Image by mhofstrangd
Post by Contributing Writer Sherrie Cook
For years prior to 1961, parents used cloth diapers on their children because there was no other option. Since the 60’s, paper diapers have grown with such popularity that many moms now choose them because they, too, think there is no other option.
Ten years ago I began my own personal search for a cloth diapering alternative in our modern world. I hit so many brick walls that I began to wonder if the reason was perhaps because there was something wrong with cloth diapering. Were these diapers unsanitary? Maybe all the extra laundry was too much work. Could it be that moms had finally grown weary of diaper dunking?
It didn’t take me long to decide that diapering babies using cloth must now be an archaic, extinct notion. The days of plastic pants and safety pins had been replaced with the quality and functionality of disposables. We, as a nation, had obviously arrived in diaper utopia.
However, I couldn’t help but wonder…what cost would we now pay for such luxury? It quickly became apparent to me after a few trips to the grocery store. Upon bringing my Tigger & Pooh stamped paper diapers home, I realized exactly the price to be paid – too much!
Just as that package of diapers was walking through my front door, I found myself exchanging it for a garbage bag full of its soiled predecessors. Essentially, I was throwing away my money. How much was I actually wasting? You might be surprised to learn – cloth vs. disposable diapers: a good estimate.
Twenty-two years ago it was estimated that over the course of a single year, 18 billion paper diapers were sold and used in the United States alone.1 For a family with a child in diapers, the diapering portion makes up approximately 50% of their entire household trash content.1 What a waste!
And that waste is willing to stick around for a while, too. It has been predicted that it could take 250 to 500 years for a single disposable diaper to decompose.2 That’s not the legacy I want to leave for my great, great, great grandchildren – ick!
Steps to switching to cloth diapers for less waste:
1. Research your cloth options. The hardest part can be getting started. Visit forums where moms flock to talk about cloth. I love the Diaper Jungle and Stephanie’s cloth diapering section in her forum!
2. Learn how to wash cloth diapers. (It’s not as hard as you think, I promise.)
3. Pick 1 or 2 diapers to try and let the fun begin! If you can sew, consider making your own diapers. (CAUTION: some moms claim they have developed a cloth diaper addiction.)
4. Enjoy the ride to reducing waste by using cloth diapers regularly.
For those who cloth diaper, what was it that brought you to that decision? For those who don’t, what holds you back?
1Lehrburger, Carl. 1988. Diapers in the Waste Stream: A review of waste management and public policy issues. 1988. Sheffield, MA: self-published.
2Link, Ann. Disposable nappies: a case study in waste prevention. April 2003. Women’s Environmental Network.