Alibi V.24 No.17 • April 23-29, 2015 

Feature

Diaperin’ Ain’t Easy

Can new parents go green without going broke or losing their minds?

Like most of us who grew up in the early ’80s, I was raised in a household that ate pork chops four nights out of the week, did not recycle and had no problem with soda, sugared cereal and television. My parents, both employed by the US Postal Service, worked hard, were humble and did the best they could to raise two daughters well. As my husband and I plan for our first child, it’s hard not to compare our experiences as children with what we want for our own little one. Luckily for us, we agree on pretty much everything that we’ve thought about so far. Television is perfectly fine in moderation, so long as we are helping our children decide how they feel and think about the things they are watching. Sugar is seemingly inevitable, but we will try to avoid high fructose corn syrup. Recycling? Duh. Still, there are about a million things we have no idea how we’re going to do, and trying to be more “green” is one of them.

On the list of things we don’t want to screw up is diapers. The argument against disposable diapers is pretty irrefutable. You throw a bunch of literal shit stuck to non-biodegradable material into the Earth, and it sticks around and eventually kills polar bears. So the natural alternative is cloth diapering, right? We talked to several friends who, uh, attempted cloth diapering. One friend had a bumGenius Diaper Sprayer, a diaper pick up service and one child to care for. Even with those luxuries, they still struggled to keep everything together and organized, and when baby number two was born, they wound up going with disposables. Another friend tried cloth diapers, but without a diaper service. Working full time, she found the upkeep and unending laundry difficult to maintain on her own. In fact, every single person I initially talked to about cloth diapering confessed that in spite of wanting to make an ecologically sound decision, the demands of everyday life were too overwhelming to add cloth diapering full time.

Researching cloth diapering is like falling into a k-hole. There are about a million choices, and for first-time parents it requires a lot of planning and research to get an idea for which type of cloth diaper you might want. Hemp is an environmentally friendly material that boasts antifungal and antibacterial properties. It’s also said to absorb liquid well, and it’s breathable, helping prevent diaper rash. Some say that hemp is a more sustainable option than cotton because it requires less land surface to harvest than cotton and uses fewer pesticides as well. Both are goood options, and when hemp and something like cotton are combined, it creates a strong, long-lasting product.

Still, there are about a million things we have no idea how we’re going to do, and trying to be more “green” is one of them.

When we set out to find locally owned Albuquerque companies that sold the products we needed, we found that there were none. The businesses we tried to visit had either gone under or didn’t offer the products we were looking for. There is, however, a local cloth diapering company, Rio Grande Diaper Service. They provide you with 70 cotton diapers a week, a pale, pale liners, and they launder your soiled diapers. Their service is $95 a month and a viable option if what you’re looking for is 100-percent cotton cloth diapers and you’re comfortable with a weekly cleaning schedule. But because we were pretty set on hemp/cotton blends and worried our dogs would be disgustingly interested in soiled diapers sitting in a hamper for a week, we unfortunately were forced to use Amazon as our baby-diaper-buying-mecca.

When my husband and I looked for affordable hemp/cotton blend cloth diapers online, we had a very hard time finding anything for under $17 a diaper. If the average baby requires anywhere from 8-14 diapers a day, we would need $308 at the absolute, bare minimum. Most experts advise getting an “extra supply” of cloth diapers for emergencies. We added six extras, raising the minimum to $410. This amount doesn’t take into consideration your baby requiring a larger-sized diaper as she/he grows. For now, we just focused on the first three months. We would need the following additional things to make cloth diapering possible for us:

Diaper Sprayer ($69.99 bumGenius, Amazon)

Hemp/cotton safe detergent needed for three months’ worth of diapers ($31.98 Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder)

Diaper “covers,” which our parenting friends highly recommended to avoid blowouts ($7-$16 per cover X 8 covers, anywhere from $56-$128, kellyscloset.com)

Horrified, we started thinking of less expensive alternatives. What about biodegradable disposables?

Wet bags for dirty diapers. Because you won’t be able to do laundry on demand, you’ll need to secure an odor-resistant receptacle to store soiled diapers until you are able to wash them (averaged around $30, Amazon, diaperjunction.com).

When it’s all said and done, it would cost us roughly $669.97 to have cloth diapers for three months, and this total isn’t even taking into account eco-friendly baby wipes or ointments.

Horrified, we started thinking of less expensive alternatives. What about biodegradable disposables? They have to be cheaper than cloth diapering, while still being a sustainable option. Ugh. Not really. After reading review after review after review, it seemed the best, 100-percent compostable, disposable diaper was made by Broody Chick, one of the more expensive brands. Reviewers agreed that the diapers were both absorbent and avoided leaks.

So what exactly is a disposable, compostable diaper? Broody Chick describes their diapers as “Chlorine free, G.E. Free, hypo-allergenic and fragrance free.” But finding a list of what they’re made of isn’t easy. Gimmethegoodstuff.org claims Broody Chick diapers are made from wood pulp and a “plant-based gel.” The word compostable is ... optimistic. Are Broody Chick diapers compostable? Yes. What does that actually mean? It’s tricky. You can only compost diapers with urine, never poopy diapers. And if you are planning to begin composting for the purpose of using compostable diapers, it, of course, is not an inexpensive nor necessarily easy task to embark on. Still, it is very worth the environmental benefits composting offers. But what do you do with the poopy diapers? Throw them away. And we know that anything that ends up at a landfill does not biodegrade because it is too tightly filled for the natural process of biodegradation to happen. Some companies offer “flushable,” compostable diapers, but plumbers might disagree.

Broody Chick Infant Diapers 32-count ($15.99, Amazon) If we need roughly 1,302 diapers over the span of three months, we would need 40 packages of the 32 count boxes. Totaling $639 for the first three months.

Okay, so realizing that 100-percent compostable diapers cost more than cloth diapering, and both cost over $500 just to start, we were pretty dispirited and ready to pull out the polar-bear-killers and start parenting! But like a light in the dark or a cool summer breeze, we found gDiapers. GDiapers are a hybrid of cloth and disposable diapering. You buy the exterior cloth, or “gPants,” separately from the 100-percent-compostable, toilet-flushable inserts. This is how much it costs:

gDiaper infant insert 105 count ($34.92, Amazon) x 12.4 comes to about $433

6-8 gPants for full-time diapering ($72.99, Target.com)

This makes the total for gDiapering $505, second only to Rio Grande Diaper Service in affordability.

GDiapers offer a less expensive way of making an ecologically sustainable choice, while also being the least expensive compostable diapering system we could find.

Just to break our own hearts, we looked into Target brand newborn diapers. At $19.99 for a 108-count box, it would only cost us $199 for the first three months of diapering.

For many of us, we just want to raise a well-rounded kid who cares about other people and does something meaningful with their lives. Part of raising children is teaching them how large the world is. That just because something is easy for us doesn’t mean it’s easy for others. That everything we throw away ends up somewhere. That we can leave things better or worse than the way we found them. And that just like the diaper dilemma, we sometimes have to choose our battles.