On the heels of the worldwide school walk-out about the climate crisis lead by the incredible 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, my hesitation on writing a post about diapering hit me right in the face. What was I waiting for? I was afraid that people would judge me or worse, I would be judging them. But that is unavoidable. It is the uncomfortable truth that I am judged for my belief in climate change and for my decision to cloth diaper my child. I do not judge you for using disposable diapers. I use them! I want you to be aware of the environmental impact of those diapers.
Let me say this first. Our climate does not care about our politics. I realize that climate change is tied-up with our global political structure. However, it bears repeating, the climate change crisis DOES NOT CARE if you believe it is happening or not. I believe the scientists and the cold hard facts that climate change is happening at a faster rate than ever before and we as garbage-loving humans are hugely responsible for the global rise in temperature which is causing erratic and severe weather worldwide.
Climate change has become this quiet, back-burner issue in our lives. Why are we not talking about this with our families, our children, each other? Because it is politically charged? Because it feels overblown and beaten-down? Because the situation does not impact your day-to-day life? Or perhaps it is because we feel so small in the grand scheme of the world, a minuscule person, what could one person possibly do that would make a difference in protecting our environment.
I don’t want to be casual about climate crisis. I recycle everything I can. I choose glass over plastic. I garden, compost and raise chickens. I want wooden toys for my child or at least second-hand. I make the effort because I believe it matters. I want to teach my child a deep appreciation for our Earth and our connection to her. I want to teach my child through my actions, not just my words.
All this to say I cloth diaper? Yep. I know I can be a passionate and it might feel a tad ‘too much’ and that is great! I love being too much. I love how big I feel and how much I care. Cloth diapering is one lifestyle choice that makes a difference in my environmental footprint.
Know the Numbers
I will keep this short and skinny. You’ll get the point. Convenience always comes at a cost.
Latest EPA data from 2015 shows that Americans threw away 3,440 TONS in disposable diapers. That number grows every year.
Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Nondurable Goods: Product Specific: https//www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/nondurable-goods-product-specific-data
It is estimated that it takes 250-500 years for ONE diaper to decompose. I use one disposable a day for bedtime…I have already contributed 237 diapers to a local landfill that will take approximately 136,500 YEARS to decompose. Ugh, that feels dirty.
“Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR. ” – Source
An estimated 27 billion diapers are consumed each year in the United States alone. 92% percent of them end up in a landfill. – Source
To sum it up, disposable diapers are bad for the environment. There’s no way around that fact. Is there a way around this massive consumption of resources and waste?
Yes, of course. It starts with our own personal actions. We all need to start being aware of what we consume and understand what we casually purchase has lasting impacts in the environment. Even the tiniest, seemingly inconsequential changes in one’s lifestyle makes a collective positive difference.
Disposable diapers contain the following chemicals: Tributyl-tin — a known hormone disruptor in human & animals Sodium polycrylate — that weird gel substance, increases risk of toxic shock syndrome (same as tampons!) primary source: http://realdiapers.org/diaper-facts Secondary: http://archive.greenpeace.org/pressreleases/toxics/2000may152.html
It is a no-brainer that cloth is better for the environment. You reuse them. Most of the time for multiple children. This is not to say that cloth diapers do not have environmental impact. They require water for washing, natural and synthetic resources for manufacturing and are likely breaking some labor laws in China to produce (these diapers are called ‘China cheapies’ in cloth diaper lingo). I will definitely write a tutorial about the ins-and-outs of cloth diapers and all of the overwhelming variety. For this post I want to stay focused on why you should consider cloth diapering.
Choices, Choices! Oh the many choices in cloth. Styles include diaper covers, prefolds, pocket-style with inserts, all-in-ones and more! There is something that can fit any budget.
Benefit #1: They are an up-front investment that will save you money in the long run. The cost of cloth diapers can be a gut-punch at first. Brand-new, top-line brands will cost $20 each. You can find china cheapies (which are totally wonderful btw) for around $10 each. There are also plenty of pre-loved diapers for sale. I have all three. For this post, I am talking the deluxe diapers, all-in-one, no-fuss. There are cheaper ways to cloth diaper. Even then, the cost of disposables over the lifetime of a child will undoubtedly end up costing more than the investment in cloth diapers and water/detergent usage combined. Keep in mind cloth diapers grow with your child through to potty training.
Benefit #2: They are better for your baby’s skin. Disposable diapers contain lots of chemicals that make them able to hold massive amounts of bodily fluids. Which is convenient and all, especially during nighttime and travel. In the long-term these chemicals are in constant contact with your baby’s skin and actually be a cause of painful diaper rashes. Not to scare you but most disposable diapers are bleached white, resulting in trace levels of dioxins, one of the most harmful chemicals known to science. Read more here.
Benefit #3: Less leaks & better blow-out containment. You better believe it! You’re not a parent if you haven’t seen poop up the backside of your child. Cloth diapers are a better fit than disposables. They hug all the chunky little legs in the right places and are adjustable so you can constantly make sure the fit is just right and super comfy for your baby.
Benefit #4: Umm….they come in a hundreds, thousands of adorable prints! Not really a true benefit, but you can find cloth diaper prints to fit any hobby, interest, obsession. I challenge you to look on Amazon and tell me that the cloth diaper prints are not the cutest diapers you have ever seen. Cloth diaper babies are affectionately called ‘fluff butts’ because of their adorable diaper prints and because the diapers make their butts look huge. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the size of the cloth diapers impedes development. My baby was crawling at 5 months and he is a verified peanut.
Benefit #5: Not sure if it was clear earlier on (wink), choosing to cloth diapers is a lifestyle choice that is environmentally conscious and healthier for your child.
My goal is always education. My goal is to constantly spread the message that what you can do personally to be connected to the Earth will always matter. Lifestyle changes big or small is what will make our Earth a happier place to live, for all creatures. Maybe cloth diapers is not for you and that is totally understandable. Parenting is hard work with complex decisions. How you diaper may not be on your list. At minimum though I hope this post will make you think deeper about those choices and the impact they have on the environment and your kids.