Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I poo in blue...really now

Since I'm on an advertising roll -- with a critical eye on ads that make my blood boil, I thought it would be a good time to express my feelings about that catchy commercial where the toddler struts his stuff in a denim-colored diaper. I HATE THAT COMMERCIAL! Granted, it has its appeal. My granddaughter giggles when it comes on. But really folks, making a toddler appear sexy in a diaper pushes all the wrong buttons. He's so suave and debonair...why? He's a baby, people! A baby with a chauffeur and NO CAR SEAT! This ad is wrong on so many levels.

While he may poo in blue, my grandbaby tinkles in periwinkle. And a whole rainbow of other colors and designs. After all, cloth diapers shifted away from plain white a long time ago...there just aren't commercials with catchy jingles promoting that. Too bad. I wish there were. After all, if cloth were cool, perhaps more young parents would be jumping on the bandwagon.
Of course, as a cloth-diapering family, we're often asked the question, "Why do you use cloth?" and the answers vary. My main issue is the health risks associated with the toxins in disposable diapers. But there's also the environmental impact which is HUGE!

One time diapers are soiled, then tossed. Technically, it is required by law to rid the diaper of any poop before throwing it away, but I highly doubt that's done very often. After all, it would be inconvenient to do so. Not to mention gross. And, God forbid, we deal with anything gross when it comes to child rearing, right? Gross belongs on reality television shows, not in the nursery. But did you know that fecal matter thrown into the trash can carry live viruses and bacteria that can become an environmental and public health hazard? Who knows who will pay the price for that...

According to EPA estimates, approximately 18 billion diapers make their way to U.S. landfills every year. We're talking 3.3 million tons! Since most disposables are composed of paper, plastic and sodium polyacrylate (that yucky gel that makes them super-absorbent); all of which stick around in the landfill for a very long time (hundreds of years, as a matter of fact).

But what about companies with claims of "biodegradable" disposables? While the cornstarch they add to the plastic helps it to decompose somewhat, that doesn't take away the environmental nightmare plastic in general creates in the landfills. Besides, when cornstarch is added to plastic, it makes it virtually impossible to recycle, even if there were diaper recycling systems in place.

Nature Boy and Girl, a company in Europe, does produce a compostable diaper. However, for those of us in the U.S., we have no way of properly disposing of them because at this point there are no commercial composting facilities that deal with household waste. Besides, compostable diapers still have to be rid of fecal matter before heading to the dump, and, as stated earlier, parents, grandparents, babysitters, and daycare centers aren't eager to deal with poopy diapers that way.

Now let's look at the environmental benefits and pitfalls of the alternative. Cloth diapers are reusable. If you have more than one child, the benefit increases. Once you put out that initial chunk of money for cloth, you save a bundle over the course of diapering your children.

People have argued with me about the waste of water used when laundering diapers. However, the fact is the manufacturing process for disposable diapers uses far more natural resources than are used in the production of and laundering of cloth diapers. Think about it. What goes into making a disposable diaper? Well, according to some estimations, nearly 1.3 million tons of wood pulp is used annually just to keep our American babies and toddlers diapered (in disposables, of course). That's the equivalent of a quarter-million trees. And then there's the plastics used and the toxic chemicals. Hmm.

However, there are environmental issues with cloth as well. First of all, if you're using non-organic cotton diapers, there's the pesticide issue. I blogged about the problem with cotton several months ago, pointing out that more pesticides are used when farming cotton than with any other crop. Plus, there's not enough research into the effects of genetically engineered cotton, which is becoming more popular.

The chlorine bleaching of the cotton releases dioxin (a carcinogen and hormone disruptor) into the wastewater, which has been proven to have an adverse affect on the reproduction systems of various forms of wildlife. But guess what? The wood pulp used in most disposables is bleached as well and, along with the dioxin, solvents and heavy metals are also released into the wastewater during the manufacturing process of the throwaway diapers. So again, cloth diapers have less of an affect on the environment and the subsequent health of the inhabitants of the planet.

As far as the dirty diaper wash water goes...the only potential harm to the environment comes from the detergent used. Stick with a detergent like Rockin' Green Cloth Diaper and Laundry Detergent and you'll be fine. No harmful anythings going into the wastewater.

Your best choice for your baby and the environment lies in organic cotton, hemp or bamboo diapers. If you don't mind using prefolds (which is what my grandbaby has worn the majority of her 21 months), you can also make them yourself by simply stitching up some old receiving blankets or fashioning them out of old t-shirts.

If you're intrigued but don't know where to start when it comes to cloth diapering, let me recommend some online resources:
This was a lengthy post. But it's an important one -- it's all about healthier and greener choices for your little ones. I hope you'll consider trying cloth. I, personally, have nothing to gain from your choice, since I'm not selling cloth diapers and am not affiliated with any of the companies listed above. I just think it makes sense...common sense. And, after all, isn't that what this blog is all about?

Keeping it green,


Photo courtesy of Heather Desuta


  1. Hana I'm so glad you posted this, My daughter loves the Huggies commercial...I detest it. I decided with this new baby to try cloth diapering...I like the fact that not only am I helping the environment but I am saving a lot of money as well. I have gone as far as sewing my own diapers from old receiving blankets, I have bought material from Joanns, And have also recycled a lot of cloth materials in my own home for this. I use Rockin Green love it by the way.

    Back to the jean diaper.... Many cloth diaper sewing mammas are making their own jean diapers and probably have made them for years I just saw a post on the Baby center boards the past 2 days from a momma who had made her own. It looked exactly like a little pair of jeans...way cuter than the huggies version. Like you said your Grandbaby tinkles in periwinkle...my baby will poo and tinkle in a lot of colors and patterns as well. I think they need a new catch phrase.

    As a mother of a almost 4 year old I also want to let you know that I never knew that it was the law to rid your diapers of fecal matter before you put them in the trash. In the last 4 years I have yet to see another parent do this.

  2. I'm so glad you'll be using cloth this time around, Erika! And sewing your own....how ambitious and thrifty!

    Hope the rest of your pregnancy goes well. Would love to see pictures!

  3. Ugh, I hate that Huggies commercial too!! Great post!

  4. Great post! This is helpful since I'm going to be using cloth and when I tell people this they always look at me funny. It's always great to get it drilled into me all the different reasons why this is the BEST choice for my baby and the future of all of our children!

  5. Thank you. I'm glad you found it helpful! Thanks also for posting a link to the article on Facebook.

  6. Luckily my kids are all out of diapers. But I agree that aside from the environmental issues, that denim-ish diaper and no pants is just creepy. :-) Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!!

    PS: Also as a confession, I dont think I ever emptied a diaper of poop before ditching it.

  7. Most people don't, Charlene. And I'm sure I never did when I actually did use an occasional disposable on my kids back in the 80s. I never knew any better...but they do instruct you to do this on the side of the box of disposable diapers. The question is: how many people actually read that?

    Thanks for visiting and posting a comment! Have a lovely weekend.

  8. Thanks, Hana! I love this - I've been convinced for a while that I want to use cloth diapers when we start having kids, but Jason was not so sure! It's nice to have a thoughtful, informative post to refer him to!

  9. You're welcome, Nic. I hope it helps :)


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