September 5, 2006

Carbon Neutral Diapers, Now In Cloth, Too

Carbon Clear has been offering a carbon and greenhouse emissions offset for disposable diapers for a while now, inspired by the birth of company founder Mark Chadwick's daughter.

Treehugger reports that Carbon Clear has just expanded to include cloth diaper offsets, too, covering the energy use and greenhouse emissions of 2.5 year's worth of a kid's diapers for "£6.84 (plus postage & packing) [ed.: what, do they ship the carbon to you?] while disposable use over the same period can be offset for £7.80."

So the difference is only a pound? Were the cloth folks complaining about disposable's landfill problem, but then also saying they'd get on board only if they could do 12.3 percent less for the environment? This makes no sense. Just cough up the quid and be thankful for the chance.

Meanwhile, I assumed that Carbon Clear was buying and retiring greenhouse emissions credits with our money, but instead, they're planting trees--seven of them for cloth [and by my math, eight for disposables] in India--instead. Now, I'm all for trees, AND India. But is this the most cost-effective conversion of money into environmental good? I have no idea. [Let me emphasize my ignorance on this matter again: I have NO idea.]

I DO know that Carbon-Clear IS the most effective method of converting amorphous notions of personal responsibility toward the environment into money, though. Bully to that.

Release: Carbon Clear makes babies’ nappies climate-friendly
[ via treehugger]
previously: Well, that's remarkably easy: carbon-offsetting disposable diapers

[update: two points to treehuggin' Kaz who elicits a response that flushable gDiapers are already eco-tastic, what with their hard-won Cradle-to-Cradle sustainability certification and all. That means any carbon offsetting you buy for gDiapers is like giving bonus trees to India, baby.]


It's true! The overall environmental impact of diapers is relatively quite small. Nearly negligible compared to things like "driving a car" -- even a hybrid.

I think it's a great idea, in theory....assuming that the only reason why some people use cloth diapers is for environmental reasons. If the only reason I tend to shy away from disposables was the environmental impact, and paying that small fee really did offset the environmental impact my baby's 2.5 years of sposies created, I'd be using disposables in a flash!

But one of the main reasons my husband and I are choosing to use re-usable dipes is because I don't like the idea of strange chemically diaper gel goo and plastic against my baby's bum for 2 years of his life. Here's a great link to an article that makes some thought-provoking points about the health-risks attached to having SODIUM POLYACRYLATE, DIOXIN, and TRIBUTYL TIN (TBT) against baby's skin.

Eipweck -- that link is pretty much scare-mongering. The toxic-shock-syndrome-SAP link has been disproven. The source cited for other horrible SAP side effects is a *catalog* for "EcoBaby" products.

It's true that dioxin is nasty stuff -- that's why we use 7th Generation diapers, as they're chlorine free. This is largely for the general environmental impact, though, not because it's a big risk to have bleached products touching your kids. (Otherwise, make sure to keep them away from most clothes, books, paper, and hey, cloth diapers.)

And the TBT claims seem dubious too when researched.

Basically, the "information" in the link is basically the same as copied back and forth all over various cloth-diaper vendors on the web,but curiously isn't found in many actually unbiased places.

So many questions; I'll try to answer a few.

Greg, the postage costs are for the certificate and project description that we send to all our customers. Thanks for asking. We'll be adding the option for people to receive an electronic certificate instead (so we can cut down on the amount of recycled paper we send out).

As for retiring carbon credits, that's exactly what we do. We purchase some of our credits from tree-planting cooperatives in India and Tanzania, and retire them on behalf of our customers. Tree-planting is an accepted approach under the Kyoto Protocol, because the trees absorb CO2 as they grow. We choose these particular projects over some random forest in Canada because they improve well-being in local communities while helping the environment.

Eipweck - we weren't trying to take sides in the cloth vs disposables debate! When we started offsetting disposables, some people felt like we were claiming it was okay to use them, despite their landfill problems. The fact is, neither option is perfect. One rule of thumb I've seen says to go with cloth if you have overflowing landfills in your area, and to go with disposables if you have sewage treatment problems or particular dirty power stations in your area. Other criteria may be more important for you personally.

Offsets can't solve the other problems that come from using diapers, but they can help address climate change impacts. It's not about guilt, but about helping people make small - but real - steps that will hopefully grow into larger ones.

Best from Jamal and the Carbon Clear team

[thanks for the more in-depth info, Jamal. the carbonshipping thing was a smartass joke, of course, but it's all very helpful. -ed.]

Greg you sound like a crochety old bear. I bought Carbon Clear's nappy product as a new baby gift for a not-so-eco-aware couple. It was a real eye opener (after some confusion). Now they've started to question the eco impact of other choices they make.

Small steps, baby.

[glad to hear you spent the extra pound in the process, congratulations! -ed.]

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