I don’t find guilt to be a great motivator. When I tell you that you need to use cloth diapers because it’s better for the planet, you’re liable to place your fingers in your ears and turn away, guiltily throwing a disposable into the garbage. No, I don’t believe in guilt as a motivator, but I do believe in logic. I also relish the act of using something again. That is why we used cloth diapers—because it made sense for our wallets, for our health, and for the earth.
Why Avoid Disposable Diapers?
Disposable diapers contribute billions of tons of waste to the landfill every year. That’s billions, not millions. Contained within these diapers are millions are tons of waste. As the diapers decompose over hundreds of years, that waste will mingle with other waste, moving into the groundwater. To create the diapers used by children in the United States alone, we use 80,000 pounds of plastic and 200,000 trees every year.
But Aren’t Disposable Diapers Biodegradable?
Some diapers are branded as biodegradable. However, for decomposition to occur, diapers need to be exposed to oxygen and light. There is not that much oxygen and light in the middle of a landfill, so the process takes centuries, not years. And what about all of those diapers that are incinerated?
Cloth Diapers Reduce Baby’s Exposure to Chemicals
Unless you are using unscented disposable diapers that involve no chlorine bleach, you are also exposing your baby to a host of chemicals through the absorbent gels and the diaper materials themselves. If your baby gets diaper rash, these chemicals are being placed onto broken skin. You can purchase organic and unbleached cloth diapers and wash them in an unscented, gentle detergent.
While cloth diapers do require water, detergent, and energy when they are cleaned, this can be minimized. Remove all solid waste before the diapers go into the wash, wash in cold water and dry on hot, and the diapers will be sanitized by the dryer heat. If you are replacing your washer, buy a front-loading washer. This saves a lot of energy and water.
I am proud that we used cloth diapers for the majority of our child’s diapering needs, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The small amount of extra time spent washing the diapers was well worth it because we knew that we were doing something that was good for our child’s health. We were also glad that our cloth diapers did not waste new materials with every use and that we didn’t create waste every time we changed a diaper. It just made sense.