GREEN YOUR DIAPER ROUTINE
CLOTH, CONVENTIONAL, CONVENIENCE, COST—NOT SURE WHICH WAY TO GO WHEN IT
COMES TO COVERING YOUR BABY’S BUM? TFG’S GOT THE BEST ECO-SMART OPTIONS HERE.
To cloth or not to cloth? Will conventional diapers expose my baby to chemicals? Eek! But wait, cloth
diapers mean more laundry. Isn’t that bad for the environment? Is there a green option that’s in the
middle of cloth and regular disposables? Are those options expensive? Are the conventional ones really
that bad? The great diaper debate: It plagues eco-conscious moms-to-be almost as much as swollen
ankles and sciatica.
What’s a well-meaning, generally eco-conscious but also tired and time-challenged mom to do? Read on to find out.
Considering that 95 percent of families use disposable diapers, and a child can use up to 8,000 diapers before being fully potty-trained, cloth diapers seems like a smart alternative. While the initial investment may be a bit steeper than disposable diapers, it ends up costing a lot less in the long run (some figures say that from birth through toilet training, it costs only $300 if you use cloth diapers, while disposables may cost up to $3,000)—at least when you look at the cost of the diapers alone. Other factors to consider include how the diapers are made (are they sustainable and organic? and just where are they made?), the cost of the electricity needed to launder the diapers and, of course, your time. Will you be home with Baby? Are you working from home? Are you using daycare? Do they do the cloth thing? Many questions, many dirty diapers.
Here are three of our favorite cloth crusaders:
Happy Heinys brand has a variety of cloth diapers that are all designed with your baby’s health and happiness—and your sanity—in mind. Their popular One Size diapers have four snaps on the front so they can be fitted to babies from birth through potty training. They also make a Pocket Diaper that can be used on its own with a diaper insert or as a diaper cover. Happy Heiny products are made of custom-milled fleece, hemp or wool; use Velcro-like closures; and have elastic at the legs and back for a snug fit.
($16 to $22 per diaper, www.happyheinys.com)
The bumGenius bamboo diaper uses a combination of natural bamboo and microfiber terry cloth to keep your baby dry and comfortable. Naturally growing bamboo is one of the most environmentally friendly fibers on the planet—it grows quickly and easily without any pesticides or fertilizers, it’s biodegradable and it has natural antibacterial qualities that help protect your child. These features make bamboo an ideal diaper fiber, though these diapers do require a cover. BumGenius diapers are the first cloth diapers to make use of stretch-to-fit tabs that really close the design gap between disposable and cloth diapers.
($12 to $18 per diaper, www.bumgenius.com)
These bright and colorful cloth diapers are made of natural cotton, hemp and wool, so they absorb more completely than man-made materials (and they don’t use as much petroleum, a valuable fossil fuel). Firefly makes a variety of styles, including the super-simple, undyed organic cotton flat diaper, but it’s their quick-drying model that we’re excited about. Six layers of fleece keep your baby dry without adding bulk, and the diapers dry quicker than other cloth varieties. Firefly diapers are available in a rainbow of colors, but if you want something even more wild, check out sister company Fuzbaby, whose funky diapers are also for sale, though sometimes by auction only.
($22 to $24 per diaper, www.fireflydiapers.com)
While sometimes more expensive, eco-friendly disposables are generally as absorbent as traditional disposables, and can possibly be composted. Look for brands that are dye-, chlorine- and latex-free; all these things help keep toxins out of the environment and away from your baby. One particular concern to be aware of is exposing your child to dioxin, a byproduct carcinogen of the bleaching process. Many diapers in this group are free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and TBTs (tributyltin) as well.
TenderCare diapers are a convenient alternative to cloth diapers that still offer your baby protection from dyes and chemicals while being less hazardous to the environment—and they’re made from wood pulp from trees grown in sustainable, family-owned forests. They contain a hypoallergenic top sheet to protect Baby’s skin; don’t use chlorine, perfume or latex; and are TBT- and GMO-free. If you want to take the next step, check out the SAP-free Tushies disposable diapers from the same company. (Sodium polyacrylate, or SAP, is a chemical that many diapers use to increase the absorbency. In the ’80s, there was a big concern that SAP contributed to toxic shock syndrome, but that concern is quieted by the fact that the material doesn’t directly touch your baby’s skin).
($34 per case, number of diapers in a case ranges from 72 to 136 depending on size, www.tendercarediapers.com; Tushies, $59 per case, number of diapers in a case ranges from 80 to 160 depending on size, www.tushies.com
Seventh Generation disposable diapers are chlorine-free and use a nontoxic polymer to keep your baby dry. Synthetic rubber elastic bands around the leg openings keep the diapers on, and they also feature resealable closures. Conveniently, Seventh Generation diapers are available in many stores, unlike some of the other diapers in this class.
($12 per case, number of diapers in a case ranges from 26 to 44 depending on size, www.seventhgeneration.com)
These eco-friendly diapers from Nature Babycare are made from corn as well as tree pulp that’s FSC-certified and chlorine-free. They’re 60 percent biodegradable and compostable—and the packaging is, too. As with the other eco-friendly disposables, they’re chlorine-free.
($13 per case, number of diapers in a case ranges from 22 to 44 depending on size, shop.allgreenthings.com)
The biggest thing in the green-diaper world today is gDiapers, a line of reusable, washable cotton diapers with a plastic-free flushable liner (which can also be thrown out or composted). Be warned, though, that the liner has to be “swished” around the toilet bowl before it’s flushed. The gDiaper comes in a starter kit that includes two pairs of the outer pants, 10 liners and a swishstick. The line is expensive, but if you can swing it—swish it, in this case—it’s worth it.
($27 for the Starter Kit, www.gdiapers.com)
Erin Scottberg is a writer, photographer and graphic designer based in Brooklyn. She’s currently the research editor at Popular Mechanics magazine and also writes for Lemondrop.com. Visit www.erinscottberg.com to learn more.