14/08/2014 16:46 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Stop The Eco Guilt Trip. Convenience Beats Green For Now

Stop the eco guilt trip. Convenience beats green for now

In a distinctly hippyish cafe the other day, I was momentarily distracted by an alarming leaflet.

"STOP USING DISPOSABLE NAPPIES!", it ordered, lecturing how every year thousands of tonnes of nappy waste is needlessly dumped in landfills.

I forgot all about it, until I took my son to the changing facilities. But the sanitary bin was nowhere to be found, and I was greeted instead by the very same pamphlet.

Harassed, and with the stench of toddler poo oozing from my handbag, I settled the bill and rushed home.

It was classic 'eco guilt tripping' - urging us parents to hang our heads in shame if our already stressful lives don't live up to some worthy yet inconvenient ideology.

And it's everywhere you look. These days, you can scarcely browse a boutique or scan a supermarket shelf without being bombarded with boxes of ethically sourced porridge or a rail of smug, organic cotton babygros.

And heaven forbid, you dare to open a babyfood jar the contents of which haven't been milled organically by a responsible local farmer called Rufus. (I tried it once in a Cath Kidston-festooned church hall, to barely concealed sneers from other mums.)


According to the marketing, your baby 'deserves it'. But, hang on, doesn't your baby also deserve to be cared for by a mother whose nerves are not frayed, having just been guilt-tripped into spending the entire week's shopping budget on overpriced purees?


Take the nappy debate. To put it bluntly, wiping excrement off a second-hand cloth, flushing it down the toilet, and adding to my ever-increasing pile of laundry, isn't something I've ever felt the need to experience. It's just too messy (not to mention time-consuming).

And even the most forceful eco guilt-tripper could never persuade me to brave torrential rain and gale-force winds, when there's a warm, cosy car on the drive waiting to ferry my brood in peace.

You see, fewer carbon emissions are a good idea in theory, but when you factor in a couple of cold, irritable toddlers (not forgetting a cold, irritable mother), all good intentions go out of the rain-drenched window.

My friend Goldie is just as unequivocal. "I like the idea of saving energy and being eco-conscious, in theory," she said. "But when time's precious, your baby's playing up, and you're trying to stretch your finances, it's just not practical.

"I try my best not to feel guilty about it, even though I've noticed more and more that the media tries to make me feel that way."

If Goldie and I sound uncaring, let me assure you that couldn't be further from the truth. We may not win awards for our obsessive recycling or avoidance of pesticides in casseroles, but if ever there was an accolade for most patient swing-pusher or painstaking Play-Doh shaper, we'd both be firm contenders.

Other parents see it differently. Eco retreat manager Emma believes there should be even more messages in the media about the benefits of green parenting.

"There are misconceptions about cloth nappies, and the thought of disposable ones in landfills in horrifying," she said.

"I don't find cloth nappies inconvenient. I wash them every couple of days, and dry them on an airer overnight. I think of the health benefits too."

And mum Christine thinks that being eco-conscious is ultimately better for parents.

"Often 'green' is actually cheaper in the long run. I try to consume less overall and keep chemicals to a minimum.

"We're always told we need so much 'stuff', but my daughter's favourite toys are normal things like wooden spoons, and she mainly ignores plastic.

"She loves her sling, which means I get good exercise too. Plus, one extra machine wash every few days is no big deal."

Point taken, but try telling me that when I'm grappling with a pungent nappy, baby writhing in its contents, and elder child screaming for a snack. At times like these, only an own-brand baby wipe, trip to the bin, and packet of processed crisps will do.

I have to hand it to mums like Emma and Christine - their dedication to the eco cause deserves respect. But it's the far-fetched attempts to shame the rest of us that gets me.

Search the internet for 'eco parenting' and a website of the same name boldly states that its practices can not only save the environment, but 'curtail the current epidemic of lifestyle-related chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, ADHD, and asthma, while also ensuring that children and their parents live long, joyous and fulfilling lives'.

So let me get this right. By attempting to save valuable washing and drying time, make our family finances stretch that little bit further, and appease our tantruming toddlers, we're effectively dicing with our loved ones' lives?


Don't get me wrong. I don't plan to be an eco offender forever. The difficult parenting phase will pass, my children will grow up, and I'll be rewarded with the time, energy and spare cash to spend on greener pastimes. Maybe I'll even get an allotment.


But in the meantime, I refuse to submit to the eco angst, and will continue to bin nappies, increase my carbon footprint, and feed my children healthy yet convenient food for as long as it saves me from insanity. All I ask is not to be guilt tripped for it.

What do you think?
Is it just selfish laziness that stops us being more eco-principled, or is it just a big fat, unnecessary guilt trip?

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