Cloth Diaper Objections: Laundry

For the last week I have taken a little social network hiatus and instead focused my efforts on getting my house decorated. I have spent hours scouring Etsy looking for treasures, now I just need then to come in the mail!

In the meantime, my diapers arrived and I’m super excited to start posting about them, but I wanted to continue my objections series first by talking about laundry.

If you plan to cloth diaper using fittteds, AIO’s, or pocket diapers (in other words anything other than prefolds), you will mist likely be washing your own.  To my knowledge, diaper services pretty much stick to prefolds.  For many of us, keeping up on laundry is hard enough without the added loads if diapers to deal with.  And, many people will add to the workload concern by pointing out that more laundry = more water and energy usage…doesn’t that make the whole thing less green?

Here is my take on the two part laundry objection:

First of all, many a cloth diapering mama will attest to the fact that there is some perverse pleasure to be found in washing cloth diapers.  For me, it is an opportunity to play with and admire my collection.  It reminds me of being a little girl, when I used to spend hours just counting and sorting and organizing My Little Ponys or Pound Puppies.  This magic has faded slightly over 18 months of diapering, but I still find calm and zen in dealing with a big basket of soft clean diapers–very different from folding a load of shirts, socks and underwear.

Now for the question of resource consumption.  I do know people who have decided against cloth because of this concern.  I think it is an idea that was planted in the world by the makers of disposable diapers, because there is no way that footprint on the planet created by buying, washing, and reusing cloth diapers comes close to that of manufacturing, distributing, selling, and throwing a way a disposable diaper.

Here is a very unscientific analysis of the life of a cloth diaper and it’s affect on the planet:  It is sewn from materials generally made from cotton, hemp, or bamboo and sometimes polyester, depending on the diaper.  Most diapers were created by moms, and many are still sewn by them. Then they might get shipped to a retailer, or they are drop shipped from the maker to the consumer directly. The diaper is then washed, dried and reused 2-3 times a week, for about a thousand hours of use (3 hours per wear, 3 times a week, for 2.5 years) over the course of it’s existence   The big environmental issues are 1- shipping, 2- water use, 3- energy use (to heat the water and run the dryer).

For now let’s focus on the water and energy.  Keep in mind that diapering is temporary.  For 2 years, you will increase water and energy consumption as they relate to diapers.  I do two loads of diaper laundry per week.  I have not noticed an increase in my utility cost.  I offset this increased use by reducing water and electricity in other areas.  I have a low maintenance backyard that can sustain on rain alone for most of the summer. I only run my dishwasher when it is full. I discriminate regular laundry and try not to wash what isn’t dirty. I take fewer and shorter showers.  I unplug my electric toothbrush, iPhone, and other gadgets if they are not actively charging.  I use CFL bulbs.  You get the point.  These are changes that I have made that I will continue well beyond our diapering years.

Now for the life of a sposie:  it is mass manufactured from paper, plastic and chemicals at a factory that produces large amounts of carbon dioxide.  It is then packaged into a cardboard box or plastic bag by a machine, loaded into a diesel truck, and shipped across the country to your grocery store, where you drive your SUV or Minivan at least once a week.  You buy it and drive it home, then use it once for 4 hours (you can go longer in a sposie thanks to the mystery chemicals), then shrink wrap it in plastic to hide it’s odor while you wait for the massive diesel fueled trash trucks to come haul it away to a landfill where it will sit until our grandchildren find something resourceful to do with all that trash.  And this all gets repeated every 1-2 weeks for 2.5 years.

Am I using more water? Yes. When my son is potty trained, I will have contributed 0 diapers to landfills rather than the 2500 that the average child uses.  And even better, I can use the same diapers for another child or sell them to a friend!!

– Blogging from my iPhone


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