Monday, February 15, 2010

Cloth Diapers, Water Conservation, and You

There are so many arguments for whether cloth diapers are really better for the environment than disposables. One of the topics of argument is water usage. It’s no secret that cloth diapers require water usage to launder them. The amount of water used depends on you.

Chances are that if you are considering using cloth diapers (or already use cloth diapers) you are also concerned about the environment. You are probably the type of person who has installed a low-flow showerhead and replaced your toilet with a more water efficient model. You probably don’t soak in a nice hot bath every night or run your sprinklers during the local water ban. So when people argue with you over the amount of water you use to wash your diapers keep that in mind.

Have there been studies that show the actual water usage of both cloth diapers and disposables? Yes and no. The research is very limited and some would say that it is flawed (funded by the disposable diaper companies). Regardless of what the research shows with respect to water usage, water is not the only resource in question.

Disposable diapers use wood and oil in manufacturing and distribution alone. Did you know that to manufacture enough diapers for one baby for a year that over 300 lbs. of wood, 50 lbs. of petroleum, and 20 lbs. of chlorine are used? Forests of trees are being destroyed and our nation’s oil resources are being depleted at a greater rate because of disposable diapers. Keep in mind that oil is not a renewable resource and that while it is a natural resource we are consuming it at a faster rate than nature can reproduce it. Water on the other hand is a renewable resource and makes up 70% of the Earths surface. That’s a lot of water. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t conserve water.

 5 simple ways to conserve water while using cloth diapers:
  1. If you are exclusively breastfeeding there is no need to rinse the poop before you wash.
  2. Using a flushable liner will make it easier to remove most solids without rinsing.
  3. Use the correct type and amount of detergent to avoid soap buildup on your diapers.
  4. Wash only a full load of diapers (and a full load is only about 20 diapers). Don’t overstuff the washer or the diapers won’t get as clean.
  5. Use Soft Bums brand cloth diapers with the snap in inserts. Since you can reuse the outer cover 2-3 times you will have fewer diapers to wash on laundry day.
So how do you conserve water at home? What do you say when a naysayer tells you that cloth diapers waste water?

This is a guest post by Calley Pate, author and owner of The Eco Chic blog. Calley is an environmental consultant by profession and eco-blogger by hobby. She has been cloth diapering her daughter for one year. StumbleUpon
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  1. I tell them that it takes alot of other resources to make disposables too. they don't just appear out of nowhere! lol. I just say that its worth it to me to save money and save having thousands of disposables in the landfills. Plus it saves my own gas that i don't have to run to the grocery store all the time! And I just read an article on the chemicals in disposable diapers and links to infertility.

  2. I always tell them that it's just a few more loads of laundry each week. I may use a few more gallons of water each week due to my daughter's diapers but we don't contribute to waste in landfills and I refuse to put those toxic chemicals next to my daughter's sensitive skin. Most people don't realize or think about the other resources we consume when disposables are used. They're always surprised when I inform them.