>> Sunday, September 21, 2008
My Cloth Decision
Supposedly, if you crunch the numbers on the environmental impact of cloth and disposables, considering what they are made of (for cloth), how they're manufactured (for disposables), how they're washed (for cloth), and how they're disposed of (for disposables), you end up with a tie. I'm not a scientist, and I don't have all the data, so I can't tell you which studies to believe. But for me, there were lots of other considerations that led me to cloth:
- Some (if not all) of the criticisms with cloth are solvable. Pesticides in cotton fields? Buy organic cotton diapers. Lots of water used in washing? Use an Energy Star washer. Too much energy used in Drying? Line dry your diapers. The problems with disposables are not that easy to solve. Even so-called biodegradable diapers will not biodegrade in a landfill (although they are compostable in a home composting system if done properly).
- Cloth diapers put human waste where it belongs, in the sewage system. It's actually illegal to put human waste in the landfill, but this is not enforced with disposable diapers. The practice of throwing dirty diapers in the landfill has the potential for massive water contamination, considering all of the diapers thrown away every year (95% of U.S. babies wear disposables). The Green Guide suggests, "If you use disposables, flush any fecal material down the toilet before throwing it away, to reduce the possibility of contaminating water supplies."
- Cloth diapers are cheap and can be used over and over and over, so financially, they are definitely the better option. I've used most of the same diapers with all three of my kids, and they are still going strong. When you're finished diapering, you can use the cloth part as durable rags and pass the plastic cover on to a friend.
- Most cloth diaper companies (both the companies making them and the companies selling them) are run by work at home parents, and I am always in favor of screwing the Man to support a small business. :)
- Some studies suggest that the chemicals used in disposables could be toxic and might cause infertility in boys. I'm not sure if I believe that, but as a mother of boys, I choose to be safe rather than sorry.
- Cloth diapers say, "I care." Maybe the scientific evidence says that cloth and disposables are equal, but the truth is that most people believe that cloth is better for the environment. And whether or not that's true, every time I take my cloth-diapered baby out into public, I'm letting people know that I'm making a conscious effort to do my part to care for the environment and be a less wasteful person. And hopefully, encouraging them to do the same.
If you choose not to go with cloth, at least be a Conscious Shopper. There are many better options out there besides Pampers and Huggies. Here are a few possibilities that I've seen. (Note that I have never tried any of these diapers, so I cannot vouch for their effectiveness.)
- Seventh Generation
- The Good: Chlorine-free, fragrance-free, latex-free. Seventh Generation is a great company that tries to be socially and environmentally responsible and discloses all ingredients.
- The Not-So-Good: They use sodium polyacrylate (the gel-like superabsorbant balls inside the diaper that may or may not be bad).
- Cost: $42.99 for a pack of 176 size 1 diapers at Amazon ($0.25 each)
- The Good: The absorbent part of the diaper is made of a mixture of cotton and wood pulp rather than sodium polyacrylate. They are also chlorine free.
- The Not-So-Good: Because they are gel-free, they require more diaper changes than a typical disposable, which is a consideration since they're expensive.
- Cost: $43.63 for a pack of 160 small diapers at Amazon ($0.27 each)
- The Good: A cross between cloth and disposables, these diapers use a cotton outer pant with a flushable insert. If you flush the insert, you're putting waste in the sewage system, not the landfill. They are Cradle to Cradle certified. The company tries to ensure fair working conditions in their China factories that make the outer pants, and the inserts are made in Ohio. The absorbent part of the inserts are fluffed wood pulp, rather than sodium polyacrylate.