July 13, 2005

And When I Say 'Eco-friendly Diapers'...

seventh_gen_small.jpgWhile the fragrant, green scent of biodegradable diapers is still fresh in the air, I thought I'd dig up an article I came across last year about the real environmental impact of "eco-friendly" diapers.

Those are diapers which try to minimize the negative environmental impact of disposable diaper use, through combinations of less-toxic manufacturing processes (e.g., bleaching with water or air, not chlorine) or materials (basically, paper-not-plastic).

All well and good, but when these eco-friendly diapers get sealed into Diaper Genie sausages, then double wrapped in Hefty bags, then buried in an anaerobic landfill, they end up sticking around almost as long as their but-we-thought-they-were-evil! mainstream competitors.

Which doesn't mean you shouldn't buy them. Seventh Generation diapers are solid khaki, without all the cartoon characters, and look much nicer when they stick out of your kid's pants or out from under her dress.

The Poop on Eco-friendly Diapers [wired.com]

16 Comments

I realize I'm a lone voice, but I did disposables for six weeks and found I prefer reusables for numerous reasons besides the environmental and cost issues.

Part 1: Dr. Strangepoop: Preamble for Cloth Diapers [part 1 of 4, thingamababy.com]

our now 12m. old minimalist_baby™ has used 7th gen diapers purely for the aesthetic considerations. we like the 1950's soviet quality of the brown paper. during the first month of using them we couldn't stop referring to him as comrade.

Some resourceful mom and/or dad needs to come up with "The Diaper-Destroyer" and safely combustible diapers to feed it. I think the human waste would make backyard composting problematic, but why not the diaper equivalent of the destroilet? A simple appliance that will incinerate the diapers along with their contents?

I also ended up switching to cloth. I always though cloth was nasty and too much work, until a friend showed me Fuzzi Bunz and Wonderoos. Doesn't get much simpler. Plus, we save quite a bit of money.

Composting? Dog breed rivalry? Chewing on leather toys?

I should change the name of this site to "A Window On My Ignorance." All I know is, a company will compost your diapers FOR you, but ONLY if you live in the Toronto suburbs.

Meanwhile, forget the incinerating toilet. The man who can invent a non-toxic, diaper-fuelled BBQ grill will change and save the world, and he'll make a fortune in the process.

Maybe we'll get lucky and discover that George Foreman is a DT reader.

We had our now 9 mo in cloth diapers until she was 4 mo -- Kissaluvs were a cinch, and were basically like strapping a stuffed animal to her tiny butt. We stopped when she grew into the Wonderoos -- they repelled water, making them impractical as diapers but perhaps good for rain gear. (This was probably caused by the detergent residue in our public laundry, but it was discouraging enough to make us bow out of the cloth market for the past 5 months.) Now we've been using 7th generation (with a Champ, not the Genie, so a bit easier on the earth plastic-wise) mainly because in most diapers there are additives built in that are potentially harmful to the BABY, in addition to harming the earth. I guess some of the chemicals used in absorbing the dampness and odor are the same ones they took out of tampons to reduce toxic shock syndrome... Yikes. So we're using these, though we're thinking of getting large Kissaluvs and going green again... Anybody got advice for us on jumping back into cloth? Thanks!

If you are washing your cloth diapers in a laudromat, or someplace where other people use the washers, I would suggest not using ANY detergent at all. And possibly washing them twice, just to make sure they are rinsing clean. :) It's not too hard to get build-up out of diapers like wonderoos, it just involved washing them a few times without any detergent.

Does anyone have anything to say about diaper services (esp. in nyc)? These places drop off 80 (I think?) clean diapers every week, and pick up your used. I've been intrigued about this (particularly if we have to move out of our current apartment, which now has a washer/dryer). Any ideas on costs?

Actually if you live anywhere around AND IN Toronto, the municipal garbage people actually pick up your disposables in your "green bin" -- along with all other biodegradable waste like apple cores and chicken bones. Handy and free! (If you don't count the taxes). But we still stick with cloth through a diaper service...really no harder than disposables, and much less trashy looking after our baby has been crawling around the yard with nothing but the diaper....

Jennifer, any chance you were using All Free and Clear? That detergent (and any other one with stain-protectant in it) will leave a coating on your diapers, rendering them waterproof.

Helena, my friends who've done the math figure a diaper service (in NYC) is about the same cost as using brand-name disposibles.

We use Seventh Generation diapers when we're not using cloth. I figure I'd rather be giving my money to the Seventh Gen people than to the Huggies multinational. Plus, if you have a pale kid wearing only a Seventh Generation diaper in the sandbox, he becomes invisible. Lots of fun for the panicked caregiver.

Much as I'd like to not use Huge Conglomerate Brand diapers, I discovered very shortly after my now six-week old daughter was born that both the Seventh Generation and Tushies "newborn" sized diapers sold at the local Whole Foods Market were about twice the size they needed to be to fit the 8lbs, 1oz at birth baby.

Pampers Newborn Swaddlers it is, and even if they say they're only good to 10 lbs, they're still fitting fine at somewhere between 10-11 lbs. When the N-size Swaddlers don't fit, I'll try the "slightly more eco" brands again--that is, right after I sew new organic hemp fabrics for my Bugaboo...

I really want to be Super Eco Dude, really I do. "Cradle to Cradle" is like my Bible, honest! I even have a copy of "The Humanure Handbook" (though the "humanure" doesn't actually make it into my compost pile just yet--and yes, I *do* have a compost pile, thank you very much...ah, the pleasures of the suburbs and three-car garages!). But I'm willing to make a compromise when it comes to diapers. I figure I save the landfills from so much other waste as compared to my neighbors that I'm entitled. So, Phhhtpppht...

Jennifer, the additives you're talking about (the super-absorbent gels) are actually present in Seventh Generation diapers. They're chlorine-free, but not polymer free. Tushies (with the stupid name) are the only gel-free disposable out there. (We use Tushies out of the house, cloth at home.)

There's a major debate going on in the UK over disposables versus cloth, with huge studies being funded by the government, conferences, everything. So far it seems to be focusing just on the energy use, not the health impact or other factors (like the leaching of viruses etc. from human waste in landfills) so it's hard to tell what the findings will eventually be.

I am so sad to hear that the gels are in 7th generation.... I always saw in Pampers and other brands that the gel would actually leak onto the kiddo -- and I have never seen such a thing happen with the 7th generation diapers. But I will switch to Tushies if washing the Wonderoos w/o detergent doesn't work. Thanks for all your great advice!

I suggest using flushable, compostable diapers. (w/ no gel)

Flush the soiled diapers,
compost (or flush) the wet ones.

Either way, it stays outta the landfill. Yes you waste a little water flushing the diaper, but don't you flush, too?
These actually have worked well for my kids, and there's no storing human waste in the baby's room (which always kinda grossed me out.)
Since they're going down the drain, it also eliminates the need for a Diaper- Genie / Champ / Decker / Whatever.

Two companies make these,
one in Australia: www.eenee.com
and one in the US: www.gdiapers.com

Hello,
Just thought I would add...
gdiapers are awesome!!! We had a little problem flushing the outer part of the liner so we flush the inside and throw the outside in the trash or the compost. My favorite cloth is bum genius all in one one size diaper that grows with your baby. They wash up really well and are so easy to use!

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