May 19, 2006

Well, That's Remarkably Easy. Carbon-Offsetting Disposable Diapers

diaper_on_roadside.jpg

Let's review quickly: carbon off-setting is the recently emerged practice of elminating the net greenhouse gas emissions from a given activity or entity, often by purchasing and retiring the corresponding amount of so-called "pollution credits" on the open market or by investing an amount in green/cleaning technologies that produces the desired reduction in CO2 emissions.

For example, the production of the movie Syriana was estimated to have produced 2,000 tons of CO2, so they bought that many energy credits. Simple, huh?

Well now thanks to a UK company called Carbon Clear, you can render the disposable diaper consumption of a child for 2.5 years carbon-neutral for just 10. That's what it takes to cover 650kg of CO2 emissions.

Which'd be great if diaper-direct CO2 were the only concern. One 1998 study in Seattle found that the city was spending roughly $400/year/diaper-wearing child for waste disposal. [ref. Mothering mag]. I can't help but wonder how much of that collateral activity--not to mention the CO2 it produces, not to mention the other environmental costs and impacts of disposables and landfills--are included in that ten quid gift pack.

Because seriously, if all it took was $8/yr/kid to render disposable diapers environmental impact-neutral, where the hell has the half-percent diaper tax proposal been for the last twenty years? And even if the Diaper Industrial Complex complained at a tiny profit margin offset, the money they'd save from funding biased environmental studies would more than make up for it. And parents who cared a whit about the earth would gladly pay that much to offset their guilt, while parents who don't care would pay just to shut the hippies up. It's win-win-win-win.

Carbon Offset Gift Ideas [carbon-clear.com via treehugger, who obviously know far more than I about carbon offsets]

5 Comments

Seems too good to be true to me. The guilt factor led me into being suckered into purchasing an expensive re-usable diaper (nappy in English!) system which was supposed to have minimal environmental impact. It was a major pain in the butt, but we stuck with it, smug in the belief that we'd saved a chunk of rainforest the size of Spain. Two years later, new research showed that resuables had an equivalent environmental impact to disposables, due to the energy and detergents used to clean the @$%$ things!

This picture reminds me of a trip we took to Mexico last summer. We drove down to Alamos which is at the southern tip of Sonora, and on the way back to Phoenix our friend was sick. Every time we pulled over to the side of the road so that he could throw up, there were several diapers that people had thrown out their car windows. It was really gross.

I tried Eco diapers but they just don't work as well, creating significantly more washing and time wastage. Then I tried cloth nappies, using a service that picked up and washed nappies for me every week. Count the CO2 emissions there! Plus it really didn't work for my baby. More washing and time wastage. There's no way to be a parent these days, and not feel guilty about poo disposal. I've now gone back to disposables, and offset the carbon. It's the best choice for me at the moment. I'm going to try to potty train my baby as soon as possible - that's probably the best choice for the environment.

After doing a lot of research, I can't say that either option is definitively better than the other, at least from a global environment perspective. The advice that made the most sense to me is to choose the option that is going to make the least negative impact on your local ecosystem. For example, where I live there are major issues with landfill...we ship our garbage 100's of miles away and it costs taxpayers tons. So, disposables are not great where I live. However, if you live in Australia, where water supply is an issue in some areas, then you don't necessarily want to be doing laundry every other day to wash your resuable diapers.

What a great gift idea. Instead of the thousandth set of baby blue dungarees. Which are probably made in a sweatshop in China and shipped thousands of miles.

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