In saying that though, there appears to be quite a bit of controversy, and strength of feeling, about whether disposable or cloth nappies are better for the environment. According to a 2008 report by the Environment Agency in the UK, disposables to result in less carbon emissions when compared to reusables washed in warm water and tumble dried. Where cloth wins is when washed in cold water and lined dried. Also if the same cloth nappies are used for a second or third child then they are miles ahead of disposables. Check out the whole report here.
Moltex eco friendly disposable nappies have been recommended to us as potentially a great alternative if cloth isn't your thing, or you're likely to be buying cloth nappies for just one child and washing them in warm or hot water. Apparently you can compost both the nappies and the packaging in a worm farm in a very short period of time and apparently a supposedly independant study found that the resulting compost was good and safe to use. They are made by a German company, however their website is available in English.
Alternatively, there is the 'Elimination Communication' technique which involves using no nappies at all! We lived in China for a year, and saw this in action a lot as nappies didn't seem to be widespread then - about 10 years ago. Generally, it was all good but there were a few obvious downsides!
Thanks go to Caroline, whose daughter has used the potty / toilet from birth, and who encouraged us to check out the no nappy / nappy free / part time nappy / elimination communication / natural infant hygiene movement. Apparently babies communicate their need to eliminate as clearly as they communicate their need to eat or sleep. By tuning into this communication parents or caregivers are able to avoid using nappies, concurently avoiding the whole debate as to the pros and cons of cloth nappes.
Caroline also makes the point that, "Going 'nappy free' to me was a way to teach our child from day one that her whole person is being listened to... that her whole life cycle is important... and that is at the core of sustainability I reckon! From the inside out... self respect and celebration. And it was loads of fun being on that journey of discovery as a new mum!!"
To find out more check out Anna Hughes blog on the subject.