Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Kids: Ethical Parenting

Another one of my biggest bug bears is on ethical living - what does it mean? This one is an article taken from the Guardian (try link in the title). But in case you can't reach it, I have edited it for your reading pleasure here in this blog post.

To put it in context - the writer, Leo Hickman and his partner Jane just had a baby girl - Esme, and have subjected themselves to an ethics audit by the following people: Hannah Berry, writer and researcher at Ethical Consumer magazine; Mike Childs, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth; Renee Elliott, council member of the Soil Association and founder of Planet Organic shops.

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Jane and I know we are going to receive a mauling for using disposable nappies. So Jane holds up one of Esme's Pampers and invites the castigation to begin.

"The nappy question poses many ethical dilemmas for the modern parent," says Mike. "You have opted for convenience at the expense of the environment. Disposable nappies are a major waste problem, with eight million nappies thrown away every day in the UK. Ninety per cent of these end up in landfill. Disposable nappies can even make up half the contents of a family's bin. You should try using reusable terry nappies instead. You may find this is not practical all the time, but you will save money. The Women's Environmental Network estimates that using terry nappies instead of disposables can save £500 over the nappy-wearing lifetime of a child."

Like all parents, we thought we had done everything we possibly could - bought everything our baby requires, attended antenatal classes, created a cosy nursery, exclusively breastfed her, read all the books. So when we hear that the manner in which we are raising her is bad for the environment, we are left reeling and somewhat dejected.

About a week later, we settle on nappies made by Mother-Ease, as the poppers are the easiest to use and the nappies fit snugly. So we go ahead and order 20 more at a cost of about £200. Considering that disposable nappies can cost upwards of £1,000 in a baby's first year, we justify this as a long-term investment. We are comforted further when we ask the nappy lady how long they can be expected to last and she says each will take at least two children through to potty training.

An area we have less success with is plastic toys. We can stop buying them, but it is hard to expect friends and family to adhere to the principles of our ethical experiment. It raises a much bigger question, too, about where you draw the line.

Should you impose your views on others, even if you feel passionate about them, or should you only ever try to live the best way you can and not preach to others?
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The answer is I don't know. I guess if you and your family have a certain view about say, plastic toys, you should inform the people early on that you think that they are bad, so that nobody will be caught out buying inappropriate gifts?

On that note -- Please do not give plastic (including plush) toys to our kid!! There are sites with alternatives like wholistic planet where you can get other toys..

1 comment:

clara said...

Well... I don't necessarily agree. Plastics I can get, but what's wrong with plush toys?

In any case, I'm sure the toys will last awhile. PLUS I'll bet you'll be thankful for the toys to distract your kid's attention. What are you going to do when your baby grows up and demands the latest Mattel / Hasbro plastic toys?

BUT just to respect your wishes (and not waste my money in case you throw it all away), I'll stick to clothing your baby. Unless you have ethics about that too. :P