Hello super-parent. You're in the ten percent - the ten percent of parents who have questioned the accepted norm, who do things differently.
You’ve probably never thought about what that means - but it means a lot. It makes you an influencer, a change maker, an early adopter of modern cloth nappies. As we aim to get 60% of babies wearing cloth nappies by 2020, you’re leading the way - it’s you who can make it happen.
We’re not asking you to hang your Superkids print from the roof with a banner shouting “I USE REUSABLE NAPPIES!” We’re not suggesting you start a local campaign group. We’re not even suggesting you start telling your friends that single-use plastic is evil, every chance you get.
It’s all in the mind
Human psychology is a funny thing. If we have five little jobs to do we get on with them. If we have one big job, we have a cuppa and put it off. Why? Because it’s so big that it’s overwhelming. And that’s what happens with climate change. It’s so big that people simply don’t want to think about it. So they put their head in the sand.
Here’s another bit of human psychology. We don’t like to be told that we’re wrong, it puts our backs up. Tell your toddler off ten times for not cleaning her teeth, and you’ll get ten times as many tantrums. Praise her for cleaning her teeth so beautifully? Problem halved. Adults are just the same. Tell a parent that she’s doing something bad by using single-use nappies and you’ll put her back up. Tell a parent that you don’t get up-the-back poos and she’s interested.
And a final bit of weird human behaviour. We like things the way they are, even if we know there’s a better option. There’s a whole section of academic research on ‘status quo bias’; even if something is uncomfortable or doing us damage, we keep doing it the same way. We are scared - often irrationally - of change. We really are creatures of habit.
So what does that mean?
If you want someone to change, then don’t tell them that what they are doing is wrong and they need to change. We like to make our own choices, not feel like we’re being forced, or pressurised, or judged. Tell people to use reusable bags - you’ll hear a hundred reasons why people won’t do it and see very little change in behaviour. Introduce a 5p charge and now people have a different choice to make - 5p or a reusable bag. The result? Single-use plastic bag use drops by more than 80%.
Tell people that they’re responsible for creating a landfill problem, and you’ll put their backs up. Mention that up-the-back poos aren’t inevitable? You’re a problem solver.
Someone with his head in the sand about the environment isn’t going to change his mind because we tell him again and again that single-use nappies are bad. He will find reasons not to listen. “Well, never mind about the landfill, my waste gets incinerated!” or “Well, that’s fine for her, but I’m not an earth mother like her - she’s not like me and doesn’t get my lifestyle so her choices aren’t relevant to my lifestyle.”
Exposing people to the other option lets them discover its benefits. It makes the other option seem normal and familiar - no big changes, no unexpected surprises. It makes the other option attractive. It’s far more effective to present reusables in a positive light than it is to say that single-use nappies are bad.
We’re not saying that we shouldn’t be talking about the environmental impact of single-use nappies. At Baba+Boo, we have taken the lead on moving the environmental argument away from landfill and towards the much broader issues of manufacturing processes, water and energy consumption, and plastic pollution - and we’re delighted that other retailers have started to do the same.
It is really important that the environmental facts are out there. It is really important that people don’t justify using single-use nappies because their waste goes to an incinerator instead of landfill - we need to challenge the assumption. But we need to think about the best way of doing that.
As change-makers, influencers and early adopters, we need to know that we will have a greater influence if we are positive about reusables - not negative about single-use.
We need to make sure we don’t frame it as an environmental thing - which can be alienating - but make reusables a parenting thing. Looking for a solution to nappy rash? Try reusables. Reusables are better for the environment - but they also look as good as any t-shirt or dress, they’re cheap, easy to use, and better at containing up-the-back poos.
We need to show off our cloth bums - because that stops them being different, and makes them part of the status quo. And that makes reusables the new normal.