From the street Pip Collard’s Adelaide home may look like any other suburban residence. However, if you step inside, and out into the backyard, it’s clear she and her husband Joel have a great story to tell about how they strive to live more sustainably with their young daughter, Frankie. Thank you Pip for chatting to us and being profiled for our very first Ecoceptional Mum in Focus!

Tell us a little about yourself, Pip: what’s your background and what was your life like before children? 
Joel and I (both metallurgists) work in the mining industry and met at Kalgoorlie at the WA School of Mines). From WA we moved to Roxby Downs in South Australia, where we lived for four years, and from there we moved to Adelaide.

Our daughter Frankie was born in June last year.

In some ways things have changed since having Frankie; (beforehand) we did spend a lot of time at work doing pretty reasonable hours including travelling between Adelaide (where we lived) and site (Olympic Dam, where our work often took us). We also love our food and used to go out a lot for dinner, but that’s not so easy to do now we have a baby. I guess we have both always been fairly ‘domesticated’ in that we’ve never minded pottering around at home, so that hasn’t really changed – we do spend a lot of time here at home and in the garden.

So Frankie is eight months old now, how have you found the transition to motherhood? Is it what you expected?

Before Frankie was born I was quite apprehensive about the transition to motherhood as I did not have “rose-tinted” glasses about what it might be like to raise a baby and I found it difficult to picture; however, I found (with great relief) that I am relishing being a mum! We are coping pretty well without having any family for support, although I have had days when I could really have done with having my own mum nearby! Fortunately my husband is very hands on and when we hit rough patches we work it through together. We love the new dimension that Frankie has brought to our lives and I regularly count myself lucky for having such a precious little human to call my own!

Has eco living always been important to you?

No, I wouldn’t say so; rather it’s something that has just kind of happened. It’s a different story with Joel though, he grew up on a farm so that’s been a bit of a foundation for our lifestyle – I guess you could say the farm wasn’t super ‘cashed up’ so he was taught to make the best of what you’ve got. They also had chooks and grew fruit and vegies, and that’s one thing that really took off for us once we moved to Adelaide. We have a large backyard with two chooks and a big vegie garden – Joel plumbed the laundry and the back gutters so that all the water goes to the garden.

What about inside your home, what are you doing there? 
We got a power meter through our power provider so we can monitor consumption day-to-day. We also do a fair bit of recycling, our council (Prospect) is very forward thinking.

When we first had Frankie, we’d always intended to use cloth nappies but for the start used disposables and our bin was half full of nappies every week. The environmental impact of all of those nappies sitting in landfill really grossed us out.

How did you get started with cloth nappies? And how are they working out for you? 
Well it was Laura  who inspired me at the start – she was the only person I knew at the time who was using cloth. Then before Frankie was born another friend, Belinda messaged me to ask if we’d like her nappies as she was finished having babies. We have been very lucky, those nappies have kept us going and it’s only recently that we’ve had to buy some new ones. I guess we’d have 15-20 in our stash altogether.

Up until now we’ve been using disposables at night as I thought they were better at drawing moisture away from baby’s skin. However, we’re currently trying cloth for overnight as well and we’d like to use them fulltime if they work OK with Frankie’s skin.

As eco parents, what else are you doing? 
We don’t use conventional disposable wipes with Frankie. A midwife recommended we just use tissues and sorbelene and that’s worked really well, she’s never had bad nappy rash and we just flush the tissues down the toilet.

Food is another area. We don’t use a lot of packaged foods, we use what’s in the garden and we cook from scratch. A farmers’ market has opened up in Prospect on Thursday nights so we shop there and also support our local greengrocer and Foodland rather than shopping at the major supermarkets.

What do your family and friends think of your lifestyle? 
I think Joel’s family just takes it in their stride because of their farming background, but generally people do think it’s pretty cool (especially the chooks).

I haven’t come across many other mothers in Adelaide who use cloth nappies. A friend from New Zealand thinks it is much more common there.

Have you had any eco challenges or flops along the way? 
Because the cloth nappies we started with were a bit older, we had some challenges with breastmilk poo explosions at the start! But it was great to have a range of styles and brands to try out. A friend gave us a Close Pop-In nappy as a present and they are as good as a disposable and our preferred nappy now.

Have you ever suffered from eco mother guilt? How have you overcome this? 
Yes a little, we do use disposable nappies when travelling (we often go back to WA to visit family) and while I know the best wipes option would be to make my own cloth ones, using tissues is a happy medium for us. I think you have to just do what you can.

What are your plans for the future, any eco projects coming up? 
From an eco-home perspective, we still haven’t looked at our cleaning products. We got a cleaner when I started my MBA a few years ago – she’s a lifesaver but brings her own products into our home, so eventually we may look at that.

What’s your advice to someone keen on being an Ecoceptional Mum but not sure where to start – what are your top things you would tell them/recommend they do? 
Definitely cloth nappies, there are a lot of things about them that we find easier than disposables – you just flush what’s inside them rather than having to bag them up and take them out of the house. You just get into a routine of washing them and it’s not that hard at all.

Also recycling, I think generally people are pretty good, but it’s also about finding out what your council offers. Ours even offers provides a special compostable bag and a ventilated kitchen bin that goes on our bench (and into the green bin) for any scraps that don’t go to the chooks. They even provide tours of our local recycling facilities!

We’ve loved having Pip on the blog this month and will come back and talk to her again soon – there is so much more to learn about their amazing garden, recycling and eco lifestyle. In the meantime, let us know if you or someone you know would make a great Ecoceptional Mum profile – we’d love to hear from you!