Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 6 - the diaper conundrum

Thank you my friend Rachel (not talking to myself, a different Rachel...), you have made me delve into a subject I am not sure I am ready to tackle quite yet.  The dreaded diaper dilemma.  Here is a pretty major environmental question that I have been ignoring as a full-time working mom.  It never came up as a question with my first child, cloth diapering hadn't become as prominent as it is now and being a career driven working mom I was all about convenience.  Now, with the second child I honestly hadn't thought much about doing anything differently this go round.  Then I go and start making changes and now need to make a conscious decision, do I dispose of diapers and worry about landfills and the waste being created for producing them or do I invest in cloth diapering and worry about the added water and energy I am using to clean them on a daily/weekly basis? 

This is a great example of how economics and convenience play into our daily environmental decisions.  To cloth diaper sounds lovely and I can greatly appreciate the positive impact it has on the environment eliminating waste, saving resources and more.  But there is a major commitment and investment needed to go down this path.  When looking into it today I figured it would cost ~$300 to get the basic system of cloth diapering just to see if I like it and can sustain it.  This would be about the same as 7 1/2 months of disposable diapers.  So yes, there seems to be an inherent ROI if you assume the baby will be in diapers until he is around three years old.  The total savings if he is potty trained at three would be around $700.  But then you figure in things like extra diapers to replace ones I lose or break, extra diapering supplies like night time inserts, wipes, etc and that savings gets diminished rather quickly.  And then you look at the additional water and electricity expenses for running the washing machine every day and I am not sure where that leaves me, perhaps it is break even?  If that is the case then I start evaluating based on convenience. 

Is it convenient?  Well, not exactly. Can we really make this happen?  Would we really be able to keep up with laundry?  Maybe, although we can barely keep our own laundry current (have you seen some of my recent fantastical outfits?), let alone the kids' laundry, and now we are thinking of adding a necessity like clean diapers into the mix?  Hmmmm....

When I look at my choices I know that taking on this challenge was not about always doing the easy thing and that I can no longer have convenience be my only deciding factor.  So I will dip my toe into this diaper adventure (not quite ready to jump in feet first).  I have ordered my first cloth diaper and should see it on my doorstep in a few days, we will see if there is a way to evaluate our ability to do this with a sample run.  I am not even sure if one diaper will be enough to learn from but we are going to give it a try and see what comes of it.

Anyone care to weigh in on this one?   


  1. We debated cloth vs. disposable and came to the conclusion that both are bad for the environment. Once we reached that point, the decision was easy - we went with the convenience of disposable.

  2. My friend Charlie did some research and found it came down to a few factors - water, electricity and landfill space. If you live in a place with lots of water, "green" electricity and limited landfill space, like Seattle, then cloth is best for mother earth. Disposables would be best if you live in Arizona - no water, lots of space. That being said they use disposables for day care (convenience) but go to cloth at home.