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Environmentally friendly parenting: are cloth nappies a step too far?

Louise F. Pendry (Senior Lecturer, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK)
Avril J. Mewse (Based at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK)
Carole B. Burgoyne (Based at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 9 March 2012

Abstract

Purpose

The present research aims to investigate parental attitudes towards using either cloth or disposable nappies, to better understand whether and how pro‐cloth initiatives might impact parental decisions.

Design/methodology/approach

Focus groups were conducted with both cloth and disposable nappy users to gain a better understanding of the factors that underlie their choice. Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Findings

The paper finds that parents using disposable nappies believed they were marketed as offering a popular, efficient, healthy, good value system. They acknowledged the environmental impact but rationalised this by referring to the equivocal nature of these consequences, and the ability to off‐set this by engaging in other pro‐environment behaviours. Parents choosing cloth nappies did so initially because they were more environment‐friendly and cost‐effective and disposables were disliked. Once using cloth, parents noted additional benefits: performance, fashion, formation of bonds with other users, and getting a buzz out of using them. This reinforced their reasons for continued use.

Practical implications

Cloth nappies are unlikely to gain mass appeal, but findings suggest a bigger take up if parents are better informed, and subsidies are provided to reduce set‐up and laundering costs to tackle the “ease of use” barrier. The positive aspects of cloth nappies should be better promoted.

Social implications

Marketing initiatives need to buy into the current “designer parents” trend and play to the aspirational, fashionable aspects of cloth nappies.

Originality/value

This paper, the first to report on parental attitudes and decisions regarding both nappy types, could inform public policy and marketing decisions.

Keywords

Citation

Pendry, L.F., Mewse, A.J. and Burgoyne, C.B. (2012), "Environmentally friendly parenting: are cloth nappies a step too far?", Young Consumers, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 5-19. https://doi.org/10.1108/17473611211203902

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited