Destroying the Environment 1 Diaper at a Time

I have been meaning to write this post since I started this blog, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I think that my avoidance of this topic stems from guilt and embarrassment. My son is now 2 and we have another baby in the house, and we use disposable diapers.  That’s not very green, is it? Before my son was even born, my husband and I had grand plans to use cloth diapers. We read that it takes approximately 450 years for a diaper to biodegrade in a landfill. We also read about the thousands of dollars we could save avoiding purchasing disposable diapers. We even purchased an arsenal of Bum Genius One Size cloth diapers in anticipation of saving the environment and money. After much research, we had a game plan. We were going to use disposables for the first month, for overnight and for daycare (no choice in that one). We stuck to our plan for all of 3 months.

What happened you ask? Poop happened. My son pooped at every feeding until he was 6 months old. Even to this day, we have multiple poop-filled diapers a day. Cloth diapers plus an infant’s poop is a disgusting combination, and one that we just had trouble dealing with all day long. We gave it a good effort, but we eventually reverted back to disposable diapers and enjoy the ease of them all the while ignoring the guilt of our negative contribution to the environment. I am constantly in awe of moms who cloth diaper. I wish that I had the drive and motivation to continue, but I am an utter failure in the green diapering department.

I recently read an interesting article about research performed on the issue of disposable vs reusable diapers and their environmental impacts. In 2005, a London-based environment agency performed an extensive research study on this topic and concluded that both disposable and cloth diapers have the same environmental impact when you factor in laundering of the cloth diapers. These results supported a Proctor & Gamble funded study executed 10 years earlier that determined that washing a cloth diaper over its lifetime actually uses 6 times more water than it takes to make a disposable diaper. Of course, critics say these results are skewed, especially assuming that cloth diaperers aren’t using a diapering service or energy-efficient washing machines. When we looked into a service, we only found one diapering service near us, and it was not something that fit into our budget. Washing the diapers ourselves was our only option.

At the end of the day, I think that the jury is still out on whether or not disposable diapers are worse for the environment than cloth diapers.  Regardless of the true answer, It’s hard to ignore that staggering number of 450 years for a disposable to biodegrade.  I am looking forward to having potty trained kids.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I can completely undeserstand why you use disposables. My sister tried the cloth ones for a while, but she was washing constantly and she had a huge electricity bill. Your little ones will soon be out of their diapers anyway, so try not to stress too much 🙂


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