A Better Diaper – A Better World

The day I became a father, my life changed dramatically, and I would assume that to be true for virtually all but the worst of parents. Priorities change, motivation changes, and the budget changes. I can say that with all honesty, that the change that most grinds my gears, however, is the change itself…yes, the diaper change.

Oh my, there is just so much poop! An infant will regularly go through 9-10 diapers per day, slowing a bit as they age, but still prolific. I always thought that the excrement would be the thing that got to me, not being one with an iron-clad stomach for bodily things. Lo and behold, it turns out I have little issue with poop, puke, boogers and the like when they are coming from my own flesh and blood…it’s the diapers that get me.

See, from the second your child is born, the hospital has you wrapping their smooth newborn bottoms with nothing other than Pampers or Huggies, depending on who has the strongest salesman in that area, I suppose. During those first days in the hospital alone, you will probably go through 20-40 diapers depending on how long you stay. The first time through, like so many other things, I thought little of this, until we got home, that is, and started to drag out bags full of the crap-filled bundles.

During yet another trek down the hall to dump my son’s little gifts to the world, I thought to myself, “wow, how many other people in our building alone are dumping diapers at this rate? How many in all of Chicago?” So, being the inquisitive one that I am, I looked it up. The answer is, a lot!

In the United States alone, we dump 50 million disposable diapers every day into our landfills! OK, stop and think about that…50,000,000 disposable diapers every day. That is 3.5 million tons of poop-filled goodness every day entering our landfills. Annually, again in the United States alone, as many as 23 billion, yes, that is 23,000,000,000 disposable diapers are sold, and presumably, used. The most conservative estimate for how long it takes a single disposable diaper to biodegrade in a landfill is 200 years, and in reality, probably closer to 500 years…not that they have been around that long yet to physically observe. ¬†That means that every single disposable diaper that the world has ever used is still sitting around somewhere on Earth (unless we have secretly jettisoned some out into space during a shuttle mission, of course), a number too large for my measly iPhone calculator to display. Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer items in landfills, and represent 30% of all non-biodegradable waste in America. Additionally, every single traditional disposable diaper contains about a cup of crude oil. That is a lot of oil…something we could stand to use far less of.

Those numbers alone made me shudder, simply knowing what about 12-18 of the little suckers could make the trash can smell like after a few days. I, being the self-proclaimed environmentalist that I am, spoke with my wife, and found out that she was thinking along the same lines I was. We did what we had to do, and started looking for a good alternative to the Pampers…and we had already ruled out Huggies, of course.

Now, let me be clear, disposable diapers are the bomb! I am in no way denying the convenience and ease of wrapping one on, then removing and rolling it up for an easy 3-point shot into the garbage. Cloth diapering along with the endless washing it would involve didn’t sound like something we were up for, so were hoping that wasn’t our only alternative. Fortunately for us, it was not…there were actually better disposable options available – for a price.

X-Man in a gDiaper

X-Man in a gDiaper

Well…it’s mostly great. Personally, I love the gDiaper option. It is almost as easy to use as a normal disposable, but without the nasty after-effects. The “gPant” is offered in a variety of colors, and now patterns, ensuring your kid will have a well-dressed bottom, even when going pant-less. The only drawbacks (and they are drawbacks) are as follows:

  1. The gDiaper is definitely less absorbant than a normal disposable diaper, and is more prone to leaks and seepage, though just as efficient as disposables with the handling of the solid stuff.
  2. Already expensive, you end up using a couple more per day due to the above deficiency, so price is a factor.
  3. Disposal, should you choose the flushable option, can be a little messy at times until you get the hang of it.

All in all, I would choose this option always, but as with many other things, we have compromised here in the Hilgart household. See, one of the other great benefits to being careful with our diaper decision is that we found our son’s skin to be much healthier once we switched from the “traditional” disposable to the gDiaper…funny what removing solvents and chlorine bleach from constant direct contact with your child’s skin will do. Diaper rash became rare at worst, mostly completely gone. But the cost and leaking were getting on Mom’s nerves, so option number two, the biodegradable, and chlorine-free disposable diaper.

Seventh Generation diapers

Seventh Generation diapers

After a couple of trials with a few brands, we seem to have settled on the chlorine-free disposables by Seventh Generation. ¬†Functioning in essentially the same way as any Pampers or Huggies option, Seventh Generation tout “soft, cloth-like comfort, with premium absorbency”, in addition to being hypo-allergenic and fragrance & latex free. Though probably still a burden on the landfill (more so than the gDiaper anyway), these are produced without petroleum products or the dioxins that have been frequently linked to reproductive problems and cancers. Additionally, we eliminate the solid waste into the toilet before rolling and tossing the diaper to ensure as best as we can that we are keeping the landfill safe from fecal contamination. Yes, this can be messy as well.

We still use the gDiaper, though only during the day…always to bed with the Seventh Generation, or we’ll be washing sheets as well. If you are a parent with kids in diapers, and if you are, bless you for taking the time to read my blog, consider using either of these diapers. Definitely check out the gDiapers before deciding you can’t afford it. If you are going to continue rolling and tossing disposables as we have done, try a bleach-free, dioxin-free, petroleum-free option, and flush the poop, seriously, you will be doing the world some good.

As always, please leave comments as the urge grabs you, after all, who doesn’t like a good discussion about poop?

Be well!

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