I have this friend who works full time and loves the idea of cloth diapers but does not love the reality of making them work when her children are going to be spending more time out of the house than in it during the workweek. My post about cloth diapers inspired her to do some serious research comparing prices of chlorine-free diapers to the regular kind, and seeing if she could figure out some deals that would make her feel like buying the more ‘spensive non-chlorine brands was easy enough on the budget to commit to it–since it’s a much earth-friendlier choice than all-chlorine all the time.

She came up with this nifty spreadsheet for starters that breaks down pricing at various stores on a per diaper cost if you use the best standard deals available (bulk, etc.). We plan to keep updating it as we poke around for more information. It’s a work in progress, but what we did notice immediately is that the price difference is not THAT great–if you are somewhat committed to the environment and making a few small sacrifices where you can to do what little you can. I think we expected it to be an “OMG it’s TWICE as much! That’s insane!” kind of thing. But it’s just not. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be if you order wisely!

Update: At some point we will expand on all this to include discussions of the other earth-friendly options, like bio-degradable diapers and “diaper-free” living (which from hereon will be referred to as: “Never-ever-leave-your-house-or-wear-clothes-that-can’t-get-peed-on” living).

Update 2: Until then, this article nearly does it for us!

Fun with Cloth Diapers!

September 13, 2009

Before the arrival of the li’l one, we talked with some friends who were living the dream–all cloth diapers all the time. We expressed an interest in doing the same, so they referred us to this website: www.greenmountaindiapers.com–which has more helpful information than I ever really needed to know even existed about cloth diapers and the options available.

After WAY too much research about the different types/approaches (warning: for me this step was NOT simple–but perhaps that is my own personal problem with the paradox of choice, which is why I try to AVOID situations that present too many options in the first place!), I settled on a “plan.”

It involved the purchase of the following items:

2 dozen small yellow pre-folds: $48
10 infant fitted diapers: $80
5 small hemp doublers: $15
4 small super-snap covers: $44
1 dozen two-sided wipes: $13

And let’s not forget, a bottle of Charlie’s Soap for cleaning all of this stuff: $20

That’s a grand total of $220. Ouch.

But as I placed the order I told myself that I would be saving money in the long run because I would be using far fewer disposable diapers. On top of that, I would not be adding the li’l one’s toxic human waste to landfills…so there’s that eco-feel-good factor, too, of course, which is worth a small financial sacrifice on our part.

Now, to parse out the “savings” if there are any, in more detail. This becomes a fairly difficult task because it depends on many factors that vary person-to-person. For instance, do I calculate the savings based on the very cheapest diapers available (on-sale with a coupon!), or on the more expensive chlorine-free option (that of course never go on sale) that I try to buy when I can? Also, every person’s child grows at a different rate–in our case we have gotten a lot more use out of these “small” sizes without having to pay for an upgrade yet because the babe has doggedly remained in the 5th percentile all this time. Many other kids would have grown out of these in a matter of months, however, thus requiring another $100 investment in fresh supplies. Also, clearly the savings are greater if you exclusively use the cloth, which we have not done due to the kiddo starting daycare part-time at 3 mos. The only thing I hate more than inconveniencing myself is inconveniencing others, so I was not about to demand that her sitter go cloth for us.

So, understanding that any calculation is subject to quite a lot of variance depending on your situation, I will do my best ballparking here.

Let’s assume that each disposable diaper you use costs twenty cents. (That number comes from buying a carton of 200 Luvs brand diapers at Target for $40.) Let’s assume that you use an average of 7 disposables per day. That brings you to about $10/week in diaper costs. At that rate, it would take 22 weeks for you to come out even on your initial investment if you were using all-cloth-all-the-time. And that’s not considering the cost of washing/drying all those diapers, which is a whole ‘nother can of worms. If I estimate that each load of wash costs $.75 and I wash the diapers 2x/week, that’s another $6/month in cloth costs. Which means it will take until week 26 for the costs to actually meet up. By then the average person would definitely have already had to buy more diapers in the next size up to accommodate their growing child.

Of course, you could also consider the fact that you will be able to use these supplies again for subsequent children–so maybe I have not saved myself anything this time around, but by next time I will not need to spend ANY money on the cloth. So there’s that at least, as long as you’re planning on having more than one kid!

But what of the environmental value? In the past six months, you just threw 1,176 fewer diapers full of human waste into a landfill! (Holy crap, that’s a lot of diapers!) Then again, you also just did a lot of extra laundry, using up resources like water and electricity. Then again, the carbon footprint of CREATING all those disposable diapers is heavy, too.

In the end, I found this article to be fairly thorough in its weighing of the comparative and controversial costs of each–and for myself concluded that cloth probably eeks out disposable in terms of environmentally-conscious choices, if not necessarily in terms of your budget. Fortunately, the article also very kindly reminded me that HAVING A BABY in the first place was the selfish, environmentally destructive variable that truly matters most in the whole equation.