nappies get wet and this may stimulate your child to start experimenting with holding and releasing the bladder out of curiosity.  “When I do this my nappy gets wet.  When I do this it stays dry.” That kind of thing.  Then when you take away nappies during the day your toddler has already been experitimenting with developing the bladder muscles.

It’s also a good idea to buy a potty before you start potty training.  Give your child the opportunity to sit on it once a day.   You can also play at potty training a favourite doll or teddy.  The idea is to help your child understand where poo and pee goes so s/he can take the lead when ready.  For more about this see the link at the end of this post.

We have special potty training kits available for just £20 for children over 12 months.  You can pick up from our shop or if you buy online please pay £3.90 for package and postage.  The nappies look similar to this.  simply lite with prefold LR

The kit comprises 10 cotton nappies, 5 booster pads for nights (they take longer to dry) and 2 waterproof wraps.  Add a roll of disposable liners if your child still poos in the nappy.

Yes, it’s an amazing bargain.  How can we do this so cheaply you ask?  What’s the catch?  The stock is unused remaindered stock.  However, our margins are still low, or zero but it’s marketing.  We believe you will find out how practical prefolds are and tell your friends and perhaps use them for your next baby.

One more tip.  Get a bucket with a lid from the pound shop for storing the nappies until you load the washing machine.

Enjoy this step towards your child no longer needing nappies!

For more info on potty training visit the blog at Real Nappies for London: New Thoughts ….