The Environmental Impact of Diapers
Disposable diapers are a mom's best friend and one of the Earth's worst enemies. According to the Clean Air Council, Americans throw away 49 million diapers per day. In fact, they account for two percent of the garbage generated in the U.S. "Diapers are one of the largest contributors to landfills," explains Sara Snow, natural and green living expert and author of Fresh Living: The Essential Room-by-Room Guide to a Greener, Healthier Family and Home. "And we don't really know how long it takes for them to decompose."
In addition, The Real Diaper Association says that disposable diapers contain ingredients that could harm animals, humans and the environment. They contain polyethylene, petroleum, wood pulp, gelling material, perfume and polypropylene, as well as non-renewable, petroleum-based ingredients. And the simple of act of making a disposable diaper releases dioxin into the environment, a toxin that has been linked to cancer and found to pose a threat to developing fetuses.
Bad for Baby?
Along with the environmental impact, disposable diapers are believed to pose a danger to baby's health. Many brands contain chlorine, a harsh chemical that can cause skin irritations and rash. Research also shows that if a person is exposed to it over long periods of time, chlorine can lead to cancer. Disposable diapers also contain latex, perfumes and dyes that can cause allergic reactions.
A study by the University of Kiel indicated that the reduced breathability of disposables may create a raised temperature inside the diaper that is unhealthy for male babies. And many experts believe the stay-dry comfort of disposables makes it harder to potty train toddlers.
And let's not forget the cost: Disposable diapers cost an average of $4,000 per child over a two-year period. But while cloth diapers are cheaper and more eco-friendly, they simply aren't a viable option for everyone. "Cloth is more work," says Snow. "Luckily, there are a number of 'green' products on the market that are healthier for the environment and for your baby."
Some eco-friendly diaper options
When eco-friendly diapers first hit the market, many parents complained about leakage. But they've come a long way, and today's options are not only chlorine-, latex- and dye-free, but they also keep baby dry. Some of the more popular brands include:
Earth's Best Organic: These diapers -- available in seven sizes -- are made from non-chlorine bleached materials and contain natural absorbent material such as corn and wheat. It's also made with fewer petro-chemicals, and has breathable sides, a moisture barrier cuff and refastenable tabs. (earthsbest.com)
Whole Food's 365 Everyday Diapers: With absorbency gel made from a non-toxic, super absorbent polymer, these diapers are sure to protect against leaks. (At your local Whole Foods stores)
Nature BabyCare: The surface of each diaper is covered with a film made from natural maize, and is made from 70% natural materials. (ecofriendlybabies.com)
Seventh Generation: These are made from chlorine-free wood pulp and nontoxic absorbent gel. They're also latex- and perfume-free, as well as hypoallergenic. (seventhgeneration.com)
Tushies: Tushies is the only baby disposable diaper that contains real cotton and was created for babies with sensitive skin. (Amazon.com)
Broody Chick 100% Natural Fully Compostable Diapers: Broody Chick products contain only natural, fully compostable material from annually renewable resources, with 90% reduction in greenhouse gases. (Amazon.com)
Don't forget the "extras"
Finding the right diaper is important, but you'll also want to choose wipes, ointments and powders that don't contain harmful chemicals. Here are a few options:
Bum Boosa Baby Wipes: These gentle wipes are 100% biodegradable and made from bamboo and natural essential oils. Bum Boosa also plants a tree for every package of its 80-count wipes sold. (abesmarket.com)
Seventh Generation Baby Wipes: These chlorine- and alcohol-free baby wipes contain a cleansing agent that is gentle on baby's tender skin. (seventhgeneration.com)
California Baby Calming Diaper Rash Cream: This all-natural, food-grade diaper rash cream includes ingredients such as ultra-purified lanolin, organic tea tree, aloe vera and French lavender, which is known for its soothing and healing properties. (californiababy.com)
Baby Bee Diaper Ointment: This diaper ointment nourishes baby's skin with vitamins A and E, and also moisturizes and soothes with chamomile. It's phthalate- and paraben-free. (burtsbees.com)
Angel Baby Bottom Balm: This vegan ointment helps treat and prevent diaper rash with all-natural ingredients. (earthmamaangelbaby.com)
Fruit of the Womb Baby Powder: This all-natural powder (no talc, of course) contains anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial extracts, along with chamomile and lavender for healing and calming skin. (pristineplanet.com)
Dispose wisely at home...
When it comes to getting rid of a dirty diaper, opt for a pail that is environmentally sound and functional at the same time. The Mother-Ease Diaper Pail is made of recycled plastic. It has a natural odor control system that uses a carbon filter and basic air flow, which also helps make sure that diapers don't mold or create unwanted moisture in the pail ($49.95 at motherease.com).
Snow points out you can also use any recycled trash can and simply buy a reusable liner for it. Kissaluvs' Antibacterial Pail Liner is made from a high quality PUL (poly urethane laminate) fabric with a special anti-microbial effect. It provides non- wicking, bacteria-free and odor-control storage, and best of all, when it needs to be cleaned you simply throw it in the washer/dryer ($14.95 at thestorkwearhouse.com).
...And on the go
When you're out and about, Munckin's Wet Bag easily stores dirty diapers, clothes and more. It can take the place of plastic bags (eliminating waste and ultimately being more eco-friendly). The fashionable and brightly colored bag features an outside mesh pocket to hold diapers, a wipe case or a clean set of clothing ($9.99 at Babies R Us). Planet Wise also offers a hanging wet/dry bag with a main pocket lined in waterproof material that is sewn and sealed for no wicking or leaking. A zippered dry pocket on the front holds your clean and dry diapers or clothes ($29.95; thestorkwearhouse.com).
If you'd like a bag you can dispose of right away, Nature BabyCare offers diaper disposal bags that are 100% compostable and biodegradable ($3.99 at diapers.com)
Changing Pads and Mats
The Shades of Green Eco-Friendly Contour Changing Pad is made with Earth-renewable plant material and has a wet proof damask cloth cover ($39; babycatalog.com). The Oeuf Eco-Friendly Changing Pad is also made of Earth-friendly foam ($52; spunkysprout.com).
When you're traveling, Patemm's new waterproof pads are laminated cotton and PVC/lead/BPA/formaldehyde-free. And the super soft 100 percent organic cotton pads are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standards. ($55 to $88; patemm.com). The Lassig Wrap to Go Portable Changing Mat is made of polyester and comes in a variety of colors ($27; Amazon.com)
Carry in style
Complete your eco-friendly diapering experience by hauling your loot in a "green" diaper bag. Lassig prides itself on using only safe, environmentally friendly materials -- no PVC, no nickel, and no AZO dyes, no cadmium, or phthalates. Its Classic Messenger Bag offers lots of storage, and also comes with an eco-friendly changing mat, stroller hooks and removable bottle holder (Starting at $70; Amazon.com).
Fleurville also offers a waterproof, PVC-free bag ($165 at BunnyburyBaby.com), while Zoe B Organic has one made out of recycled plastic bottle fabric (trust us, it's cute!). Available in chocolate, black or olive, the bag also comes with a changing pad and wipe case ($75 at zoeborganictrade.com).
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.