Changing the minds of Londoners, one nappy at a time

This week, LCRN sits to have a chat with Hilary Vick, founder of Nappy Ever After and green entrepreneur selected as one of the ten London Leaders for the 2015 Programme. We talk about her upcoming projects, the personal reasons that drove her to her quest to bring real nappies closer to the families in London, her views on what the future holds for the environmentally conscious… Enjoy the read!


Hilary2cropped“So passionate, aren’t I?”. Hilary Vick’s sudden outburst of clear, musical laughter cuts through the silence of the deserted meeting room where we both sit. Outside, London remains its usual frantic self, with city dwellers striding by in a businesslike manner under a dull, overcast sky. Inside, however, Vick’s presence radiates serenity. Today, her enthusiasm is catching as she tells us of her latest achievement: her success in becoming one of the ten individuals featured on the London Leaders Programme for 2015.

Organised on a yearly basis by the London Sustainable Development Commission since 2008, this initiative seeks to single out leading figures from the London community and provide them with training and master classes so that sustainability is promoted across the city. In her particular case, the key to her victory is the one-and-only Nappy Ever After, the non-profit social enterprise that she founded back in 2003. Her work there focuses on selling real nappies to parents and offering them much-needed advice as well as Camden-based (now relocated to Hackney) nappy laundry services; an invaluable first aid kit for those Londoners whose families have just been enlarged with the arrival of a new baby.

However, idealists are hardly ever content with only past achievements; there is always room for more. For Vick, the time came to think big and take her waste-free nappy scheme to the next level: facilitate London’s first maternity unit and birthing centres to start using real nappies with the hope of expanding across the city. These locations are the very settings where the miracle of new life being brought into the world takes place; a new life that will be nurtured in closeness with the waste-conscious ideals from the get-go. That is the project she ran with when she applied for the London Leaders Programme and that is the project she will be carrying out with the support and training provided at the scheme. Networking will also play a huge role in the learning process. “It’s going to be a team so I think I will be learning as much from talking to other London Leaders as from the experts. One of the things they tell us is that once a London Leader, always a London Leader”, Vick comments.

When asked about the latest developments on her project, she confides that a particular birthing centre in London is already showing a promising interest in becoming a part of the real nappies scheme. This is a fantastic step for real nappies. “It’s true that the NHS is going through big problems so it is going to be a tough ask to get this pushed through. Yet the door is not shut. The lead midwives are curious, they are quite supportive of the use of real nappies”. Again, confidence colours the Nappy Ever After Director’s words; confidence that although encumbered by the uncertainties that have become the rule in post-2008 Britain, renovation is well on its way, and there is no stopping it.

“There is a certain media blackout about washable nappies, with the big advertising budgets coming from supermarkets and the disposable nappies industry”

 They say that change begins with one’s very self and they say it for a reason. That Hilary Vick should devote her days to making real nappies a reality in London is best explained by her background; a life journey that saw her, 16 years ago, standing on the opposite side from today and getting to ask the questions as a freelance journalist. Becoming a mother led her to discovering a topic worth investigating that she had not expected. “I found out about washable nappies and I contacted a features editor to publish a story about it. Initially he was enthusiastic, but when I phoned back he said they’d had a meeting with the advertising department and decided they wouldn’t go ahead with the story”, she explains.

Taken aback by what she calls a “media blackout” on the issue made possible by the disposable nappies industry and the supermarkets’ huge advertising budgets, she mulled things over and decided she wasn’t so interested in getting out all those stories on washable nappies after all. “I remember thinking, ‘even if people in London do read about them, they can’t get hold of them”, she recalls. “I thought something had to be done so people could buy real nappies and I went to my local council, in Camden. Their response was the Camden residents couldn’t afford doing the washing by themselves. Before I knew it, I was running my own nappy laundry service in the area”.

“People often say, ‘oh, what you do is nappies’, and I don’t! What I do is talking to people when their life is about to change phenomenally and see all that change”

 Although a self-confessed optimist, Vick describes herself as a realist when interrogated about what the future holds for waste-conscious folks worldwide. “My view is that we’ve been on a really bad trajectory since the 1950s. There’s been a move towards more comfort, cleanliness and convenience that has been driven by the industry trying to make money out of our needs”. Fortunately, society is awaking to some degree, she claims, even if at a slower pace than she would like to see. “People are finally realizing that this level of convenience – driving around in cars, eating fast food, being wired to devices and not getting out into nature – is actually bad for our health, both physical and mental”.

Hilary3Change, she says, is contagious. “It’s so easy, isn’t it? People are just tuning into change, they’re all realizing that we’ve all been had”. She knows what she’s talking about; after all, ever since she got Nappies Ever After up and running, she has seen the impact the project has had on parents, herself included. “I was quite different before I started using washable nappies, it made me see things in a different light. It is the same for the parents I speak with: turning to washable nappies becomes the basis for questioning everything around them”.

So dear readers, it turns out that those of us who thought Nappy Ever After was about, well, nappies, are in for a bit of a surprise. “People often say, ‘oh, what you do is nappies’, and I don’t! What I do is talking to people when their life is about to change phenomenally, when they’re about to have a baby and start thinking about the future for their children and grandchildren. I talk to people and I see how their ideas and values change”, she insists, and her eyes never leave her interviewer’s as she does so.

Inspiring words from an individual that, judging from the above, deserves to stand among those will lead 21st century London. To find out more about Hilary’s promising project please see her profile on the London Leaders Website.

This is all for now in the LCRN blog, but there will soon be more, so stay tuned. Congratulations to Hilary, and happy rest of the week to you all!

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