If you think the news has been a bit mad so far in 2019, then take a moment to think about this. A food retailer launched a new product. The result? The implosion of the internet, where a video of a sausage roll has been viewed over 5 million times on Twitter; where hundreds of newspaper column inches have elicited thousands of online comments; and (vegan) sausage rolls have been auctioned on ebay. Oh, and a Brexit protest outside Greggs was mistaken for an anti-vegan rally.
The reason it all went a bit mad? Because the new product included the word 'vegan'. To be clear, Greggs haven't suddenly become exclusively plant-based - meat products are still available - and Greggs are not forcing anyone to eat their vegan sausage rolls. Yet this was, apparently, still a rather threatening development for some in the Twittersphere.
So what's that got to do with nappies?
After the Great Vegan Debate, an article appeared in which a psychologist explained why some people are so 'triggered' by a vegan sausage roll. And it rang a bell.
Last year, reusable nappies and single use wipes were in the news a lot. Every time an article was written about them, there was always a small but significant backlash that was angry, defensive, or downright offensive.
Here at Baba+Boo Towers, we're involved in discussions about nappies a lot - unsurprisingly - and whilst most of our discussions are civilised, positive and open, there are some that begin with a hostility that we have to work hard to break down.
Many parents can relate to that uncomfortable moment when another parent sees your reusables and starts a ‘discussion’ about the fact he/she is far too busy/ sensible/ hygenic to use them - and they’re not really that good for the environment anyway.
And yet all of these responses are perfectly understandable within the context of the sea-change that is happening.
There are lots of articles about reusables ‘versus’ disposables. It’s indicative of a ‘them and us’ mentality that separates two groups, the Reusable Parents and the Disposable Parents. Of course, many of us simply see ourselves as nappy parents; but our parenting choices frequently form part of our identity, be it bottle versus breast, gentle versus authoritative, or working versus stay at home.
There is still a perception that by using reusable nappies, you are doing something different than the cultural norm. And when you veer from a social norm - when you become a vegan, home school, or use reusables - your choice to be different can be viewed as you criticising those who act within the social norms.
So what should we do in the face of the trolls, cynics and the threatened?
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again - it’s all about making reusables the new normal. In the vegan article, behavioural scientist Dr Ben Voger describes a 'contact hypothesis' - the theory that social contact between different groups can help to reduce prejudice. Simply by using cloth nappies, you are normalising reusables - making them less different, less odd and therefore less threatening.
Of course we all need to be sure we’re not preachy or judgy - but what would happen if we also blur the lines between Reusable Parents and Disposable Parents? Perhaps the message that it’s not all or nothing; that it’s OK to use both, is a powerful one.
2018 was the year that the UK became aware of plastic pollution; and 2019 will be the year when that awareness translates into real change. (Mainstream food chains offering vegan alternatives is just the beginning.) It's clear that by the end of 2019 there will be increased environmental legislation, better waste management and fewer single use plastic products being bought - but as that change happens, there will be increased resistance to change.
Which means we should probably start planning our responses to Piers Morgan's tweets right about now.