Diapers present a messy dilemma for eco-conscious travelling families

Reusable nappies for babies are good for the environment but tough on parents on a holiday.

Surely, few things on this planet have a heavier carbon footprint than a baby? Their arrival brings a host of purchases, large and small but mainly plastic, and that's before you start buying handy-sized travel versions of everything to make life away from home slightly less fraught.

When I was about eight months pregnant, my husband and I began exhaustive research into non-disposable nappies. Spurred on by the thought of saving money and sparing landfill sites from sacks of stinking Pampers, we spent hours watching the Nappy Lady on YouTube demystifying the bat fold, before spending a small fortune on a cloth nappy starter pack complete with bucket, mesh bags, liners, Nappy Nippas, organic tea tree oil, organic nappies and wraps. After all that research, the UK-based website failed to deliver the bulky parcel in time for my mother to pack the contents into her suitcase for a trip to the UAE to meet her first granddaughter. In the weeks of turmoil and sleepless nights that followed the birth, using disposables became the least of our worries.

Even if I were now faithfully using cloth nappies, I'm not sure whether I would take them on holiday. Non-disposables are bulky to pack and then there is the small matter of storing dirties, washing and drying them while you are away. A trawl of the internet soon proved that I am not alone in having doubts about whether cloth nappies are compatible with travel. As one Mum writes on Mumsnet: "Do you seriously want to spend your holiday handwashing re-usables ... life is too short!" Another writes, "I have done this. In a static caravan ... in the rain, terry squares all the way, handwashed in the shower. At the time I was so proud of myself but now I look back and think, 'God, what were you thinking?'"

Many parents would agree but other users on the same forum are much more sanguine about the prospect, causing me to rethink. All you need is a decent sturdy wet bag to store used nappies, a plethora of inserts and flushable liners to make washing less frequent, a handwash product that allows for an antebacterial wash at low temperatures, a three-day supply of nappies and the willpower that I've already shown I lack. If you are self-catering and have a washing machine to hand, rather than having to track down a local launderette, the sentiment is even stronger among die-hards: why would you do anything else?

My other travel staple is a packet of wet wipes and in this, too, I am falling short on my parenting-for-the-future responsibilities: one mommy blogger takes soft flannelette cloths and a bottle of water to wet them. Oh dear. All of this effort and good work on the part of others is causing me to rebrand my own "choices" as sheer laziness. If other mums can do it, why can't I?


To mark Earth Week, The National directs its focus on the environment with Green Issues, highlighting the need for education and attention to the needs of our planet.

Published: April 15, 2011 04:00 AM


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