For years, new parents have been vexed in their efforts to choose an environmentally friendly diaper. Cloth diaper fans have long insisted that theirs is the better choice because cloth is reusable and therefore doesn’t take up space in the landfill. Disposable diaper devotees, on the other hand, counter that disposables are more eco-friendly because they don’t need to be washed and therefore save both water and energy.
Independent studies over the years have consistently come to the conclusion that there is no significant difference in the environmental impact between disposables and cloth. So what’s an eco-minded parent to do?
Cotton diapers can take the environmental edge with some energy and water saving techniques, such as line-drying, skipping the pre-soak, and washing diapers in large loads using low temperatures. Some parents have eschewed diapers all together and turned to a method called “elimination communication” where parents learn to “read” their baby’s cues and rush them to the potty when they appear ready to go. Inevitable messes aside, this method is unquestionably better for the environment because it doesn’t require water, energy, or landfill space. However, it is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t devote your full attention to watching your baby for “cues,” save yourself and your baby some frustration and use another method.
Another alternative to consider is a new product called gDiapers,which combines a washable cloth pant with biodegradable and flushable insert liner. Unlike disposable diapers, they don’t use any elemental plastics or landfill space, and they require less of the water and energy used to wash standard cloth diapers. And, with a number of cute colors to choose from, gDiapers may finally put an end to the great diaper debate and give parents time to think about more important things (like sleep!).