What's The Scoop With Poop On
Eco Friendly Diapers?

Can We Really Go Greener With
Disposable Baby Diapers?

There is a need for eco friendly diapers. Conventional disposable diapers are not very eco friendly. Actually, they are quite eco nasty when you look at the volume and impact. Thanks in part to the work of the National Association of Diaper Services public consciousness about this problem is on the rise.

The average baby uses approximately 6,000 diapers between birth and the age of two. This comes to about 60 diapers a week.

Over twenty pounds of chlorine, fifty pounds of petroleum, and three hundred pounds of wood are used to produce the number of disposable diapers a single baby uses in a year. And even though the instructions on disposable diaper packages direct the consumer to deposit fecal matter in the toilet before discarding, less than one in twenty people follow these directions, sending feces to the landfill, instead.

Disposable diapers are the third largest single item taking up space in landfills (after food/beverage containers and newspapers). Eighteen billion disposable diapers go into landfills every year. They can take up to 500 years to completely decompose. That's not exactly treading lightly on the earth.

Want a few more reasons why conventional disposables are not an eco friendly choice for diapers? OK, here you go:

  • The wastewater created from the manufacture of conventional disposable diapers contains solvents, dioxins, and heavy metals.
  • Disposable diapers use twice as much water, three times as much energy, and twenty times as many raw materials as cloth diapers. Overall, they generate sixty times as much waste.
  • Conventional disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a substance that has been associated with urinary tract infections in infants and toddlers. The use of sodium polyacrylate in tampons has been linked to toxic shock syndrome and resulting deaths. It is no longer permissible to use sodium polyacrylate in tampons but it is still common in diapers.
  • Disposable diapers contain small amounts of dioxin, an extremely toxic byproduct of the bleaching process. A known carginogen, dioxin is considered by the EPA to be the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. Although legal in the United States, dioxin is banned in most countries in the world today. They also contain Tributyl-tin (TBT), which is a toxic pollutant that can cause hormonal problems in both humans and animals. Studies have indicated a link between disposable diapers and asthma, due to the outgassing (usually incorrectly referred to as offgassing) of chemical fumes from the diapers.
  • In May 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published research in May of 2000 showing demonstrating that scrotal temperature increases in boys who wear disposable diapers, and that prolonged use of disposable diapers can change or even destroy the body's normal cooling mechanism necessary to keep the scrotum cool and sperm at healthy temperatures.

Truly Eco Friendly Disposable Diapers

There are two outstanding eco-friendly disposable diapers on the market right now. Tushies brand is a disposable diaper made from chlorine-free wood pulp with no extra chemicals or gels. This cotton-blend diaper is assembled in the US with certified non-chlorine bleached wood pulp from sustainable forests in Scandinavia and domestic materials.

Nature Babycare is, according to their website, the first ECO-friendly high-performance diaper, based on new green technology, protected by a Swedish patent. It has an exclusive 100% chlorine-free absorbent material and the material against the baby's skin is based on corn instead of plastic, like traditional diapers. 100% compostable, breathable and extremely kind for your baby. Even the packaging is 100% compost-able and is also made from corn. Corn that has not been genetically modified, which is an indication or mark of excellence among eco friendly product producers.

Not TRUE Eco Friendly Disposable Diapers, More Like "Eco Preferable"

7th Generation diapers and G-diapers, which are brands that promote themselves as eco friendly diapers, both contain absorbent gel made with sodium polyacrylate. The health considerations associated with absorbent gel may put them out of the running for your eco friendly baby. Yes, they have less impact than your average traditional diaper but are not the ideal solution.

Eco Friendly Cloth Diapers

Why Choose Eco Friendly Cloth Diapers?

In addition to being free of the chemicals found in conventional disposable diapers, cloth diapers are reusable, recyclable, and usually compost-able. They are usually soft and comfortable for your little one as well.

One clever way to pick the diapers you'll use for your baby is to wrap one tightly around your forearm and leave it there for an hour or so. Then, ask yourself is you would want that on your bum all day?

But depending on your lifestyle, including your own washing facilities and availability to eco friendly diaper services, cloth diapers may or may not be right for you.

How Do You Wash Eco Friendly Cloth Diapers?

Cloth diapers are far easier to wash than you might think. Remove any solid waste from the surface of the diaper (moist disposable wipes are particularly convenient for this!) and flush down the toilet.

Wash diapers in warm water with minimal detergent and dry on the line (for extra eco friendly diaper points!) or in the dryer. Use a mild, eco friendly, fragrance free detergent on these diapers, as harsh chemicals might irritate your baby's skin.

Anytime you notice an odor from the diapers OR about every ten washes, wash them with a quarter cup of white vinegar instead of detergent. This gets rid of detergent build-up and residual odor, keeping your cloth diapers fresh, soft, and cuddly on your baby's skin.

Finding An Eco Friendly Diaper Service

The National Association of Diaper Services maintains a handy-dandy listing of approved cloth diaper services at their site. Many of the services promote themselves as eco friendly, although what that means exactly varies by service.

Call the ones closest to you for more information. Warning, many diaper services are not eco-friendly. They may not be mindful of energy or water use, and many use chlorine bleach to wash diapers.

If you don't know whether a diaper delivery service is eco friendly or not, just ask! They should be happy to share information about their practices. If they are sheepish about their answers on your basic eco questions, you may want to consider running the other way, as this usually means they simply don't value earth friendly practices as part of their business or have something to hide.

Shopping for Eco Friendly Diapers

Which Are The Best Eco Friendly Diapers?

There's not one "best" kind of diaper, although there might be a "best" one for you! Here's a breakdown of the types of eco friendly cloth diapers available today to help you decide which ones to buy:

  • Prefolds/Flats: flat diapers are just a rectangular piece of material (usually hemp or cotton) in a single or double layer. These are the least expensive and most versatile cloth diapers, and can be used singly, doubled, or tripled and folded in a variety of ways to fit any child in diapers, from newborn to toddler. You may use diaper pins or snappis with flat diapers, or simply place them inside a cover and fasten the cover snugly.

    Flats are easy and quick to wash and dry. Prefolds are very similar to flats but with a center section of extra-absorbent material. You can use prefolds or flats with a strip of fleece to wick moisture away from the skin, or without it you're eager for your child to make the immediate connection between peeing and feeling wet.
  • Fitteds: these are the most popular kind of cloth diaper. A fitted diaper is shaped and contoured to fit a baby and comes with snaps or Velcro fastenings. Easier to use than a flat diaper, fitted diapers are also more expensive, less versatile for a growing baby, and require more drying time as well.

    Try putting a diaper cover over a fitted diaper for full coverage, or allow your baby to wear just a fitted diaper around the house for maximum air flow, which is great for your baby's rash susceptible bum!
  • Pocket Diapers: a pocket diaper consists of two layers sewn together: a waterproof outer layer and a soft inner layer, often made of fleece, that wicks moisture away from your baby's skin. You use a pocket diaper with absorbent inserts that you stuff between the two layers.

    Inserts can be flat or fitted diapers, or especially designed diaper inserts such as the hourglass-shaped hemp inserts sold with Swaddlebee's diapers.

    Pocket diapers are easy to use and often very attractive, as in the case of Swaddlebees. This is a great diaper for warm climates where you will let your baby crawl around in a diaper and tee.
  • All-In-Ones: these are essentially a pocket diaper with the stuffable layer sewn in. They are the easiest but most expensive type of cloth diaper. They need extra thorough washing and drying so this is a consideration to take into account when selecting your ideal diaper solution.
  • Diaper Covers: a diaper cover is a waterproof coverall that goes over a cloth flat, prefold, or fitted diaper. You can buy natural/organic/eco friendly diaper covers made of wool for maximum breathability, although these are generally the most expensive kinds of diapers on the market.

    Diaper covers generally fasten with Aplix (similar to velcro) or snaps. While Aplix covers give you maximal adjustability for fit, snaps are a true godsend for the mom of a wiggly baby—if you know which snap enclosure to shoot for, you can use snaps to successfully slap a fresh, clean diaper on a baby while he/she is in mid-crawl!

How Much Do Eco-Friendly Cloth Diapers Cost?

A set of eco friendly diapers for your child can cost anywhere from around $300 to over $1000, depending on the brand and style of the diapers. It really depends on your budget and tastes. If you're ambitious enough to sew your own, you can whip up a starter set for around a hundred dollars.

Washing method is also a consideration in overall cost. Cloth diapers that you wash yourself can cost as little as a nickel per use, or between eight and fifteen cents per use if you use a diaper service.

Disposable diapers, on the other hand, cost between fourteen and thirty-two cents per use. And because conventional disposables are so absorbent, children wearing them can't feel wetness when they urinate, which causes potty training to be more difficult and making it necessary to use diapers longer.

What Supplies Do I Need to Buy for Eco Friendly Diapering?

  • From three to five dozen diapers, depending on how frequently you plan to do the wash/how frequently your baby pees.
  • Between five and a dozen washable eco friendly diaper covers. This is not necessary if you're using all-in-ones.
  • If you're using flat diapers without a cover, you'll need at least a dozen diaper clips or Snappis.
  • Two or three "wet bags" for storing dirty diapers in your diaper bag.
  • A diaper bag large enough to hold cloth diapering supplies (recommendations for eco ones?).
  • Between two to three dozen wet wipes.
  • Eco friendly diaper rash cream.

What Brands of Eco Friendly Diapers Should I Look For?

There are a huge number of brands to choose from on the market today. Some of the most popular and well-reviewed cloth diaper brands on the market today include:

  • Swaddlebees: these are especially trim to fit under all kinds of clothes.
  • Happy Heinys
  • Sugar Peas
  • Bumwear
  • WonderWraps
  • Kissaluvs
  • BumGenius
  • Hemp Babies
  • Wee Generation Eco Diaper
  • Organic Caboose eco fleece diaper covers and Organic caboose also offers an eco friendly diaper changing pad made from organic merino wool.

Where Can I Go to Purchase Eco Friendly Diapers?

Both eco friendly disposable diapers and cloth diapers are available in increasing numbers as our culture becomes more eco conscious. You can buy Nature Babycare eco friendly diapers at many Toy R Us and at stores listed on their website: Natyusa.com/links.htm. You can find Tushies in alternative stores such as Whole Foods Market or health food stores, or buy them in bulk from the company and have them delivered to their door.

While larger cities will have stores that feature cloth diapers, they aren't quite as widely available as disposables. If you live in a smaller suburban or rural town area, or if you just want the widest selection possible, your best bet is probably to buy them online.

Here are some of the best online sources for cloth diapers that I was able to find for you:

  • JilliansDrawers.com
  • FuzziBunzStore.com
  • ClothDiaper.com
  • CottonBabies.com
  • TheDiaperHyena.com
  • GreenMountainDiapers.com
  • SAHMdiapers.com
  • DiaperPin.com
  • SunshineDiapers.com
  • DiaperJungle.com
  • Mothering.com - this is also a fabulous source for advice about using cloth diapers, solving common problems, and even trading gently used diapers with other mothers.
Whichever eco friendly diaper you choose, congratulations on your own natural, organic bundle of joy! And kudos to you for getting them started off right.