When I decided to commit to cloth diapering my daughter, I did a lot of research. But ultimately I had to assess my own budget and make my own choices. Fortunately, I took advantage of the baby registry on Cottonbabies.com. (Many other cloth diaper websites also have such registries. You can also get a limited selection of cloth diapers from the Target website, but only on the website not in the store. Amazon.com also carries a good selection of Thirsties products.). As a result, some family and friends chose to purchase me cloth diapers instead of baby clothes or baby gear. I was ecstatic. While that means that I personally have spent less on cloth diapers than the cost of my current stash, keep in mind that most people receive at least some disposable diapers at their showers. One of the trends in office baby showers is to simply hold a diaper shower. If these were done with cloth diapers, maybe a lot more women would use cloth diapers.
One of the major intimidation factors to using cloth diapers can be the initial start-up cost. As I said, there are many budget friendly options. But obviously you buy disposables a little bit each week or two. Most people don’t realize how much they actually spend on diapers because it gets buried in the monthly grocery budget. I started keeping an Excel spreadsheet of how much we had spent on cloth diapers as well as a list of what we already had and what I had still hoped to buy. To date, my husband and I have spent approximately $600. Now that does not include diapers we have been given, including a very generous gift from my father-in-law and step-mother-in-law, of 6 bumGenius One Size pocket diapers. We could have managed without these, but they are very nice for using when go out of the house. As a result, we have almost completely stopped using disposables. I keep a couple in the car in case of emergency, but other than that we pretty much gave them up altogether. Now we only buy them when we travel. Many people use cloth diapers when they travel. Unfortunately, we don’t have a large enough system to go an entire three-day weekend without washing diapers, and when we go on vacation this summer I would like to get the time off from doing laundry as well. However, I have to make sure to add a week of disposable diapers into the budget for our vacation.
So I buy disposables in a small to medium size pack three or four times a year. Yep, that’s it! It kills me every time I do because I feel like I’ve flushing my money directly down the toilet. Ironic, considering I wish the diapers were biodegradable enough to do that with. When I spent $20 on disposables, I think of what $20 could buy of reusable cloth diapers. I could buy an all-in-one or pocket diaper, two of my favorite covers (if I got them on sale), or a cover and a handful of prefolds. Those items would be reused for months and possibly years to come, but at the end of my vacation those disposables are gone forever. Again, ironic because while my $20 is now gone, those disposable diapers and the perfectly preserved feces in them, will be sitting in a landfill for at least a few centuries. (Most people ignore the part on the disposable diaper packaging where it instructs the user to dump all solid waste in the toilet before disposing of the diaper). So I guess the term disposable is a bit of a misnomer. Perhaps the term waste diaper is preferable. Just as the term cloth diapers is being replaced with the term reusable diapers.
Whenever I discuss the environmental impact of disposable diapers people are quick to remind me that cloth diapers have to be washed and that those cloth diapers are made of cotton and synthetic fibers which must be grown or manufactured, using valuable environmental resources and potentially causing pollutants to be released. However, my daughter’s cloth diapers are made of many of the same materials as her clothing. Yet no one has proposed that I replace her wardrobe with a collection of paper and plastic disposable jumpsuits (though during the spit up months there are times that would have been simpler). Our dishes and silverware are made up of resources that have been manufactured or mined from the earth and then transformed into the items we eat off of, using valuable environmental resources and potentially causing pollutants to be released. But no one has suggested that it is environmentally preferable for everyone to use all disposable plates and eating utensils. In fact, I keep reading articles about how much better it would be for the environment if we would all use reusable water bottles and bring our own utensils to work instead of getting the plastic ones that come with take-out. If washable, reusable clothing and dishes are preferable why not reusable cloth diapers? Obviously there are ways to make cloth diapers even more environmentally friendly (organic cotton prefolds that don’t use pesticides in the growing process, high-efficiency washers and outdoor clothes lines) but the same could be said of washing your dishes and clothes. These same considerations make cloth diapers cheaper than disposables just as washing your dishes is cheaper than always using disposable plates and utensils. No one argues that it’s cheaper to buy new dishes and utensils than to run your dishwasher do they?
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