Thursday, October 9, 2008

Diapering... green?

Well, I don't even know how to start this post... since this has been such a long process for me.

A couple months ago I started thinking about how serious I am about recycling. In the 7 years since Greg and I have been married I have always recycled... even though I've never had curbside recycling. With the exception of when we first moved to Arkansas and were told incorrectly that they didn't recycle anything but paper, I've always saved up all my recyclables and driven them to the nearest recycling center. In other words, I'm willing to go to a lot of trouble to be a little "greener".

So why, I wondered, wasn't I willing to even look into cloth diapering?

I decided to do some research. And what I found was somewhat surprising.

Now I know that diapering can be a sensitive topic... as can almost any parenting topic. It seems as though we all have our strongly held opinions... I'm not really trying to change any minds in writing about this. This is truly just a story of my "journey" into the great diaper debate. (Maybe someday I'll write a screenplay).

I found that it is actually highly debated if it is indeed greener to use cloth diapers. Here's a quote from the ABC News Story:
"A new study released in England by a quasi-government environmental organization may dampen the debate even further. After a three-year, 200,000-pound (about $360,000) study, the London-based Environmental Agency concluded that disposable diapers have the same environmental impact as reusable diapers when the effect of laundering cloth diapers is taken into account."

Now it is important to mention that cloth diapering CAN BE greener... It's all in how you wash. For instance, washing diapers in warm water (instead of hot), using an energy effecient washer, and line drying diapers are just a few of the ways to cut down on energy consumption thereby making this a more environmentally friendly option. Also, another thing to take into consideration is the fact that you can use cloth diapers until they wear out. That is, it is possible to use them with multiple children... and then as dust rags etc.

I have to admit, it is pretty crazy to think that using and washing my own cloth diapers could possibly be as bad as throwing a huge bag of disposable diapers away each week. I just don't know if I believe it. But, hey, I didn't do a three year study.

Also there is the health factor to take into consideration. There was a study done with lab rats etc. etc. etc. Disposable diapers (cloth-diaper-people say) contain harmful chemicals... do you really want those against your baby's bottom?

And then the question of potty training. I think that it is pretty much agreed upon that cloth-diapered kids potty train sooner than disposable-diapered kids. It's because they can feel the wetness against their skin.

Still, these things didn't convince me to do cloth... I mean, it's debated whether or not cloth is greener. It's suggested that disposables may have harmful chemicals (but really, I chew sugarless gum - I'm used to the "may cause cancer in lab rats" line). I liked the fact that Leesi may potty train sooner. But was I really willing to dunk poopy diapers into the toilet for the two years until she's potty trained?

But then I came to the cost consideration. After much research into different cloth diaper options (and believe me, there are a lot of options!), I figured out which diapering supplies I would use and then calculated the cost difference. I figured out that I would save AT LEAST $600 over the next two years if I used cloth diapers most of the time. Now that is a VERY conservative estimate! And of course, with our second kid it would be pure savings. Now that was based on my own personal estimate... But if you're curious about the savings check out this website Why use cloth diapers? She breaks down all the costs including wear and tear to your washer and still comes up with at least a $600 savings.

So, I decided to try it. I bought a small amount of cloth diapering supplies and I've been using them part time over the course of the last week. I'll keep trying it out over the next few weeks and report back what I think.

For now, I welcome your comments. Let me know what's worked for you... or your opinion about diapering in general.


Jeana said...

I think it's great! I wish I would have used cloth diapers starting with Noah. I would love to make the switch now with Toby, but I don't know how to find the upfront money for purchasing the cloth diapers I'd like to use. You're idea for buying a small amount and using them part time is a great one--thanks for sharing!

Karen Brock said...

Hi, Carolyn. Well, you made me think on this one. I used cloth diapers only for my first two babies who were 19 months apart. It was a lot of work. When the third came along, I joyfully accepted the disposable diaper idea because it took so much time to launder and fold the cloth ones.

I never went back to cloth diapers, except to use them as burp rags.

I'm remembering a couple of ideas, tho, about cloth if you'd like to hear:

1. Before you pin the big diaper pins on the diaper, run the point through your hair. It causes the pin to pierce the cloth smoothly.

2. Pour a half cup of vinegar into the rinse cycle when you wash Elisa's diapers. It makes the diapers soft against the baby's skin. I promise!

Long comment. Good memories. Like pampers the best. The ones today are much more earth friendly than the ones 25 years ago.

Love. :)

JBird said...

I love this topic! I didn't use cloth with Audrey (wish I had) and started using cloth with Ally when she was 7 mos. (wish I'd started sooner!) Until I got into the swing of things with my cloth diapering system, I would use a combination of cloth/disposable. My theory was even using 1 or 2 less disposable diapers a day was progress. Eventually I made the switch entirely.

Diaper services use tons of chlorine and hot water (and probably other not-so-green things). But if you are washing diapers at home using vinegar, baking soda and good soap, your impact is much, much less and totally better than adding to a land fill.

My advice would be to research diaper covers. There are some really good ones that work well and fit comfortably and others that are awkward. I had chubby babies and it was tricky to find the right cover. Another thing I LOVED were fleece inserts. It wicks the moisture away and makes poopie clean ups much, much easier. They even make inserts for night time that give extra absorbency and wick moisture. I didn't have a ton of covers and diapers, I washed them every day or two.

Another thing I did was use wash cloths with warm water instead of wipes. I was already washing diapers, so why not.