Get to know: The mom who created Charlie Banana

By Published On: December 14th, 2012

Charlie Banana is becoming a household name for cloth diapering […]

Charlie Banana is becoming a household name for cloth diapering parents all over the world. Gaëlle Wizenberg, founder of the company, has proven to the retail industry that cloth diapering should have a permanent place in their stores, holding the belief that cloth is trendy and one of the best baby items a parent can buy. As she says, “Cloth parents are witty, fun, caring and proud to cloth diaper their baby. They are a fine community of dreamers!” Gaëlle’s strong and unwavering belief in a world where every individual action counts is the motivation behind the brand—making small changes through family eco-decisions, will make a footprint on the world’s future. We asked her a few questions to find out more.

You’ve lived all over the world, from Paris to Canada to Hong Kong. How do you think the United States compares to other countries when it comes to cloth diapering? Where have you seen the greatest prevalence of cloth diapering?
Don’t forget the Caribbean! I am a real nomad. When it comes to cloth diapers, New Zealand strikes as being the “nappy land.” However, United State wins in terms of market shares and has the most enthusiastic cloth diaper community out there. Every day, we see the growth and strong demand from the United States. Cloth diapers are not taboo anymore now that they are available in Target! We are normal parents wanting the best for our babies. The demand is strong worldwide.
Do you think cloth diapering is on the rise in the U.S.? Why or why not?

Absolutely—considering more than half of our customers are from the USA, parents are continuing to turn to cloth diapering lifestyle. Most major retailers have a cloth diaper section and in fact, are making these diapers even more available to their customers in 2013. Parents are demanding them—they want diapering options.
Many parents are starting to see the advantages of the cloth experience. Cloth diapers have no chemicals that are found in disposable diapers and they have no landfill waste associated with the disposables. The savings are simply the cherry on top! In addition, innovation has made cloth diapers more hygienic than their predecessors, easy to use and maintain.
There are many blogs and reviews out there explaining how cool they are and trying to tell people “don’t be fooled by the cover, cloth diapers are amazing and easy!” Cloth diapering parents will tell you the honest truth— cloth diapering is easier than disposables.
Raising an eco-conscious family is important to you. How do you practice living intentionally toward this goal?
Living in Hong Kong makes you more aware of the pollution and the sustainability problems the world is facing. Luckily, I had a very “green and healthy” upbringing. Our family is very eco conscious—we try to teach our children to make better choices that reduce our carbon footprints. Individual efforts make a big difference. You will have the same great life and even a better one if you do!
We do things simply and it is fun; here are a few examples:

  • We buy movies and DVDs on iTunes – downloading is carbon free in such a big way.
  • We are registered at the municipal library, they usually have fantastic things happening for kids and it is free.
  • We download most books as well, although we are bookstores fanatics—they are great places to hang out with kids on a rainy day.
  • Consignment stores are a great way to buy and donate clothes for kids and adults. True treasure hunt every time and if you do not wear it—oh well. You can bring it back!
  • We buy vegetable produce locally.
  • We use cleaning products free of chemicals
  • We cloth diaper and use reusable swim diapers! Reusable wipes for everything—noses, makeup removal—organic cotton—they are the best!
  • We live close to our work, school and tennis court. I would rather have a smaller space to live in than spend my time in the car in traffic and it reduces my carbon emission. It is a choice—that hour in traffic for that extra 1000 square feet is an hour of tennis a day and a smaller heat/AC bill. In Hong Kong we do not spend a lot of time in the house—we are too active and out and about.
  • Our office has hand towels, real glass (no paper or plastic cups), eco paint, recycled paper, natural lighting etc …
  • For our 11th wedding anniversary, we planted 40 trees on our property. I thought that was pretty romantic. In 20 years those trees will be the memories of our family. [insert beaming smile].
  • We have teamed up with Climate Action and we bought carbon credits this year to offset our emissions of manufacturing and shipping. A small step but it is a start. We are planting trees in the areas that will otherwise dry out. Every company can do many things to offset their emissions. We also try to use and associate ourselves with companies that care the same way and make efforts to be more sustainable.

I strongly believe that direct action beats legislation. We have no choice but to take initiative, the future is in each other hands. We cannot wait for governments.
You simply cannot go back to knowingly poisoning your family. Being comfortable, being healthy, being green and being savvy, equals BEING GOOD. We have to feed our body and our mind only with the best. Charlie Banana is a lifestyle. “Giggles for Life.”
Where did the name Charlie Banana come from? Tell us a little about the logo design and how it represents the ideals you strive for.
Charlie is my daughter and when she was 3 months old we asked our son, Zachary who was 2.5 years old at the time what middle name we should give Charlie, and he giggled and said, “Banana.” Charlie Banana! We all laughed! Being from the toy industry, it was an instant trademark registration. She has been called that way ever since. Now when asked at school what her name is, she answers: “Charlie Banana Wizenberg.”
The logo is very dear to my heart and has a very special meaning too. If you rotate the logo sideways it becomes the Chinese character of “double happiness,” which is a very lucky and positive symbol in Asia. Our products are healthier, therefore good for you and they contribute to waste reduction, which is good for the environment— thus “double happiness!” If you turn the logo back to its original position you can clearly see the C on the left for “Charlie” and the B on the right for “Banana”—the brand’s initials “CB.” A very powerful symbol!
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
If you mean where as “where in the world,” I would hope a place with cleaner air with widely available Juice bars and perfect weather for tennis year round. A place with a magnificent vegetable and fruit garden that my family can utilize on a daily basis.
If you mean where as in “where with your business,” knowing that I am a huge dreamer, building my brand as a lifestyle is reallymy ambition. We should all be having a good lifestyle using products that are safer for us. Seeing parents embrace a happy healthy life style is something very rewarding. I want Charlie Banana to become a trusted household brand name for babies and generations to come.

If you could encourage new moms to cloth diaper in a few sentences, what would you say?
Every parent wants the healthiest, the cutest and the most eco friendly products for their babies. Modern cloth diapers are chemical free, convenient, easy to use, eco-friendly and will save you more than $2,000 in the long run.
Cloth diapers will be one of the many baby products that you bought that will produce the fondest memories— guaranteed! You will be sad to retire the diapers once your child is potty trained. Do not let the “Poo Factor” scare you. If using a liner, it is easy as 1,2,3! If in doubt, please try one at night at least! (Babies do not usually poo at night). It will be the best 20 bucks you’ve spent. It is almost like saying, “Love is complicated” and requires too much work. When you love someone, it is the best, and that little work is worth it.
Charlie Banana also offers a hybrid diaper. It can be both a cloth diaper with reusable inserts or it can be used with disposable biodegradable inserts if necessary, such as holidays and drop-off with grandparents. This can help new parents to transition from disposable diapers as it is less intimidating and gives parents more options.
Thanks Gaëlle!
You can find Charlie Banana products here.