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Green decisions on diapering

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Eco-conscious bums

Disposable diapers have changed a lot in the past years. Gone are the shiny plastic exteriors that ripped when you removed the sticky tabs. These days, many are made from a breathable cloth-like material that keeps wetness trapped and away from the outside, and your baby's bum. But are they the most environmentally friendly? Likewise, cloth diapering has changed a lot too. Gone are the days of diaper pins and shapeless, leaking prefolds. But are they the most environmentally friendly?

Mother holding newborn wrapped in green blanket.


Few things in life can generate as much trash as diapering a baby. Have you ever gone through three diapers in less than 10 minutes thanks to an overzealous infant? If you answered no, then you either aren't a parent or need to spend more time pitching in with baby diapering.

As someone trying to leave a smaller carbon footprint on the Earth, the amount of trash that diapering two kids creates has come to worry me. But what's the best option?

Organic diapers

Concerned about chemicals that might be in the most popular disposables? No problem. Brands like Seventh Generation and Tushies make all-natural, biodegradable diapers so that even baby's heiny can be sitting green and happy. Other brands are made with biodegradable materials like corn starch.

Cloth diapers

If you do decide that cloth diapering is something you can handle, then it will save you a boatload. Think about this: if you switched one disposable diaper for a cloth diaper each day for a year, you would save over $75. Imagine how that adds up once you switch all of your diapers to cloth. According to Peppermint.com's natural parenting expert Marni Matyus, a family could save more than $2,000 by cloth diapering.

Which is right for you?

Some experts say that for the greenest living, you should choose cloth diapers.
"The better choices are cloth diapers.Yes, it takes water to wash cloth diapers, but they have more long-lasting use, at the end of their life they can be used as cleaning rags, be recycled by a clothing/fabric recycler, or will biodegrade if thrown away (so long as you are using cotton diapers). Cloth diapering can save you more than half the cost of disposables. And today's cloth diapers are not like what your mother or grandma used, they are actually quite convenient -- and convenience is certainly important and understandable," says Terra Wellington, author of The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home.

But while the greenest move is to cloth diaper, you can still be green with disposables too. The bottom line (ha!) is that it comes down to your preferences -- and the idea of cloth diapering simply isn't for everyone. Whereas you can fold a disposable diaper up in a neat package and toss it, not so with cloth diapers."Cloth diapers can definitely be for everyone, but not everyone has the right situation to cloth diaper. Sometimes family circumstances are such that won't allow for cloth diapering," said Stephanie White of Z Bear Diapers.

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