Babies Equal Garbage?

babyOk, this is it, I’m a declaring to the world that when I have kids, they will be using cloth diapers the majority of the time.  And you can hold me to it.

What else in the western world creates such volumes of consumer level garbage?  What else makes your garbage smell that fricking bad? Except disposable diapers.

Not that I haven’t been aware of this for awhile, but last weekend, I had occasion to have a few disposable diapers left in my garbage bin, and let me tell you, if I had a garbage bin that smelled like that during the garbage strike, you betcha that I’d be pretty irate.  I’m starting to sympathize with those parents who resorted to dumping their trash in public parks just to get it off their property. . . .

But the truth is (and I don’t want to rant too much, because I know that I can’t possibly relate to the fatigue a new parent undergoes -Grant and I have both commented that a single afternoon is possibly the most exhausting activity known to man) I strongly believe that babies don’t have to equal garbage.

They don’t have to mean buying a ton of plastic crap and generating copious amounts of landfill waste.  They don’t have to mean disposable diapers.

But the very fact that we don’t have kids is what commonly gets put to us in retaliation of our Clean Bin Project.  “Well, you don’t have kids,” people say, “so it’s easier for you”. “You couldn’t do the project with kids”

Part of this is very true.  We don’t have kids.  And that is why we are in no position to tell anyone who does have children that they could produce less garbage.  And that is why, dear readers, I’m about to point you to some amazing waste-free families that do have kids, and you can take their word for it.

1. My Zero Waste.  Little Miss Green is all of 8, and is one of the most environmentally conscious kids I’ve ever seen.

2. No Impact Man. Colin Beavan, his wife, and his then 2-year-old daughter Isabella lived for a full year producing next to zero garbage, eating local, using no gasoline powered vehicles, forgoing elevators, and doing pretty much every other eco-friendly thing you can think of.

3. Say No to Trash.  This couple started blogging about living waste-free and then got pregnant and decided to continue their lifestyle, baby and all.  They aren’t as focused on zero-waste as they used to be, but I guarantee they still produce less landfill than most of us.

4. Greeen Sheeep. She’s a step mom who has the kids part time, but that makes it even more interesting as they go between a “regular” consumeristic household and one that is striving to be greener

5. Family on a Bike. Ok, these people have nothing to do with zero waste, but they do go on extended bicycle tours (I’m talking weeks of camping) with three kids (count em, 3) in tow via trailers and tandem bikes.  If nothing else, they prove to me that you can do anything you want with your kids, not in spite of them.

And these are just the ones I read regularly!  Check out the Green Mom’s Carnival for more eco-families.  And for those with kidlets, take heart: you too can reduce the contents of your garbage bin.  I’m rooting for you.

(and if this all sounds too preachy, then you can laugh in my face when I eat my words and end up swaddling my child in plastic diapers and feeding them instant milk shakes and tv dinners.)



Filed under Around the house

13 responses to “Babies Equal Garbage?

  1. Hehe – brilliant post. I love your honesty and your public pledge too and thank you so much for your mention of Little Miss Green; she will be honoured. As soon as she gets back in from rescuing caterpillars (sigh) I’ll let her read it.

    Now, is this the point at which I tell you we didn’t switch to reusable nappies until LMG was nearly toilet trained?
    No, probably not ….

    You are going to make awesome parents because you have so much awareness and I really know in my heart that you will stick to what you have said here. All power to you…

  2. You are very right. I admit I am a parent that doesn’t take the time to learn a new alternative to disposable diapers. As a single dad, my schedule is out of control, and diapers are not on top of my priority list. It should be because you are right, when you start pile up them diapers, you realize how much waste an innocent baby is generating already. Polluter-born right off the bat!

  3. Uncle Keith

    Good points. We used cloth “nappies” for our kids in the early 70s, but we could hang them out on a line to freshen up while drying (after they were washed!). Of course, washing them also uses resources and pollutes the environment a bit too I guess. I think we used disposables when travelling.

    Also, folding the cloth ones is not easy. You, Jen, could manage it but I wonder about Grant? Just kidding, but those pins can ready hurt when the kid wriggles!


  4. janet

    Cloth diapers are super easy . They are prefolded (and sewn) With velcro diaper covers you don’t need to use pins. If you don’t have a washer and dryer (I didn’t- with all 3 kids) the diaper service is great. A bargain.

  5. Juliette

    Our daughter was born 4 years ago. We switched to cloth diapers (no folding or pinning here – the new ones don’t require that, although they’re not as cheap) at some point in her first year, and at that point, and used cloth wipes too – our garbage went down to our pre-baby level. Our second baby is due in February and I’m currently buying gently used cloth diapers for this one – cheaper and makes so much sense.

    Cloth diapers are also far cheaper across the timeframe of 2-3 years than are disposables… and toddlers who can talk who have been exposed to cloth vs disposables will often ask for the “soft diapers”.

  6. Peter

    Yes, we have tried to do all of this, but the bottom line is that babies in Western culture are huge drain on environmental resources. It is virtually impossible to slow the tide of plastic crap given to children by well meaning individuals. Sure, cloth diapers are great, but wait till you see how many loads of laundry a child requires. How do you eat locally when your child only wants to eat banana and avocado (personal experience). Try keeping the compact car with any more than one child. Ok, bike trailers are great, but on Canada’s inhospitable roads? Why do we bother with (large plastic) car seats, and then take our kids out on the same highways in an aluminum and nylon death trap? Bottom line in my view is that environmental idealism takes a big hit once you have children. A question many should ask (albeit politically charged) is how many kids they should have if they care about the footprint they leave on the earth

    • Thanks for all your comments – especially the those who are sharing their positive cloth diaper experiences. Keith, you are definitely right about cloth diapers taking extra water. Maybe I would have a different view if I lived in a water-thirsty area. A lot of my friend have also said that they use disposables when traveling for the convenience factor – definitely understandable. I heard some day cares won’t let kids in with fabric ones because they don’t want to be responsible for them.

      And Peter, you’re right, diapers are just a small part of the consumerism problem facing new parents. It’s kind of like cloth bags though. It’s a small step, but it has big visual appeal. You definitely brought up some concepts to think about.

      • Juliette

        From what I’ve read, the water it takes to wash cloth in an HE machine is roughly equal to the water it takes to manufacture the same number of disposables (something close to that anyway). And that that same amount of water is roughly the same as the water that child will consume using a toilet later in life.

        It’s true – you bring another person into the world and you create more garbage. But you can definitely reduce it by using cloth, breastfeeding if at all possible for as long as possible, and pleading with relatives to check with you before buying crap (losing battle, but worth fighting anyway…).

  7. nicole

    I LOVE this post – I have been following your posts and never responded before, but I am 100% in agreement with you here. My kids are now 5 and 7 and I used cloth diapers with both of them. The new ones work just like disposables, except you rinse them and wash them instead of throwing them out. Once you get in the habit, it’s no big deal. I did feel like a bit of a freak, pulling them out of my bag with other moms around – it’s certainly not the norm!! Totally agree about trying to get people (esp. grandparents) to stop buying things for the kids – definitely a losing battle! Thanks so much for all you are doing, I’ve been so inspired.

  8. Tara

    As a mom of twin 1 year old baby boys, I can assure you it is not that hard to do cloth diapers. When they were first home from the hospital, being premature and tiny, we had to use disposables for a while. We went from barely a bag of garbage every 2 weeks to 2 bags. It really sickened us to see that we were sending that much to the dump. Eventually they were ready to wear liners and covers, and then full on cloth diapers, and we never looked back. Lets face it laundry really isn’t that difficult. What do we really have to whine about, since the washing machine was invented? It may take extra water to wash them, but I can’t see how the extra water impacts the environment as much as producing, distributing and disposing of disposables. It may be a solution with flaws but its a better solution that plastic disposables. The new “green” disposables are just a green wash, they are not biodegradable/compostable as the poor people that buried them in their garden have discovered. Buy gently used and you are really saving money and consuming less. Choosing a brand is totally overwhelming, but ask around lots of moms have tried them all and they know what works best. Cloth is the only environmentally friendly option right now, unless you are really daring and use the no diaper option. Loved the project and can’t wait to see your movie.

  9. Susan

    My two daughters were in cloth diapers and it really wasn’t a big deal getting in the habit of laundering them. I am a busy working professional, but the “convenience” of disposables did not lure me. I couldn’t stomach the idea of the resource waste or the cost.

    It certainly helps that we live in an area where electricity is cheap and water is plentiful and that my daughters’ daycare accommodates cloth diapers; I provided a dry bag (the kind used for kayaking/sailing trips) to store the dirty diapers in.

    I understand that there are challenges to using cloth diapers; e.g. living in a walk-up apartment where you have to use coin-operated machines or a laundromat; or multiple kids in diapers; or the “ick” factor. I think that local governments should offer incentives for people to use cloth and keep disposables out of the landfill/incinerator.

  10. Jixi

    I also wanted to point out one more option to the disposable and cloth debate…Infant Pottying.

    I encourage anyone who is open minded, to read up on it on this website.

    I personally didnt know about it until just recently, and have already had two boys who pooped up a mountain in disposables. My friend who just had a home birth a few days ago is now doing it with her newborn. yes i said NEWBORN. Its amazing for the environment and much more kind and gentle for your child. Its something I will be commited to for my future children.

  11. One thing people never talk about is buying the covers for cloth diapers… That’s where this site comes in handy… for sure! 😉

    ~ Sarah

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