My last post was about trash and why I pick it up. I didn’t include a story about one particular clean-up session, because it has become quite a long story in itself, the prompt for a charity project that I have started for the island. And when I say for the island, I mean literally for the physical island, for Mother Nature. But as a beautiful side effect families will benefit from it too, financially, and babies, physically! It will be a triple win! Before I go into all the details about the project (and you may be able to help as well!), I will tell you how it all started…..
On one of my trash-pick-up outings, I followed a little trail into the bush. I had never walked that little trail, because it doesn’t really go anywhere that I ever need to go. But I was curious…. (well, to be honest, I kind of knew what I was going to find there)….and guess what I found: a big pile of trash. Mostly diapers and plastic bottles. Those bottles made me mad, because they should be in the recycling bins. The diapers made me very sad, because I realised that diapers are the most complicated trash that we have here on the island. For multiple reasons:
- we have many babies, and many used diapers as a long-lasting by-product of their sweet presence
- the diapers are not organic, so they won’t decompose in nature
- they are soaking wet after use, so they cannot be burned
- they stink, so you cannot just let them sit in your backyard drying, besides, if you do that, dogs will come by and start eating them
- they cannot be recycled, but are full of plastics and other toxic compounds, so even burying is not really an option
What DO people do with those diapers?
- a few put them in a sack behind their house that they keep tied up, to prevent the dogs from getting in there and the stench to escape. By the time the baby is out of diapers, there will be quite a few sacks full of used diapers sitting in the backyard….then what?
- a few people will make the effort to bury them, so we are slowly converting our soil into a toxic diaper graveyard
- a lot of people throw them in the bush with their other trash, where animals of all sorts will have an unhealthy meal on them
- others throw them in the sea, where marine life will choke on them, or they just wash back up on our own beaches…not a nice sight at all.
So diapers are a problem. In my country of origin, diapers make up more than 50% of all trash…..imagine that for our little island…..it’s a nightmare.
But then there was Harriet. She arrived on Little Corn Island as a cute little 5 month-old with her parents, who had met on the island and conceived her here as well. Harriet became my hero (well, her mom did, because she is the one that brought the reusable, washable pocket diapers for Harriet.) But it was Harriet that would be toddling around the island showing everybody her funky diaper bunky, introducing local mothers to these environmentally more sustainable diapers! Everybody loved little Harriet, and everybody watched her going around in her diapers (because they are colourful, with all sorts of happy prints and patterns on them, she hardly ever wore any other clothes over them. They serve as diaper and shorts in one). Harriet became my diaper muse, once I had found that big pile of used diapers in the bush. She has been the inspiration for my project, which I have called Little Corn Beach Bums!
When her little family left the island, I asked if they could leave some of those diapers behind….. to kickstart my plan to bring these reusable diapers to the island on a bigger scale.
These diapers are not available in Nicaragua, at least not of a decent quality. They have to come from abroad, so I needed the help of others, to carry them down in small batches to start with, as donations. Little Corn Island has a lot of faithful fans that return each year. After 11 years of living here I got to know quite a few of them, and I wrote them all with the request to bring some of those diapers. And many of them did! So far I have received about 60 reusable diapers (and more coming), which makes a great start to introduce a few mothers to them. These donated diapers will be sold for a reduced price (they are not cheap to buy, but once you have them you save a lot of money not spent on disposables for the rest of the baby’s diaper-years). I do not believe in giving them away, even though they have been donated, because it has been proven that people value things more if they have paid for them with their own money. Also, by having to buy them, the mothers demonstrate a true wish to use them, which is essential. In the future faithful users may be rewarded with free diapers, if we get an overwhelming amount of donations, or we may do a diaper lottery. But to start we do not wish for these expensive diapers to end up in the bush right next to their disposable cousins because they have been given away as freebies to people who are not motivated to make the best possible use of them…
Once there are several mothers using these diapers, realising the advantages (mostly economical, since disposables are ridiculously expensive, but also the lack of trash that they have to deal with), I hope that the interest for them will spread. Then the money earned with the sales of the donated diapers will be put towards a bulk order to bring in a ton of reusables, slowly eliminating the use of disposable diapers on the island. We may have to organise a fundraiser to pay for import taxes, and to be able to donate diapers to the poorest mothers if they show a serious interest. I trust that the more colourful nappies will be toddling around the island or hanging clean on the laundry lines, the more women will get interested.
When the Beach Bum project is taking off, families will be saving money on their diaper expenses, babies will be more comfortable and extremely cute in their funky cloth diapers, and the environment will breathe a sigh of relief for the absence of diaper trash that she has to deal with. Win-win-win. Oh, and I will have a grateful smile on my face all the time.
If you have any plans to come to Little Corn Island and you feel that you want to contribute something to the community other than your tourist dollars, you could bring some of these diapers. You can either buy them online here, here, here or here or you can find them second hand (make sure you buy reusable, washable one-size-fits-all POCKET-diapers, with preferably 2 inserts per diaper. If you have any questions please write them in the comments below or send a message here.
Please help us make Little Corn Island even more beautiful!
If you happen to be or know someone who is a great lobbyist you are more than welcome to convince on behalf of our island one of the diaper companies to become the sponsor of “Little Corn Island, the first community in the world to go completely diaper-trash-free!”