Monday, 11 April 2011


To all of those out there that are wondering how to deal with diapers in an eco-friendly yet mentally sustainable way, you are not alone.  The cloth vs. disposable debate dates back to the creation of the first disposable diaper.  All of a sudden something that had been really inconvenient since the history of pooping babies suddenly became convenient.  Then, virtually overnight, disposable diapers started contributing 3.4 million tons of waste per year to U.S. landfills.  In Canada, with only 10% the population of the U.S., we contribute 4,000,000 diapers per day to our landfills.

My friends, Christine and Jason, are having a baby this summer.  I don't know why my brain decided to "go there", but one day, I was sitting around, thinking about babies, and wondered to myself what they were going to do about diapers?  Cloth or disposable?  Close on the heels of those two questions was the question that always makes me get off my butt and do some research: which would I use if were to have a child?  It's always such a nice thought to say that I would use cloth, but would I? Really?

So I started looking around and found a solution which (I am hoping), would be even better than the positives of either cloth or disposable: gDiapers.  These diapers are essentially a colourful outer shell with a replaceable inner liner.  The external shell and the liners are made from ecologically beneficial materials (mostly hemp).  The best part is that there are two options: cloth liners and disposable (biodegradable) liners, and they both fit into the same shells.  The disposable ones are FLUSHABLE!  Amazing.  They are actually intended to be flushed, because you technically don't want anything to have to biodegrade in a landfill, they would biodegrade far quicker in a sewage treatment plant.  So in my opinion, the flushable aspect automatically makes the benefits outweigh those of normal disposables, because being able to flush the liner just makes them so convenient.  It's so much better than having to throw "away" a poopy diaper.

The cloth version is of course almost exactly what you would imagine a cloth diaper to be like in terms of benefits and detriments.  While I must tip my hat to those parents who managed to get their children through their infancy and toddlerhood using the old-fashioned cloth diapers, I don't think I would have been able to do it.  If you are interested and would like to learn more, please visit the gDiaper website, as there is a tonne of information.  Also, something that surprised me, is that gDiapers are actually available at "normal" retailers like London Drugs.

If you or someone you know has used these diapers and have any feedback, I would love to hear about actual user's experiences!


  1. Faced with the impending loss of my husband's job, the thought of raising three kids - one in diapers - while paying our mortgage etc., lead this stay@home mom to one thing I had been avoiding for the entire 11+ years I had been a mother... cloth diapers.

    To say I was excited about them would be a lie. I liked the convenience and ease of disposables just fine, and in the grand scheme of things, the number of diapers I sent to the landfill didn't really matter. To me at least.

    But this was for my family. It was another way I could help out financially. So I dove into the unfamiliar world of cloth diapers. I spent hours on any site I could find. I read blog after blog. The information at my fingertips seemed endless and I finally made my decision. Flats and covers were the least expensive way for us to begin using cloth diapers.

    Armed with two covers and 12 flats, our adventure began.
    I will be honest - there were leaks. There were blow-outs. There was diaper rash. There was frustration. There were days when I didn't want to face the load of laundry that had to be done so we could get through the next day.

    Over time I was able to expand my resources, learn the cloth diaper lingo, and more importantly: grow my cloth diaper stash. Eventually I was able to wrestle a cloth diaper onto a wiggly 10 month old as quick as I could diaper her previously in a disposable.

    Leaks and blow-outs became infrequently tolerable and I found the right combination of flats and inserts to get us from bed time to morning with out a change or leak - a major necessity since we tend to co-sleep if our baby wakes up before dawn.

    I was able to streamline our laundry routine. That means two pre-washes in our ancient machine and a once a month soak in a luxury: environmentally friendly cloth diaper detergent. Yet I am thrilled that I can say I am still saving money.

    Winning the little battles is satisfying. Addictingly satisfying. We now have about 20 inserts and about 10 covers. I have to restrain myself from buying every adorable cover I see - I could easily defeat the original purpose of this adventure!!!

    I am not a poster child for a cloth diaper revolution in the least - I admit that when a stomach bug or diaper rash comes to visit my little girl I reach for a stash of cheapo disposable diapers - but I now have a greater awareness for exactly how many diapers are in our landfills. I am, happily, not such a huge contributor to that number any longer. As a matter of fact, cloth diapers have inspired me to "green up" other aspects of our daily lives - square foot gardening, composting, recycling and upcycling are now a part of our everyday routine.

    Seven months later, it is safe to say that I consider this adventure a success...

    Eliza Willett

  2. I used cloth for a few months with my first but ended up switching back to disposable, when hubby got an internship in the OC for a summer and our rental had coin laundry that cost $4 a load! As for being more environmentally-friendly, it depends on how you take care of your cloth diapers, I'm afraid. Many people use gentle, chemical-free detergents to ensure their diapers & covers last a long time, are safe for baby's skin, and Eco-friendly. However, that doesn't keep them quite as stain-free and can get pricey. Laundry services aren't available in many places (we were in a small town in Virginia while hubby did his MBA), and are very pricey in cities; I priced them in DC before we moved, and they were outrageous. So, I know people who use cloth, but end up washing them with regular detergents and bleach, which makes them cost-effective, but defeats the Eco-friendly purpose when it comes to water pollution. Then there's the whole issue with how much water is used to wash them, but again that depends on the family too...

    There are many kinds and types (all-in-ones, flushables, and the basic cloth with a plastic cover, which I used) and the prices go along with the convenience-factor, so, unfortunately, the easiest to use (all-in-ones) is much more pricey than most brands of disposables these days, unless you buy them in small quantities and use them for an extended period of time. So, unfortunately, even those of us who'd like to use cloth are defeated by the cost factor and some who do may be harmful to the water supply. :( When the "good/safe" detergents become more effective at cleaning and cheaper, it will help the cloth debate, I think. :)

    PS-When you price cloth versus disposable, there are so many variables, it's impossible to make one true cost analysis. For example, I don't buy Huggies/Pampers; I only buy the cheaper disposables, such as Target, Sam's Club, or Costco's brands (which are $0.05 cheaper per diaper, on average) therefore, mine are actually cheaper than doing cloth (the way I was doing cloth). If one was to buy the expensive disposables, and used cloth diapers (the All-in-ones that are adjustable and "grow" with the child) for an extended period of time, it can be cheaper. So it all depends.

  3. Thank you Anonymous and The Freedmans! Terrific info here. Hopefully it will help people trying to make a decision about which to use a little easier. Or at least give them somewhere to start! Thanks again!

  4. I started with cloth in 2001 mostly because of financial reasons too, while considering it a more environmentally-friendly option was a bonus. I asked for cloth diapers as baby shower gifts, so my initial investment was very reasonable. And you truly don't need to buy every size you'll ever need before you come home with your peanut-sized newborn. Diaper designs 10 years later are more advanced and more convenient, but the cloth diaper with the waterproof cover that I used are still available, very effective, and reasonably priced.

    That being said, I have tried regular disposables, the so-called evironmentally-friendly disposables, and g-diapers (the flushable ones) all at some time or another. Disposables ARE convenient, but it all comes down to whatever routine you're used to. I actually find it easier to use only cloth, than to use cloth at home and disposables while we're out for example, just because it gets you out of your routine. Honestly, an extra load of laudry every couple of days is not a big deal. The "health food store" disposables and g-diapers are very expensive (according to my research) compared to the other options out there, so I never considered them an option for regular day-to-day use. We also plugged the toilet a couple times before finally figuring out the trick to the g-diapers, but they were otherwise good.

    I would, however, like to broach a topic that occurs to me often in the diapers-are-bad-for-the-environment discussion. Many many families are choosing to wait until their child is two and a half or three (or later) to think about potty training. Imagine if we were all potty training our children at one and half or two like was the norm when we and our parents were toddlers... think how many diapers would stay out of the landfill!! (Jaime, you probably already know the exact number!)

    I know each child is different, but I think more often than not the convenience of disposables lures parents into putting off the small amount of work necessary to teach our children to use a toilet (yes, it can be parent-lead and also non-threatening to a child!).

    And for anyone who wished to take this idea further, there is elimination communication (often known as EC). It is the art of being so in tune with your baby's rhythms that you don't really use diapers at all. You would take a newborn to the toilet when you know it's your baby's time to go, as most mothers in developing countries do (they don't use huggies!).

  5. Thanks T.K.! Many good points in your comment! I was reading about elimination communication (they actually mentioned it I think on the gDiapers website - in an unrelated story, I think I might know more about diapers and potty training than anyone other childless person on earth) and although fascinating, it just doesn't seem do-able (at least for me). Plus, it sort of presupposes that the person that is the expert communicator with the baby will always be in the presence of the baby. Uggh, and what happens when you mess up (literally, haha)? Poor child. It's like when you're house training your dog and the dogs goes to the bathroom in the house... you really only have yourself to blame. But yet we yell at the dog. Anyhow, back to human babies.

    I've read that children that are cloth diapered on average will potty train earlier. They have a couple theories for why this happens, but my favourite is a combination of: 1) the parents working harder with the children to get them trained, and 2) they say that because the cloth diapers tend to stay a bit wet once a child urinates in them, the child will be more interested in potty training because he or she will naturally seek to avoid the discomfort of being wet. Either way, you make a good point that prolonging the diapering phase beyond where the child can comfortably control its bowels is wasteful. And may I add that this is the case regardless of whether the cloth or disposable diapers are used as even cloth diapers, as pointed out by The Freedmans in one of the earlier posts, are not a perfect solution from an environmental perspective. Thanks again for the comment!