Is washing diapers becoming a trend?

New mums have celebrated the disposable diaper for decades, as it liberated them from the nightmare of having to wash poo-stained cloth ones. But nothing lasts forever. At the Hungarian Sustainability Summit, TETT Jövőnkért Association has won the Ozone Green award with its community building initiative that promotes cloth diapers, titled “Textilmami”. We asked Éva Janó, a staff member of the association about how 21st century mums can be convinced to start washing diapers again.

Powerful reasons why you should use textile diapers:

Do you think about your baby’s future? – If you do, just think about this: you may produce over a ton of waste throughout the average 2,5 years of the diapering period of your baby, which won’t biodegrade even by the time of your great grandchildren – it takes as long as 4-500 years. Disposable diapers contain numerous hazardous materials (plastic, PVC, faeces) as well.

Do you want to protect your baby’s skin? – Disposable diapers contain numerous chemicals – among others, chemicals that mask unpleasant odours, plus they are also highly absorbent. As a result, babies’ skin often gets too dry, and even allergic skin reactions may occur.

You don’t like wasting your money? – By using cloth diapers, you can reduce diaper costs to only 10-30% of that of disposable ones. Additionally, you don’t need to spend on baby bottom cream either, as it is usually only needed for skin dryness caused by disposable diapers.

You don’t like touching poo? – No need for this in the case of washable diapers, because there are – biodegradable – poo holders available that let you avoid most of the unwanted contact. There is no need for washing by hand or boiling either, as nearly all households today have an automated washing machine, possibly even with a drying programme. These make the use of cloth diapers even easier.

Would you like your child to become toilet-trained as soon as possible? – In cloth diapers, babies can feel wetness, and as a result, they start using the potty sooner than their peers wearing disposable diapers, who are only motivated by the demands of their parents in becoming toilet-trained.

The staff members of the Szeged-based TETT Jövőnkért Association are not trying to stuff the above mentioned and further arguments into the heads of mums in a demagogue way, through ideological battles. They are also aware of the fact that is widely known in the corporate world: it’s difficult to make a product popular in itself, without offering an attached lifestyle, community and many other, possibly attractive values. According to Éva Janó, everyone needs to be approached in a personal way, and so one-on-one conversations are often the most effective. Some people don’t like using cloth diapers because they look at it as something for the poor (while they can afford disposable ones), others because they haven’t had a chance to try them; and so on. In order for everyone interested to be able to try this alternative, they are running a cloth diaper rental service. And for those that don’t like commercial diapers, they hold workshops where they can sew their own unique, trendy ones, optionally even from recycled fabric.

Of course, meetings and workshops do not revolve around diapers only. The last time they made soap with the mums interested, at other times they discuss breastfeeding, babywearing and toilet training, or the emotional questions that many new mums are faced with. Some come across the initiative at these discussions, others at fairs. They don’t want to convince them no matter what, they just offer options, and strive to be there at as many places as possible, and cooperate with as many communities and organisations as possible. As a matter of fact, they applied as a candidate for the Ozone Green award mostly just to let the judging committee, the Climate Council and Ozone Network know about them. They never thought that they would win.

At the same time, the award is giving important feedback about their work. Just as when a mum that previously resisted the idea shows up at a family day, or when someone, after two weeks of renting diapers, decides to start using cloth diapers and to buy their own supply. In the future, based on the diapers, they are planning to work with cloth menstrual pads as well, and are working on establishing a nation-wide network.

TETT about the award:

This year’s Ozone Network Green award was given primarily to individuals, enterprises and NGO’s that approached an environmental issue with an innovative perspective, and that are working on solving novel kinds of problems. Another important factor was the width of the target audience that the organisations are able to reach with their programmes, and the effect had on them. They also took into account the fact that whoever wins the 1st prize will have the chance to appear in the media and thus have their work promoted to a wider audience.

We are very happy about the award because it acknowledges not only our work, but the work of the several thousands of mothers that are taking an active step for a more waste-free future, and it also encourages those that haven’t yet had the courage to try this to go for it because there is someone that helps them navigate in this topic. It also serves as recognition for those that have already taken up the task of helping others, and provided opportunities for discussions. 
It is a special honour that a jury with male members has recognised the significance of this issue, and they have emphasised that this is a good solution that prevents the generation of waste from disposable diapers.

All in all we believe that mums with babies and toddlers are a very important target group for developing environmental awareness, because people are willing to make a much bigger effort for the sake of their children. This way, showing them in a small community setting how they can make a more liveable environment for their children becomes a model that not only creates a basis for the future and health of the children, but also serves as an example for the children that sinks in deeply and becomes a principle in the future. – Andrea Samu, chairwoman.