By: Jenn (The Green Parent)
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am a LAZY green mama. That’s not to say that I don’t do my part to protect the planet. But when I do make an effort to go green, I need to know that it is not in vain. And I’m the last person on Earth who would want to make extra work for herself. So when I tell you that I have used cloth diapers for both of my daughters, I hope you’ll understand that this was not an undertaking that I accepted lightly. I looked at the facts, I talked to the experts, I tried it myself, and I concluded that cloth diapers were the best thing for both my children and the planet.
Now if there’s one thing that I can’t stand it’s a guilt trip. So you won’t get any of that here. Yes, I think cloth diapers are fantastic (Fuzzi Bunz are my favorite!) but I know they’re not for everyone. Still, I think it’s time to “clear the air” about the common cloth diaper misconceptions…
The Ick Factor. This is probably the #1 reason that most parents turn their noses up at cloth diapers. It’s easy to imagine that with cloth diapers you’ll be up to your armpits in toilet water trying to wring out some nasty, poppy rag. If you’re concerned about the ick factor of cloth diapers, I have a little advice, but be warned, you may not want to hear it. Here it is…
Poop. Is. Icky. And cloth or disposable, as a parent, you are going to come in contact with it. Get over it. Oh, and one more thing, did you know that you are required to remove poop from disposable diapers and toss it in the toilet? It’s true, it says so right on the package. Even the disposable manufacturers know that it’s nasty to put human poop (even if it came from your sweet little baby’s bottom) in a landfill.
The Time Factor. This is the second reason that most parents want to forgo cloth diapers. To this I reply, have you looked at cloth diapers lately? Back in the day, cloth diapering meant pins and plastic pants, and the procedure did add a bit of time (albeit probably just a few seconds) to the average diaper change. But today’s selection of Velcro or button fasteners and all-in-one cloth diapers are an absolute cinch to put on and take off. The only difference in the whole procedure is that you take cloth diapers off and throw them in the washing machine as compared to the trash can for disposables. The time factor no longer exists.
The Water Consumption Factor. From the beginning, disposable diaper companies have contended that the water consumed to wash cloth diapers negates any environmental benefit that could be gained by keeping disposables out of the landfill. Their theories were somewhat backed up by a flawed study in 2005 that concluded that there is no environmental difference between using cloth diapers and using disposables. Now, when I say that this study is flawed, I say it not as a raving “save the Earth” lunatic (although I am) that can’t imagine that cloth diapers could be environmentally equivalent to disposables. Rather, I say that this study is flawed as a scientist (because I am) and it is. Here’s why.
- The study surveyed 2,000 parents who use disposables, but included only 183 parents who use cloth diapers in their research. The results are therefore neither balanced nor conclusive.
- The study did NOT take in to account the possibilities that some (if not most) cloth diapering parents use Energy-Star rated washing machines, wash full loads of laundry, line-dry their diapers or use moderate temperatures to wash their diapers.
- The study did NOT take in to account that most (if not ALL) cloth diapering parents pass their cloth diapers on, either to their subsequent children, or to their friends, thereby dramatically reducing the environmental impact caused by the creation of the diaper.
- The study only analyzed one type of diaper…a terry cloth diaper… that takes significantly longer to dry than other cotton diapers. And again, they made no mention that these diapers could be dried on a clothes line rather than in a dryer.
The Cost Factor. Last but not least, there is the cost factor. Undeniably, cloth diapers require a greater initial investment than disposables. But study after study after study after study has concluded that using cloth diapers can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your child’s diapering career. (If you’re not convinced, you can use this handy-dandy comparison calculator to see for yourself.) Now who couldn’t use a few extra thousand dollars in their pocket?
So there you have it. A straight-up, no-guilt, fresh look at cloth diapers. Take it or leave it. But at least now you know the facts.
Verybaby.com: Cloth vs. Disposable Cost Comparison
DiaperDecisions.com: The cost of cloth diapers
NaturalFamilyOnline: Alternative to the Usual Checklist
RealDiaperAssociation.com: Diaper Facts