There has been a study recently released, that was conducted by the University of Queensland Environmental Engineering Department in 2010.
This study outlines the various nappy systems currently used in Australia and their total and cumulative environmental impact. Unfortunately, the study did not include chemical leachate (leaching) from disposables in landfill so its still not an entirely accurate representation of the true impact of each system.
The Great Nappy Debate rages on
Read the study in full here.
The study DOES NOT calculate life cycle based on modern cloth nappies - only terry towelling cloth squares. Compostable and biodegradable disposables were also not included in the study.
Only four factors were considered in this study;
1. Water resource depletion
2. Energy consumption
3. Solid waste
4. Land area for production
Maximising water use is vital for eco-nappying
_More than 90% of water and energy consumption and land use occurs during the pre-use stage of the disposable nappy life cycle (softwood production, pulping and nappy production). As the study only considered terry towelling nappy squares, a true indication of the newer style of modern cloth has not been provided yet.
At Lavenderia we use a combination of cotton and bamboo nappies. Bamboo plantations use much less water than cotton and require less pesticides. The bamboo cotton inserts we use are more absorbant than just plain cotton which means you have to change your nappy LESS often. This equates to less water required for laundering processes.
Ultimately, the findings of this report are that cloth nappies, laundered at home, in a FRONT loader machine in COLD water and LINE DRIED is THE most eco friendly nappy solution possible. This is GREAT news for us Fluffy Bum loves!
Add in a home dryer or top loader washing machine and this changes dramatically though...
If you consider factors like weather (here in the Blue Mountains, rain is a regular weekly occurance and can continue for 10 days unabated making line drying very difficult) and how many times you have to wash at home, the outcome changes dramatically.
Unfortunately, the outcome for most Australian commercial nappy services (there are not very many of them!) is not altogether favourable however we still rated BETTER than disposables. Some commercial Nappy Services use very heavy bleaching agents and a great deal of water to produce the final white and bright oucome. We here at Lavenderia don't like this idea much and have worked very hard to find suitable alternatives where possible. It hasn't been easy as Australian Standards are very strict but we have found some great alternatives.
Lavenderia uses pocket nappies. We seperate the inserts and the nappies themselves for seperate laundering. The nappy shell is washed in COLD water, with 100% biodegradable commercial grade detergents that have cool natural ingredients like citrus pith and mineral salts. The risk of nappy rash is greatly reduced with these types of detergents.
The seperated inserts are soaked in very hot water for a minimum of 4 hours. We use very hot water for this soak so that the fibres of the fabric open up and soften to allow deeper penetration for stain removal. We currently use an oxygen based stain removal product that incorporates things like peroxide and bicarb soda - a more natural alternative to that of chlorine.
Once the inserts have soaked, they are washed in a cool wash with the nappy soak water being reused in the cycle.
We are in the process of setting up our own laundering plant. When this is done, we intend to install a grey-water filtration system so that we can reuse the grey water from the machines on gardens and for the toilets in the plant. This minimises the environmental impact of our service dramatically.
We also intend to have solar panels fitted to our plant to operate some of our equipment including a circulation fan in an air drying room. The hot air from the dryer will be circulated into a small room set up behind the dryer, where the outer shell of our nappies will be hanging to dry. The hot air that is expelled from the dryer will then be reused also to help air dry the outer shell of the nappies which can not be hot air dryed or they melt - that way we can dry two loads at once with this method thereby minimising our environmental impact again.
And finally we buy and plant a tree to offset carbon emissions resulting from deliveries. We also combine deliveries through our Advocate Program where any Mum can gather a group of parents together for pick ups and deliveries from one place. This means we can pick up a group of nappies and deliver a group of nappies reducing the mileage required for delivery to our customers. Check out our Nappy Service Advocates page here to find out how you could earn extra dollars helping us to help Mother Nature!
We are constantly seeking new ways to reduce our impact and we take our environmental responsibilities VERY seriously.
If you can think of anything that will help us reduce our impact even more, please contact us here. We would LOVE to hear your suggestions and ideas!
In the mean time, continue on Fluffly Bums knowing that you are doing your bit for Mother Nature!
Love and Fluffy Bums,