Cloth diapers – eco-friendly investment for the future

Without a doubt, ensuring a positive future for our children depends on us even before their birth. Making the simplest choice, such as what diaper they will use for the following two and half years, is a key decision that will have an effect in subsequent decades because the environmental impact generated by the use of disposable diapers is difficult to offset.
Paloma Robles
APRIL 24, 2019

It is estimated that a baby uses around eight thousand disposable diapers, which means approximately one ton of non-recyclable waste throughout a baby’s diaper-wearing career.

The conflict between disposable diapers and cloth diapers is still very current

Even more so now that the World Wildlife Fund has warned that every year it takes less time to exhaust the resources the planet can produce in a year. In this sense, what used to be an irrelevant decision – choosing a type of diaper – is now a decision of upmost social and environmental importance.In spite of this, there will still be families that choose disposable diapers over cloth ones, and then, others that will opt for cloth diapers over disposable ones. There are many arguments, but, broadly speaking, it boils down to basically two: money saving and low environmental impact (cloth diapers) versus convenience and ease of use (disposable diapers). But, is it true that cloth diapers consume fewer environmental resources than disposable ones? We will try to look into this matter.

The cloth diaper defenders’ main argument is environmental

They argue that, with few diapers and proper laundering, fewer environmental resources are used than with conventional diapers. On top of this, they point to other benefits like considerable savings by purchasing and reusing the diaper. They also associate positive qualities regarding babies’ health, since the use of cloth diapers greatly reduce skin rashes caused by the chemicals in disposable diapers.

A study carried out in 2005 by the UK’s Environment Agency, whose most recent version was published in 2008, compares the lifecycles of both products (disposable diapers and cloth diapers) starting from their manufacturing, disposal, and reuse. Some of the variables in the analysis are raw material farming and extraction, transport to the production area, handling, transport to distribution centers, usage, possible reutilization (with another child), and waste generated by each of them.

The study estimates the impact of both disposable diapers and cloth diapers in terms of carbon emissions and global warming. According to this research, using disposable diapers for 2 and a half years for only one child equals to an average of 550 kg of CO2. On the other hand, using cloth diapers washed in regular domestic conditions – conventional washers and dryers at high temperature, due to the UK’s weather, equals 570 kg of CO2. This last level is reduced by 60%, or 228 kg of CO2 emissions, if diapers are used under optimal conditions: washed at high temperature, dried under the sun or in high-efficiency machines, and reused for a second child. Based on these results, one can clearly see that using cloth diapers with a proper washing system equals a long-term ecological investment.

In this regard, there is a third option that has become popular in the last few years: choosing a cloth diaper service.

This service consists of regular rental of cloth diapers for daily use. The diaper service company is in charge of delivering clean diapers every week, and picking up the dirty ones at a reasonable price. What is interesting about this alternative is that cloth diapers are systematically used and washed under optimal conditions, with specialized chemicals and energy efficient machines, as well as dried in high-efficient dryers that not only dry quickly, but also bring new life and softness to diapers. It also makes reutilizing diapers more possible at a much lower environmental cost than washing them at home.  There is also the advantage of getting them delivered to your home every week and forgetting about the bothersome process of washing them, that, as we read earlier, does not help the environment much.

Cloth diaper delivery bicycle Tucson and Phoenix

In the end, choosing a diaper is an ethical matter. Do we want to invest in a better environment for the future and walk with a lighter footprint? We can start with baby steps and make the right choices one by one.

At Sun Sprout cloth diaper service, we have been offering a laundry and home delivery service for over 5 years in the Tucson and Phoenix area. Our customers have joined the effort of making sustainable choices by using cloth diapers that are washed under strict environmental regulations which allow us to ensure the lowest environmental harm by reusing high quality cotton diapers at an affordable cost. Join the Sun Sprout family!

Paloma Robles
Sun Sprout

Journalist, writer and foodie