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Funded PhD Opportunity

Considering cloth: analysing the motivations for cloth nappy use amongst parents in the UK and Ireland

Subject: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology


Summary

Following the success of the BBC’s Blue Planet II in 2017, and the ongoing recent global climate strikes, people are becoming increasingly aware of the scourge of single use plastics in our day-to-day lives. Perhaps unsurprisingly cloth nappies are, therefore, enjoying something of a renaissance and becoming increasingly mainstream. Yet, an analysis of the motivations for choosing cloth nappies over the convenience of disposables remains absent. This is despite a flourishing literature on green and circular economies (c.f. Affolderbach and Kreuger 2017), and likewise on alternative lifestyles and living (Howell 2015), as well as some literatures on the environmental impact of disposable nappies and other single-use hygiene products (Willskytt and Tillman 2019; Mendoza et al 2019; Arena et al 2016; Cordella et al 2015).

Furthermore, whilst a calculation of the carbon footprint and Life Cycle Assessment of cloth vs. disposable nappies has been attempted before (EPA, 2008) it had limited information about the parents’ actual practices for disposing and laundering of nappies. At its heart, this project advocates for an interdisciplinary approach, bringing together environmental perspectives on reusable nappies with the social and cultural implications (and lived experiences) of their use.

It aims to:

1.identify the extent of cloth nappy use amongst parents in the UK and Ireland in comparison to alternatives (disposable nappies or ecological disposables);

2.compare the carbon footprint of cloth nappies to alternatives based on more recent data on waste management, energy production and consumption, manufacturing, materials, and consumers’ practices;

3.analyse the barriers to, and motivations for, cloth nappy use amongst parents;

4.investigate the financial benefits of cloth nappies over alternatives, both for consumers, but also for local and regional economies when considering the reduction in the costs of waste disposal.

This project would lend itself to a mixed methods approach given its interdisciplinary nature and the successful PhD researcher would have considerable control over the methods they chose. However, potential options would include social media analysis, interviews, focus groups, diaries, participant observation and surveys from a social science perspective and innovation in this area would be welcomed. From an environmental science perspective, this PhD project could use the new data on consumer practices collected as part of the project and up-to-date information on the carbon footprint of energy and material production and consumption, and waste management to re-assess the carbon footprint and life cycle inventories of both types of nappies.

Furthermore, the assessment could incorporate additional stressors on resources, such as water and energy, environmental quality (landfill vs. burning vs. sewage management) and estimates of population growth to project the environmental impact assessment into the future. This project is very much at the vanguard of work on sustainable parenting and so offers considerable scope for impact within the academy given the absence of current literature in the area. Taking on this project would represent an exciting opportunity for the postgraduate researcher to drive important agendas in this field, and to take an interdisciplinary approach which spans human geography and environmental sciences.

However, it also has considerable scope for wider impact. By building an understanding of uptake and associated costs it will be at the frontline of driving policy with the local and regional councils, or even involvement in wider governmental initiatives on the environment and sustainable living. The candidate would benefit from a range of experiences and expertise brought by the supervisory team which would make them ideally placed to offer key research contributions across a range of geographical and allied research areas, as well as policy debates.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A demonstrable interest in or experience of using open science methods

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Profile picture of Carin Cornwall

I would highly recommend Ulster University as you get so much support.  Coleraine is a beautiful town and the people are so friendly. It was a really positive experience.

Carin Cornwall - PhD Environmental Sciences

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Dr Suzanne Beech


Other supervisors

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