Kids sometimes make it really hard to go green, because they’re so, well, time consuming. But they can create a HUGE carbon footprint without even really trying. For instance, did you know that the average baby uses between 3000 to 3500 disposable diapers a year? So from birth to potty training, you are looking at somewhere in the range of 7000 to 8000 diapers, and maybe even more, which are NOT biodegradable and go and sit in a landfill for many years to come? Disposable wipes aren’t biodegradable either, and then when you take into account how many resources are spent in making the diapers (trees, oil, etc), well…the whole disposable diapering system is really a drain on our environment.
But for the record, I did not care. At least, not in the beginning.
At my baby shower (when I was a good 34 weeks pregnant and rather rotund), some of the women there were asking me if I was planning on doing cloth or disposables. “Oh, disposables,” I had said quickly, as the idea of using cloth had never occurred—or appealed–to me. “Does anybody use cloth anymore anyway?”
Fast forward to sleep deprived, extremely stressed out me with an almost two month old with an extremely red behind. As it turned out, my little boy had inherited his mother’s rather sensitive skin, and the chemicals in pretty much every single brand of disposable diapers were causing him such discomfort that I, in the middle of the night one night, looked into this whole cloth diapering thing to see what it was about.
That night, I ordered my first set of cloth diapers and I never looked back.
I learned some pretty disgusting facts that night. Did you know that since 80% of all the diapering done in the United States is done with disposables, that means that about 18 BILLION diapers are used per year? And those diapers add up to about 82,000 tons of plastic being used and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp—about 250,000 trees. But something that’s also disturbing is that even though it is illegal in most states to dump human waste in landfills, that law is not enforced most of the time when it comes to diapers. So theoretically, they could infest the water supply with bacteria and viruses.
Additionally, I learned that there are a TON of chemicals in these diapers, and disposables simply haven’t been used long enough to determine the long-term effects on children. And since I knew that the diapers were causing rashes on my child, I figured that they definitely weren’t good for him.
So how has cloth worked out for us? Amazingly well. My son is eighteen months old and we’ve been using these diapers for sixteen months. The upkeep of the diapers is actually surprisingly low-key: I do have to wash them every other day, but then I just hang them up on a drying rack. We’ve had no rashes to speak of, and the diapers are still in great condition, and I will be reusing them for Baby #2. An additional (and delightful) bonus of using cloth? It turns out that kids who use cloth diapers tend to potty train earlier because they don’t like the experience of being wet, and my son is already showing signs of being interested, such as taking off his diaper when it’s wet and handing it to me. So that’s exciting.
A great place to start looking into cloth diapering is the blog The Cloth Diaper Whisperer. I tend to buy my diapers from various sources, but the easiest place to start is Kelly’s Closet.
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