Recently I was discussing on the Huffington Post about how we have not bought toilet paper for one year. You may have seen it, it was talked about quite a lot. But why on earth did I make this lifestyle choice? It’s not really normal is it, it’s not like saying “hey, I’m going to be a vegan” or “That’s it, I’m never wearing a bra again!”.
In 2012 our first born daughter arrived. I knew we wanted to use cloth nappies, but I didn’t really have a clue about how to start. We purchased a really fab starter set of MotherCare nappies, that soon became my favourite item we had bought for the baby (and has since been used on our 2 other daughters and will never be thrown away because the set is still as good as new!). We didn’t use cloth nappies all the time, but I’d say about 80% of the time she was in a fluffy nappy. Once she was 6 months old and we were in full swing of this baby-caring malarkey we made the decision to switch to cloth baby wipes. A simple square flannel stored dry, and just wet when needed soon cut out the need to buy the nasty disposable version. I say ‘nasty’ because I am sure we have all heard stories of babies having allergic reactions to these wipes, they bock the toilets of dumb folk who have flushed them, you need to cut down trees and melt plastic to make them and they cost money. Money that I didn’t want to spent and then just throw away.
It was also when Willow was 6 months old I found myself pregnant again. I knew our second child was certainly going be put into cloth nappies, 100%. We couldn’t really afford otherwise. Having 2 babies in disposable nappies would certainly put a dent in our wallets. And then to add the price of baby wipes on top, was a scary thought. I started to make my own baby wipes from old bath towels to double the size of our cloth wipes stash, ready for our new arrival. The wipes were soon used to clean smelly bums and another pile for sticky hands and faces, spillages, and furniture surfaces. 4 years later, I am still using the same original wipes that I started with. I must have washed them 100’s of times, and they are still serving their purpose perfectly.
During my pregnancy with my second daughter I discovered the world of Cloth Sanitary Protection (CSP). Ditching the Tampax and Always which can be scratchy, uncomfortable and chemical ridden, as well as causing infections and even cuts to the inside of the vagina and swapping to cotton sanitary towels and the Mooncup- an internally worn item, that collects menstrual blood rather than absorbing it, rather than tampons which can dry out the inside of the vagina, causing irritations. One cup cost just under £20 and lasts 10 years, and you only need one cup for the whole of that time. A product that definitely pays for itself after just a few months, and saves you a heck of a lot of money over the years! Cloth pads look a lot like a disposable, but without a sticky back, you fasten them into your knickers with poppers on the wings. You don’t sweat behind them, because there is no plastic to make you sweaty. You won’t get irritations down below, because all that touches your skin is soft cotton, unlike the weird materials used to top disposable pad. They also don’t make that horrible scrunchy sound that announces to the whole public bathroom that you’re on your period!
They are washed in the machine just like your clothes and reused. The amount of toxins you expose your body to is drastically reduced and many ladies who previously reported heavy and painful periods have been relieved of their symptoms with lighter, less painful bleeds and even shorter bleed times. It really does make you wonder what these chemicals are doing to our bodies.
Your skin is the largest and thinnest organ of the human body. It soaks up all of the chemicals and toxins that it comes into contact with. These chemicals enter your bloodstream and can cause significant damage to your overall health. One of the reasons that I am trying to cut out many household chemical ridden cleaning products, as well as hygiene products. Worryingly, the companies that manufacture sanitary pads are not required to tell us what the ‘ingredients’ are that they use when manufacturing these pads. I recently made a video asking why we are also not informed about the ingredients of disposable nappies, something I still have not been given a definitive answer to, despite lots and lots of googling!
By the time I was pregnant with our third daughter, I was well and truly onto a hard core journey of frugality and saving money. We were spending around £12 a week on food for our family of 5, sometimes even less. hardly any of the food that we purchased was full price. We were buying loaves of 5p bread and packs of vegetables for 10p, all of which were thrown into our large chest freezer and used as and when we needed them. By refusing to buy disposable sanitary products my periods were costing me nothing ( a set of cloth pads can be purchased for very cheap, or made at home from cloth scraps on the sewing machine) as were my baby’s poops other than the price of running the washing machine- which I had also tweeked to working on an absolute minimum, but that still worked effectively. I was washing many items by hand, we had ditched the microwave and there was still a lot more I could be doing. I also discovered the Ecoegg, a new laundry detergent replacement that requires no liquid, powder of gel detergent in your washes. For £20 the Ecoegg lasts 720 washes… the average amount of washes a family uses in 3 years!! That’s another huge saving in our house.
What had to go next? What one thing was we buying regularly, and just throwing away? Kitchen roll? Na, we never bothered with that. It had to be the bog roll. Good quality, luxurious, double quilted, smells like roses and illustrated with bears loo roll. I was already using the cotton baby wipes and we hadn’t bought baby wipes in 4 years, so why should cotton wipes used as loo roll be any different? I started cutting up more old towels into squares, and they were stored in their own ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ boxes in the bathroom. Using them on the kids was easy, they took to it straight away, although I did have to fish a few wipes from the bottom of the toilet bowl a few times.
I am not writing this, urging you all to ditch the toilet roll, or even to bin your microwave but I would hope I have opened the eyes of you all to make a switch from one of your daily disposables to something a little more eco friendly. Baby steps can make a huge difference, not just to your bank balance, but to the environment and even what we bring our children up like. Our children should learn to cherish the planet we have been given so that we can all enjoy it that little bit more. I also firmly believe that if we can teach our children how to be more self sufficient, that should they find themselves with no money, or living in a world where Tampax isn’t on tap they would know how to get by, and still be happy. I know we shouldn’t have to live in a ‘Victorian’ manner, but the times have changed and while cloth may seem a basic and old fashioned all of the options I have covered above are now available to us with modern twists, are pretty and make us feel fantastic.