Choosing Cloth Diapers – they don’t require clothespins anymore

Choosing cloth diapers is an important step for new families to consider in a sustainable household.

Father Changing Baby's Diaper --- Image by © Paul Barton/Corbis

Image by © Paul Barton/Corbis

“All they do is eat, sleep, cry, and poop.”  That’s one of the warnings heard over and over again by new parents to be.  “And make sure you’ve got plenty of diapers, because you’re going to need them!”  This statement isn’t entirely inaccurate.  The average newborn will soil up to 10 diapers a day during their first month!  It’s no wonder new parents feel they spend the majority of their first days together elbow deep in diapers.  It’s a lot of work changing all those diapers, not to mention cleaning them!  Enter the disposable diaper.  In the 1940s parents breathed a collective sigh of relief when they heard of the development of a new product, the disposable diaper.  “What?  No more washing, scrubbing, bleaching, drying?”  Just use it, pop it in the trash, and grab the next freshly cleaned diaper?”  Then they rushed to the store to buy their first box of Johnson & Johnson diapers.  This was in 1948.  By 1961 the beloved Pampers were issued by Proctor & Gamble and the world of parenting would never be the same.  Unfortunately, neither would our landfills or our environment…

diaperfactsSimilar to many other inventions of the mid-twentieth century, ahem water bottles, diapers have become an ecological nightmare.  Popping up not only in our landfills, but basically left behind anywhere families congregate including beaches, parks, rivers, not to mention plugging up toilets.  The key thing to remember, is that diapers are disposable, not biodegradable.  Those diapers left behind stick around.  The estimate is 250-500 years in fact.  That means those ten diapers a day being used by each parent are piling up, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

By 1980, only 40 years after their introduction, American babies were blowing through 1.93 million disposable diapers a year.  This made up 1.4% of all household disposable waste.  Over time, diapers did go through some alterations, super-absorbent polymers came into play, reducing their size by 50%.  However, the use of diapers are still increasing.  More and more people can afford to buy disposable diapers, the population is diapersincreasing, and families are targeted for convenience rather than environmental impact.  By 2006, American babies wore 3.6 million tons of diapers, this is almost double the amount they used in 1980.  Diapers also increased to 2.1% of all household waste.

Today, we are increasingly aware of the impact our choices have on our fragile environment, and people are beginning to rethink the easy way out, preferring more sustainable solutions.  It’s no surprise then, that more and more families are choosing to use cloth diapers in their household.

Below are a few options for making your diaper use more sustainable

Choose cloth diapers

Cloth Diaper ExampleIf you choose to go with cloth diapers, don’t worry.  You won’t be stuck with a single cloth towelette and clothespins like parents of the past.  The beauty of cloth diapers today is the ingenuity modern designers have employed in making them not only easy to use, they’re also very cute!  There are also a number of diapers to choose from.  Each one is a little bit different in the way they’re used, fit, etc.  They’re often referred to as systems.

Most cloth diapers have two parts – the cover and the insert.  Some inserts snap in, others slide Bum Genius Cloth Diaperinto a pocket within the cover.  You’ll want to think about whether you’d rather work with the pocket or snap-in liner.  For covers, you want to consider velcro vs snaps, and whether or not you prefer sized diapers, or those that grow with the baby.  Also, different diapers fit different babies.

Some of the more popular diapers to checkout include gDiaper offering the option of reusable or disposable liners, Thirsties which are made in the US, FuzziBunz, and BumGenius the original pocket-style diaper (see above).

Find a diapering service

As the use of cloth diapering increases, so do the number of diapering services.  You may be surprised, even in small towns they’re springing up.  In general, these services provide the collection can and inserts – you wash your own shells.  Many also offer a pick-up and delivery service.  If you’re having trouble finding one online, ask acloth diaper clotheslineround at your local baby stores (our second-hand baby store offers ours).  Birthing centers, hospitals, and midwives may also know where to direct you.  Services can run as low as $75 a month.  For many that’s well worth not having to mess with washing diapers.

Checkout biodegradable diapers

diaper-disposable-insertsIf cloth diapers don’t work for you, or even if you need an alternative some of the time, there are some biodegradable diapers starting to make their way on to the market.  Some serve as inserts for your reusable diaper shell, others are their own diaper entirely.  gDiaper, one of the more popular cloth diapers offers disposable inserts for those times when cloth is especially challenging.  gDiaper disposable inserts are made primarily of plant-based, naturally-derived and non-petroleum ingredients, pure essential oils and gentle preservatives.  Nature Babycare is a swedish brand diaper, though not entirely biodegradable, it does offer some biodegradable components.

Use cloth diapers during the day and disposables at night or for travel

There are times when you’re so exhausted from a 3 am feeding that the last thing you want to do is mess with cloth diapers.  Or perhaps you’re in the middle of a road trip across the US and have no way to clean your diapers during your travels.  Let’s face it, these are the times when disposables just might make sense.  If this is the case, it’s ok.  Just remember to use cloth as much as possible, and keep o,……mne bag of disposables on hand, in case you need a bit of extra help.  Parenting, after all, is not easy.  And sometimes all you want is something to make it run a bit more smoothly.

diaper-seventh-generation-free-and-clearIf you do decide to buy disposable diapers, there are some brands that offer a more earth friendly choice.  Check out Seventh Generation’s Free and Clear Diapers.  These are made without fragrances, latex, petroleum, and chlorine.  They offer a hypoallergenic product, less likely to irritate baby’s sensitive skin.  The Bambo Nature Diaper boasts the Nordic Swan Eco-Label  green label certification.  The manufacturer has regular environmental inspectures and hte diapers are made without chlorine, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals.  Earth’s Best are made with renewable materials including corn and weight and are made without chlorine, latex, dyes, and perfume.

Try a few diapers, wait until after the baby is born before you pick one system.

choosing cloth diapersIf you’re choosing to go with a cloth diaper, most recommend you get one of each before the baby is born, try them out, and then buy more of the system you like after your bouncing infant has arrived.  Many people stock up on diapers at the baby shower, so consider asking folks to give you gift certificates for diapers rather than stocking up.  You’ll be able to choose your own diaper after your bundle of joy has arrived.

Want to learn more about cloth diapers?  Check out these great posts by other bloggers.

TreeHugger – 10 Best Green Baby Diapers on the Market

Cloth Diapers from bumGenius, FuzziBunz, GroVia® and more

Cloth Diapers 101 by


Steps for a waste free BBQ

by Heather Kallevig

If you’ve taken a walk through your neighborhood lately, you’ve probably noticed spring has sprung. Flowers are on the trees, the grass is green, birds are in full song, and there’s a new scent on the air – the smell of grills and BBQ. That’s right, with the passing of the seasons comes a time-honored event, the year’s first outdoor get togethers.   As you’re planning your upcoming events, think about the ways you can make an impression, by lessening your footprint and increasing the fun.

The common go-to for outdoor events is disposable consumer products including paper plates, napkins, plastic cups and cutlery. While these may save you time the day of the event, think about the years it requires for these convenience products to decompose. For this year’s BBQs, consider a little earlier preparation, so you can throw away these bad habits and throw a WASTE FREE BBQ.

Step 1: Buy reusable plastic goods

A new plastic set, especially for a larger party can be expensive at the store. No worries, there’s a secret to overcoming this quandary. Your local goodwill is likely filled with many different plastic sets of cups, plates, pitchers, and serving platters. I was able to buy 12 plates for $.99 and they’re still in good shape.

If you can’t find a matching set in the numbers you need, consider picking and choose different and fun, unmatching sets. Your guests will enjoy picking their own goods, and they’ll have no problem remembering whose is whose.

As for cutlery, goodwill usually has trays and trays of utensil sets, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for don’t worry! We use our own silverware and spend the 10 minutes washing them at the end of the evening rather than throwing away mounds of plastic utensils.

To keep these goods from taking up space in your kitchen, consider storing a BBQ tote with your reusable goods. If this is not an option, return the items to good will – at $10 a set, you’re spending little more than you would have on disposable plasticware.

Step 2: Reusable Linens


Paper napkins are also very wasteful, so replace these items with sturdy, reusable cloth napkins. They work better than cheap paper napkins, and there are several options. Choose which works best for you!

Go to your local fabric store – “Fat Quarters” are large square pieces of material for $.99 a square. You can pick 12 different colors so each person has their own napkin and remembers whose is whose.

Handkerchiefs also make great napkins. You can find these cheaply online, or you can look at your local Walmart, goodwill, etc.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in a store, 12 packs of napkins can be as cheap as $10-$15 for a set. You can order these on Amazon and have them delivered to your home w/in a few days.


Tablecloths are also something to consider for your BBQ. There are a few good options for these too.

The best choice for reusable tablecloths are bed sheets. Believe it or not, these can be pretty, light, and recycled! For a large picnic table, fitted bed sheets are fantastic. My mom has been using them for years. They band around the table edges, stay in place, don’t blow away, and are a sustainable option for sheets you may no longer use as bedding.

If you do not have any sheets to use, find a set on clearance at the store. It’s ok if they’re a bit scratchy because you’re not sleeping in them.  Also, if the décor is a bit unusual – it will only add to your fun picnic set.

When the BBQ is done, throw your napkins and sheets in the washer and fold them up for future outdoor get togethers. You’ll never have to buy paper napkins or vinyl tablecloths again.

Step 3: Décor

For your BBQ décor, it can be fun to have unique outdoor décor. However, once the BBQ is over, there’s often no use for these items and they end up in storage or the trash. Save your money and choose reusable, outdoor friendly décor. Goodwill is packed with extremely cheap glass vases and canning jars – fill these with wildflowers, fallen tree branches, or rocks and sand. You can return the old vases to goodwill when you’re done and save your storage space. Your choice of décor will accentuate the outdoor beauty and save you money and energy for enjoying your time outdoors rather than messing with decorations.

Step 4: Enjoy – Eat, Drink, and be Merry

Once you’ve developed your waste free BBQ consider other ways you can make a difference – fill your grill with fresh, local vegetables, sustainably produced grass-fed beef, and make sure it’s only as much as you can eat. Make your waste-free BBQ, food waste free too.

Happy Spring!!