We were thrilled to invited Lucy Kebbell, Founder of The Vendeur to takeover our Instagram talking all things sustainable parenthood, with conscious conversations with SLA Founder Rachel and Tabitha Eve. To accompany this, Lucy kindly wrote a piece for the Sustainable Lifestyle Awards Journal, with her recommendations for conscious Mums. From resusable nappies, to rented baby clothes, read on to discover her top tips for navigating sustainable motherhood.
Having children is an overwhelming experience. But all the stuff they come with is enough to fill a skip several times over. As someone who seeks to be mindful of what I buy and how I use things, I was determined to be as conscious in this area too. My friends know me as a reusable nappy evangelist. I literally won’t stop banging on about them but as my little one has grown I have learnt of a lot of different ways to avoid disposing of too much waste. Whilst some of these suggestions may seem a little daunting and time consuming (and sometimes the upfront costs are a little scary) please trust me when I say that in the long run they save you money and anxiety. Every mindful decision you make, however small is helping to reduce plastic, carbon and waste. So you’re already a Super Mum!
One aspect of parenting I was determined to face head on was the issue of baby wipes. Wet wipes have become notorious in recent years for being problematic for the environment. They contribute to fatbergs which block our sewers and they break down into micro plastics which are ingested by sea life. However, these handy little wipes are a relatively new product and before wet wipes, our grandparents simply used the slower alternative. In my Mum kit I have a few different types of cotton clothes, some for bums and some for face and hands. Whether damped with good old fashioned water, or stored in my clever Cheeky Wipes container soaking in a natural baby wipes solution, they do the job well. When out and about, simply add a few pre soaked clothes to a wet bag, like this cute printed one from Alva. Used wipes are simply popped in the next load of washing to be done. Not only do I know what is touching my babies skin (cotton and some essential oils), I am also saving plastic packaging from heading to landfill too. You can find other great cloth wipe options via The Nappy Lady. (More on her later.)
I’ve deliberately placed reusable wipes above reusable nappies because the nappies can be a little daunting. Taking the plunge with reusable wipes is the cheaper and user friendly gateway to eventually loving cloth nappies. Whilst cloth nappy systems can be a little daunting, The Nappy Lady (I don’t know who she is or even if she’s a real person but I feel like she deserves an OBE or something,) is here to help. Not only does the website stock everything you need, their handy quiz helps you choose the right nappy brand and system for you. So what is a nappy system? It’s essentially your chosen cloth nappy, be it all in one, all in two, pocket, fitted or folded. If you're afraid to take the plunge, because lets face it the initial outlay isn’t cheap, you can always rent (although check your local area re COVID regulations) or purchase second hand through the amazing cloth nappy community. I used The Nappy Lady’s Facebook group.
Once you have settled on the nappy system (or systems - we use one for day and another for night) you’ll need a pale or bucket (or large wet bag), boosters and liners (for whipping away poos - trust me you don’t want these in your washing machine!) I have enough for two days, so that when one days worth is washing/drying, I have another stash to see me through. However you proceed is completely up to you and The Nappy Lady has tonnes of helpful videos including washing tips to help you. It’s also worth looking into Council vouchers. Some London Boroughs issue bursaries to encourage reusable nappies so check whether you are eligible. Fill Your Pants have a helpful guide here.
When I was pregnant I discovered Bundlee and it changed my life. Baby clothing is hugely wasteful for two reasons; they grow like weeds, especially in the first 12 months, and the generosity of family and friends. I wasn’t alone in being overwhelmed with gifts of baby clothes when my newborn arrived. I would estimate that maybe 60% were worn. The rest I sold or donated to friends and charity shops. However in 2018, Hubbub reported that ⅓ of parents admitted to throwing baby clothes in the bin because they had no idea what to do with them. As a busy Mum I expended a lot of time and money buying new clothes and disposing of outgrown (or never worn) pieces so renting made a lot of sense. In the last few years a variety of companies have cropped up, all offering amazing services. ( You can find a few other them that I reviewed for The Vendeur.) I especially recommend joining a subscription service so that when your little one outgrows their clothes, you simply send them back to receive the next size up. Hey presto your babies wardrobe is sorted in no time, and you’ve also made a huge saving. Plus, stains aren’t an issue with many services so you can let your baby go wild. We haven’t even mentioned the positive impact that renting has on the environment. According to The Little Loop, renting has the potential to increase the lifecycle of a garment by 9-12 months, meaning a 75% reduction in it’s carbon footprint.
Having been rooting around at carboot sales and in charity shops for years, this was a no brainer for me. Although I appreciate that you need to put in a bit of time to find what you need, (something I had in abundance as a freelance pregnant person), purchasing second hand is cheaper and lengthens the lifecycle of products. As well as unwanted gifts, parents also have an abundance of products, toys, books and clothes that they buy that simply don’t work for them. So the likelihood of you coming across brand new or nearly new items is huge. Top tip, scout out your local charity shops to see how big their baby sections are as some are better than others. Next tip; make friends with the staff! They may be inclined to leave things aside for you that get donated. I also regularly check Facebook marketplace, Depop, Market of Mums and (pre lockdown) Mum2Mum Market.
Lucy Kebbell is the Founder of The Vendeur, a sustainable style platform. She is also a fashion writer and stylist, living with her partner, toddler and two cats in SE London.