Continuing on with ways to Reduce:
One of my biggest regrets, environmentally speaking, is that I used disposable diapers. For three children. Why? To be perfectly honest, I never even thought about it. I was 21 when I had my first, frightened out of my mind by the idea that the hospital was going to release a child, a vulnerable newborn, into my completely inexperienced care.
I received diapers and wipes at my baby shower, along with a Diaper Genie. Pampers sent me coupons. Luvs sent me coupons. Huggies sent me coupons. The hospital sent me home with a starter stash.
A fine example of marketing well-done: It genuinely never occurred to me not to go on using disposables. It was just what people did. That’s what they had at the grocery store. Cloth diapering was a relic of my parents’ generation, something they did because they had to, but me- why, I was lucky enough to live in a time where disposable convenience was king.
Well, things have changed. A green movement has begun, and mothers are leading the march. New parents are considering the impact of all those diapers: little plastic-covered vessels of human waste, billions of them, sealed up tight, sitting in our landfills.
Disposable diapers make up five percent of landfill waste in the United States.
It can take up to five hundred years for a standard gel-filled disposable to decompose.
The EPA estimates that about eighteen billion disposable diapers were discard in America last year.
The average American baby will go through five thousand diapers before graduating to the porcelain bowl, so your choice matters. And there are a lot of choices out there.
Green Babies, Sage Moms
And there are a lot of choices, beyond those white cloth squares of my childhood (and their cute ducky pins), that lived a second life in my home as rags and dustcloths.
I was surprised by the array of choices. There is your standard cloth diaper. There are “hybrid” diapers where the cover is reusable and the insert is biodegradable (gDiaper). There are “greener” disposables, which still go into landfills but are chemical free (Tushies, Seventh Generation). There is the diaper free movement, where the parents learn the schedule and “tells” of their baby, a technique used in many other regions of the world.
If I had to guess, I would say that most new parents reach for the disposable diaper automatically, just like we did, because it is such a conditioned cultural response. People simply do not know enough about the alternatives.
Or, perhaps, they don’t know any other parents who use them, and don’t have the confidence as a new parent to buck the norm. Maybe they don’t want to be singled out as the hippie mom. Maybe they worry that the alternatives will make their life harder, and, let’s face it, life with a new baby is hard enough.
So the obvious solution is for those who are living the alternative to speak up! Tell everyone around you your choice, why you made it, and how you live it! Share your stories and your expertise. Help a new mom make a choice with confidence and knowledge, that will empower her with the knowledge that she is doing her part to leave her child a better planet. Get the word out there and let it be known that there are choices, possibly unconventional, but viable and satisfying.
To that end, I asked my friend Kristin, a new mom, to share her experiences with her (very cute) baby boy and their alternative diaper of choice, the gDiaper:
Guest post by Kristin:
Why gDiapers are gTastic!
I started researching baby stuff before I even got pregnant (yes, I am that person), I knew that it took disposable diapers a long time to decompose, but when I found out that it takes about 500 YEARS and you can go through thousands until your child is potty trained – I knew there had to be something better out there.
I did a random Google search one day for biodegradable diapers – just to see if they existed. Turns out, they do. They are called gDiapers and they are great (and so is their website!) . The gDiaper is a flushable, biodegradable diaper – and you can even compost the wet ones! As soon as I saw this – I knew they were meant for us.
Now, I have been using gDiapers for 3 ½ months, so I am pretty much an expert on this topic. gDiapers have a outer cloth cover (called the “little g” pant), just like regular cloth diapers. Inside there is a plastic snap-in liner and into that you put the flushable diaper refill. Both the cloth cover and snap-in liner are washer and dryer-able. When it’s time to change your baby, you just take out the diaper refill, go to the toilet, tear it down one side, drop it into the toilet, break it up with the swisher stick (it comes with the starter kit) and flush. Have a well or just don’t want to overwork your toilet? Well, you can toss the refills in the trash and they biodegrade in 50 to150 days (NOT years!) Also, they can be tossed in your compost bin or pile, but only the
When our little Michael Lee came home from the hospital (all 6lbs 6 oz of him) he was wearing the diapers the hospital gave us. We decided to use them up because he seemed too small for the gDiapers. After being home all of 3 days we had filled 2 trash cans with diapers and were feeling very guilty about it (we are a one trash bag a week family). We decided to just try the gDiapers and just see how they fit. Now, I am not going to lie, we had some leaks. Maybe because he was a little small, and maybe because of the new baby boy learning curve – but we eventually got it down and they rarely leak now, plus we can change his g-Diaper just as quick as anyone with a disposable, even with an extra step thrown in. You can even use these as cloth diapers – just put the cloth insert instead of the flushable refill and bam! Cloth diaper!
We have had our families and friends all change him and everyone is fascinated by them & amazed at how good they work. They are absorbent, they are made of a breathable material that cuts down on diaper rashes (we have only had one rash, and that was while he was in the hospital, wearing disposables) and they come in lots of colors, so they are extra cute. And as for cost – the cloth covers cost a bit ($16.99) and each come with 2 liners. You only need about 8 of each size & there are 3 sizes. The diaper refills are not too bad price wise either – a case of 128 med/large refills are $52 – and that’s online. We also get them at Wegmans and I think they are about $11 a pack. They are not super widely available in many stores – but some Whole Foods also carry them. It’s worth paying a little extra and knowing you aren’t doing major harm to the environment. Plus, the cloth covers and snap-in liners can be used for a second (or third) child – so you can save money there!
Honestly, we would never use disposable diapers. We plan on using these for Michael Lee and any other child that will come along. Every little bit helps!
Green Babies, Sage Moms: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Your Organic Baby by Lynda Fassa
Fassa also discusses diaper options online at Planet Green:
Solve the Diaper Dilemma
To learn more about going diaper free: DiaperFreeBaby.org
For organic training pants (look like big kid underwear but unsnap in case of emergency), check out Little Beetle Learners.
In a highly informal poll of a very small sample of Delaware Moms, I found that 85% of mothers who have kids currently in diapers use disposables. (I did not count chemical-free disposables separately, since they still go to landfills, but maybe I should have for the sake of clarification.) That translates into one in six using an alternative option.
Are you one of those six? Will you share your experience?
Final thought: Do you think that the state of the economy will encourage new parents to embrace frugal diapering choices, hastening their return to the mainstream?