Diaper Debate – disposables vs gdiapers vs cloth

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Table of Contents

My husband and I have been having this debate in our house for a while. He found this article and it summarizes all our points very well. The final paragraph lists his researched Cost and Estimated Time Spent, Pros and Cons. The link where you can find the full article is …
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Excepts from “A Man of the Cloth: One Dad Gives Up Disposable Diapers” by Sam Apple
Why Give Cloth a Try?
One day, after reading another grim article about climate change, I had the idea that I should at least experiment with using cloth diapers for my 1-year-old. By my estimate of six diapers a day, we had already used 2,190 diapers and I hated to think of the non biodegradable diapers sitting in a landfill for hundreds of years. I wasn’t familiar with all the arguments of the cloth-versus-disposable debate, but stuffing the earth with Isaac’s dirty diapers didn’t seem like a good idea.

…Of course, the real test came later that evening when Isaac’s diaper got really dirty. I imagine that handling a dirty cloth diaper isn’t especially fun for anyone, but it poses a special challenge for germophobes like me. I haven’t touched a public toilet with my hands in years — I’ve perfected the foot flush — and when possible, I avoid skin contact with the bathroom door as well. But now, according to the folks at DiaperPin.com, I was supposed to empty the diaper into the toilet and then swish the cloth in the toilet bowl before dropping it into a bucket.
I walked into the bathroom, holding the diaper out in front of me, and looked down at the bowl. I wanted to throw the diaper into the garbage and pretend the whole cloth experiment had never happened.

…Later that evening, and every evening for the next few weeks, I took my bucket of diapers down to the laundry in our basement. To my pleasant surprise, once a diaper has been swished in a toilet bowl and covered with baking soda, the odor isn’t so bad. And after being sprayed with a baby-safe stain remover and washed in hot water, the diapers came out white. The real problem was all the time the washing and drying took. I was having nightmarish flashbacks to Isaac’s first weeks, when I was washing clothes so often that it felt like life was an interruption of doing laundry rather than the other way around.

Trying the gDiaper
In the few spare moments I had left in my day, I ordered the elusive good cloth diapers. When the new ones arrived, it felt like turning in a Hyundai for a Rolls-Royce. They came in an assortment of bright colors. They had absorbent cotton-velour insides and waterproof-polyester outsides. They had Velcro straps and elasticized legs for a trim fit. And considering how much use I could get out of them, paying around $15 per diaper didn’t seem like a bad deal.
Putting the new diapers on Isaac was a breeze, I was down to flushing only once between emptying the diaper and dipping it in the toilet bowl, and I was using only a quarter bottle of Purell after each changing.

Then, just as I was about to live happily ever after, I put the cloth diapering on hold. A mom told me I had to try gDiapers.

The gDiaper is what might result if cloth diapers and disposable diapers had unprotected sex. The outside looks like the good kind of cloth diaper. It’s made of cotton and closes with Velcro tabs. On the inside is a disposable white pad that you replace, just like a disposable. But gDiaper pads differ from traditional disposables in one key way: You can flush them down the toilet.
At first this struck me as a simple and brilliant solution to the diaper dilemma. But simple solutions are rarely what they seem. My gDiaper starter kit came with an instructional pamphlet that offered tips for successful flushing of the disposable pads. “Know Thy Toilet,” the pamphlet commanded. To avoid clogging, you have to tear off the edges of the insulated pad, empty the contents into the toilet, and then break up the floating pad with the white “swishstick” that comes with the starter kit — along with two cloth outsides and 10 pads.

…Unlike traditional disposables, the gDiaper pads have no plastic and are biodegradable.

Do Cloth Diapers Really Help the Environment?
My experiment was over. Was I ready to give up disposables?

Before making a decision, I wanted to learn more about how diaper use impacts global warming.
The cloth-versus-disposable debate has been raging for decades, but, for the moment at least, the disposable appears to have the upper hand. In 2004, the quasi-government British Environmental Agency concluded a four-year study of the environmental impact of cloth and disposable diapers and found that all the energy used in washing and drying cloth diapers makes them equally damaging. The study’s findings were in line with a 1992 study sponsored by Procter & Gamble, maker of Pampers. But unlike Procter & Gamble, the British Environmental Agency did not have an obvious incentive to promote disposable diapers. On the contrary, the study came as an embarrassment to the government, which was in the midst of a multimillion-dollar campaign to promote cloth nappies.

Cloth-diaper advocates have responded that the study was flawed and that it used only a small sample size. And there is little doubt that the debate will continue. But reading about the British study was enough to suck the life out of my enthusiasm for cloth.

The verdict in the case of cloth versus disposables might not yet be in, but there is no question that using cloth diapers can take up a big part of your life. And while I think it’s extremely important to make sacrifices for the environment, I need to be sure that my sacrifices are making a difference.

Cloth vs. Disposable Pros and Cons

Cost and Estimated Time Spent: 20 to 25 cents per diaper; 2 minutes per diaper.
Pros: Most time-efficient, no toilet contact. No laundry!
Cons: More expensive than cloth, ends up in landfills, environmentally unfriendly.

Cost and Estimated Time Spent: 37 cents for replaceable pads, plus $27 for starter kit with two cloth outsides; 4 minutes per diaper.
Pros: Possibly the most environmentally friendly.
Cons: Most expensive, requires swishing in toilet, and poses plumbing risks.

Cloth (Dish towel-style)
Cost and Estimated Time Spent: $1.25 per diaper; 9 minutes per diaper (including wash-and-dry time).
Pros: Saves money in long run.
Cons: Difficult to put on, still impacts environment, looks like a dish towel.

Good Cloth
Cost and Estimated Time Spent: $15 per diaper; 10 minutes per diaper (including wash-and-dry time).
Pros: Saves money in long run, soft cotton feel and bright colors.
Cons: Lots of time in the laundry room, still hurts the environment.

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Elizabeth Ruth

Elizabeth is a children's book author and designer of knit and crochet character hats under the brand The Ruthless Crafter. In her spare time she loves to read, watch movies, spend time with her family, and swim. She lives a full, happy life in Kitchener, Ontario with her husband and their two children.

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1 Comment

  1. Well, what about washing the diapers by hand?
    What do you think people used to do back in the day anyways? We find ways to complicate ourselves and damage our environment at the same time.

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