Happy Nappy: Making cloth diapers a realistic alternative

Babies need a lot of stuff. Clothing. Bottles. Toys. Diapers. It’s expensive. It produces a lot of waste. As we all know, there is a macro-social trend of couples choosing more natural lifestyle alternatives, including childbirth and childrearing. More people are choosing midwives over doctors. More people are choosing breastfeeding over bottle-feeding. Are more people choosing cloth diapers over disposable diapers?

I can unequivocally and confidently state that dirty diapers are gross. I have nieces and nephew. I have a ton of cousins. I’m fully aware. I care about the environment; I know disposable diapers are bad for it. But still, the last thing I want to do is wash a dirty diaper – gross.

Enter Happy Nappy.

When the Happy Nappy team visited Dragons Den, they left empty handed: the dragons didn’t believe their services were needed. Operating with a product in an industry that will exist as long as babies are born, Happy Nappy has seen growing success. They meet parents’ demands for keeping babies dry and comfortable in an environmentally sustainable way – and the Happy Nappy team does all the work.

Happy Nappy manufactures cloth diapers, delivering a fresh batch to customers’ houses weekly and removing the previous week’s dirty diapers to be laundered at their warehouse. Aware of the concerns many have over chemicals in cleaning supplies, Happy Nappy’s laundering process is certified phosphate free, chlorine-less, and balances pH levels to match a baby’s skin pH level. They even go as far as to only use cold-water detergents, further minimizing their environmental impact. Their goal is to use a laundering process that is environmentally and – more importantly – baby friendly. Did I mention that overall, it’s also cheaper to use cloth diapers?

Happy Nappy isn’t available everywhere. In fact, there are only franchises servicing select parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. However, with a growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly alternatives, it is possible that there will be increased growth of Happy Nappy.

Some “fun facts” that may encourage parents to use services like Happy Nappy instead of disposable diapers: the average disposable diaper will stay in a landfill for approximately 500 years. Over 4 million diapers are disposed of per day in Canada. That is a whole lot of waste being added to the landfill. Cloth diapers are admittedly not the right choice for every parent, just as a midwife and breastfeeding aren’t the right choice for every person. It’s simply an alternative, one with considerable environmental benefits compared to the disposable alternative.

Recycling at UBC: Making it as easy as 1-2-3

I go to UBC, which is on its way to becoming one of the most sustainable universities in North America. UBC states: SUSTAINABILITY defines UBC as a university. Through our collective efforts in education, research, partnerships and operations, we advance sustainability on our campus and beyond.” With the UBC Sustainability Initiative leading the charge, UBC is committed to focusing on the campus as a living laboratory and the university as an agent of change. In fact, UBC is home to the greenest building in North America.

Opened in 2011, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is a “living laboratory” that is currently the most sustainable building in North America.

I am proud of what UBC has accomplished. I am proud of what UBC has committed to. I am proud of what UBC is working on. I am not proud of UBC’s current recycling practices, or the unsustainable recycling behaviour of UBC students. Some might argue that students have the tools to recycle. Our containers in the Student Union Building are biodegradable. We have recycling bins. We’re discussing a move to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. So why do I see photocopies and soda cans in the trash? Our student body is educated; we know better than to engage in this sloppy and lazy behaviour. So why don’t we?

We know that to influence behaviours, we must engage in (some of) the following activities:

  1. Remove barriers
  2. Provide incentives
  3. Impose penalties for alternate behaviours
  4. Give feedback
  5. Capitalize on commitment
  6. Use prompts
  7. Develop social norms
  8. Communicate congruently

With respect to norms, we are all socially aware of the injunctive norm that we need to recycle. However, all across campus we are surrounded by descriptive norms of those who throw everything in the trash rather than take the time to recycle. I have done some observation as well as questioned my peers, and I believe the main barriers to recycling on campus are:

  1. Poor recycling facilities / bins
  2. Unclear labeling of which items go in which bin
  3. Lack of prompts

In the Sauder School of Business’s home building, Henry Angus, we have minimal availability of recycling facilities / bins. I  believe that students want to recycle, we just aren’t given easy access to the necessary tools. Personally, despite my knowledge or recycling, I find it de-motivating that when I leave my classrooms, I have to first find a place to recycle. There are perhaps two disposal bins per floor for recycling, but garbage bins aplenty, and I have only ever found paper recycling bins – we do not have any recycling bins for cans or aluminum or organic waste that I am aware of (at least nearby classrooms). Furthermore, the bins we have are the massive bins that belong in the storage room. Well-organized bins, such as the ones below, would clearly illustrate where waste should be placed and would ultimately increase the frequency of recycling.

I propose we develop an organized waste management system that incorporates four to five clearly labelled bins, using visuals and colour to engage students and make the system simple. There should be a bin for (landfill) waste, food waste, paper products, organic products, and glass / aluminum products. Other schools have achieved great success with similar systems. They do not need to be large, and can actually be quite visually appealing. Placing these waste management systems in classrooms and hallways will inevitably increase the frequency of proper waste disposal by UBC students, furthering UBC’s commitment to a macro sustainable behaviour change.

Sample Organized Waste Management System

Additionally, I think UBC can do more to provide feedback to students. Our campus in well enroute to being sustainable; communicate this to students! Too many students are unaware of the initiatives, which I find sad because it is such a great source of pride for the UBC community. I mean, come one – which UBC student doesn’t want another bragging point when we illustrate our superiority over UVic?

Proactivity: The Key to Responsible Leadership

Corporate Social Responsibility. We hear about it every day, whether in school, in the media, in life, or some other outlet. I believe CSR is relevant to discuss in the context of sustainability because it guides a corporations entire approach to the triple bottom line: the society, the economy, and the environment. It is intended that a corporations actions are in-line with the CSR strategy. There is considerable debate regarding the motivations for different CSR strategies, arguing about whether they’re done as spinning, green harvesting, or green washing or something else altogether. And there is yet another argument surrounding whether or not the reason even matters so long as the actions are being taken. However, I would personally argue that regardless of the motivations, true CSR that demonstrates leadership and responsibility must be proactive.

The case of the BP oil spill presents an ideal platform upon which to build my argument that proactivity is fundamental to true responsible leadership.

In 2010, BP was responsible for one of the worst man-made environmental disasters of the century: an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. After the incident, internal documents revealed that BP was aware of serious safety issues on the Deepwater Horizon rig earlier in the year. Evidently, BP chose not to heed the warnings of their engineers and specialists, instead proceeding with operations. We are all aware of the severe resulting negative impacts on the environment, the economy, and the society.

BP’s crisis management of the event was undeniably problematic. Among these issues, BP’s CEO Tony Howard complained publicly that he “wanted his life back.” This was understandably poorly received by society, who was now dealing a negative externality that was arguably the result of negligence and greed.

If we instead compare this to Tylenol’s 1982 cyanide poisoning crisis, I am better able to illustrate the comparative value of proactivity. While many predicted Tylenol would never regain market share; through a crisis management approach involving proactivity, transparency, and communication – all things we learned in the simulation to be highly relevant in CSR – the brand did indeed regain market share. Tylenol immediately removed their product from shelves, accepting public responsibility for the tampering, and communicating with the public and press proactively.

Conversely, in the case of BP not only did they fail to truly accept responsibility – attempting to blame the workers, the engineers, and the equipment manufacturers – but they also neglected to proactively prevent the crisis in the first place. I would argue that even if BP had leveraged a similarly strong crisis management strategy, they still could not be classified as responsible leaders.

A true demonstration of BP as responsible leaders would have involved proactively halting function of the Deepwater Horizon rig until safety had been improved. What are you opinions of proactive responsible leadership? Is it enough to proactively respond to a crisis to be considered responsible leaders?