'It takes 500 years for a nappy to decompose' Why one Irish mum is championing reusable cloth nappies 1 year ago

'It takes 500 years for a nappy to decompose' Why one Irish mum is championing reusable cloth nappies

conscious bits

Cloth nappies.

What kind of images do they evoke?

Toddlers scrambling as they're accidentally stabbed with safety pins? Troublesome stains that never go away? Scrubbing faeces in the kitchen sink with your bare hands fully in the knowledge that you may never truly feel clean again?

The above could indeed by accurate enough if the year was 1937, but it's not, and thankfully for us and all of the young, Irish parents out there, reusable cloth nappies have come a very long way since the early days of baby hygiene.

A more sustainable way of living is on the rise, and with it comes the desire to be more eco-friendly in most aspects of our lives - in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the ways we rear our children.

Amy Orr first starting using cloth nappies after the birth of her first child.

The mother-of-two said that she started researching the environmental effects of the regular disposable nappy. The more she found out, the more she didn't want to start using them.


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"It can take up to 500 years for a disposable nappy to decompose," she says.

“The big concern a lot of people have with cloth nappies is the poo, but the reality is if you’re going to become a parent, you’re going to get poo on your hands - whether it’s from a disposable or a cloth nappy.

"If it’s a wrangling toddler, shit happens. I don’t think that should be a reason not to try them."

Amy began her cloth nappy journey about four years ago. Since then, she has bought secondhand nappies (also known as 'pre-loved' nappies) and sold on her old ones to parents interested in making the change.

Over the past few years, more and more online retailers have started selling their own versions of the nappies, but Amy prefers to use Facebook groups to source and sell her own.

According to her, there's "a huge turnover" because babies are constantly growing out of them.


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“More and more people seem to be getting curious as time goes on and pre-loved is great for them," she says.

"You can pay anywhere between €10 and €30 for a loan starter kit, or between €250 and €300 if you're buying new in bulk.

"It’s a huge chunk of money up front but it works for a lot of people. The loans are great because you get to see what suits your child and what doesn’t. Not every nappy is going to suit every baby.”

Clothnappylibrary.ie is an Irish website that offers nappy rentals for babies and toddlers of all ages.

They've got long-term nappy loans, nappies for newborns, kits for bedwetters, and pottytrainers too. Some of the kits are on loan for three weeks for €26 with other offered for up to nine months for just €30.

Amy says that she has noticed a substantial rise in interest in cloth nappies over the past few years. People aren't just more aware of their effects on their environment, but also the rising costs of bin charges the more disposable nappies they use.

"There’s such a demand for information," she says. "People are really starting to get into it."

“Cloth nappies aren’t like they used to be. You don’t soak or rinse them, you just put them in the washing machine.

"If you try it and it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. It’s not all or nothing. If someone uses cloth for a day, that’s still mass amounts you’re not sending to landfill."


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Amy's decision to be more environmentally conscious didn't just start with the birth of her first child.

When she discovered she was pregnant, she went through her wardrobe and removed anything that she knew wouldn't fit her in a few months time. This, she says, reduced the number of items she wouldn't be wearing as well as boosted her confidence.

Now she uses a 'capsule wardrobe' - keeping only significant and necessary pieces that are not going to go out of fashion. She's also a big supporter of Project 333, a minimalist fashion challenge that encourages people to dress using just 33 items in their wardrobes for three months.

Despite this, Amy doesn't believe that we should quell our buying habits entirely.

“Sustainability isn’t necessarily telling people not to buy stuff," she says.

"If you think there’s something missing from your wardrobe, do invest in it. We get three seasons out of clothes in Ireland, we’re lucky.

"It’s about buying what you need, not buying for the sake of buying stuff. By all means, go and buy something you’ll wear more than 30 times, it’s an investment piece."

Amy has since set up a minimal waste website, YouMe.ie, with her husband. They are hoping to launch their popup shop soon.

During May, Her will be doing some more #ConsciousBits.

Over the month, we'll be learning how to re-use more than we buy, examining the sheer amount of waste the planet produces, and considering the many, many benefits of sustainable fashion choices. 

We'll also be chatting to some people who have made sustainability a priority, while setting ourselves a few environmentally conscious challenges along the way. 

Change is daunting and we're not perfect, but we can always try to do our bit. Our conscious bit. 

You can follow the rest of the #ConsciousBits series here or follow our Instagram account for more related content. 

Want to get in touch? Email us at jade@her.ie.