Q: You didn’t mention anything about cloth diapers in your column about reducing a baby’s carbon footprint. What's the deal with cloth diapers and should I use them?


A: You’re right. My advice on reducing a baby’s carbon footprint did not include anything on cloth diapers. To be honest, it’s hard to imagine even the greenest new parents hand-washing dozens of diapers each day. When I asked a friend about taking the cloth diaper route, he recalled trying it with his twins for about a week before giving up. But that was a long time — and many, many diapers ago. 

Fortunately, several companies, including some created by enterprising mothers, retooled cloth diapers to make them Earth-friendly and extremely convenient. I’ve even seen a few “diaper systems” pop up on sites like Craigslist and Freecycle, making them an economical option as well.

Consumer Reports estimates that parents spend $1,500 to $2,000 on disposable diapers before a child is potty trained. There’s no denying the devastating environmental impact all that waste, pulp and plastic will have on the Earth as it sits for centuries in a landfill. So I started scouring the web and a few local stores for cloth diapers and found some interesting options that incorporate organic fabric or sustainable materials such as bamboo. To find an option that works best for your baby and your lifestyle, check out DiaperPin, which features tips and product reviews. These versions caught my eye, but I welcome your suggestions.

Hybrid diaper system: One commenter recommended the gDiapers system that features adorable cotton pants ($18.99), nylon “gCloth” inserts ($24.99 for six) and flushable, biodegradable “gRefills” made with wood pulp ($14.99 for 40). Plastic-free refills can be composted and will break down in a few months. (We profiled the gDiapers company a few months back.)

All-in-ones: WeeHuggers is a lean, mean cloth diaper with a waterproof bamboo cover that’s manufactured using Global Organic Textile Standards, and an organic cotton/bamboo liner that’s sewn in to wick wetness away from the baby’s skin.

One size fits all: BumGenius won over legions of fans because these bamboo terry cloth diapers with microfiber cotton inserts can be adjusted to “grow” with babies from infancy through the toddler phase. Diapers typically cost about $18, and the company suggests purchasing about 24 to keep baby well stocked, but newborns may require more. Many consider that $432 investment as money well spent simply because these cute diapers are popular Craigslist items once the baby is potty trained. Now, that’s ingenious.

Pocket power: Econappi pocket diapers, lined with organic cotton, feature a polyurethane laminate (PUL) fabric cover that’s available in a wide array of prints and solids ($28.95). Adjustable snaps also allow this version to grow as your baby grows.

Duty calls, consider these diaper do’s:

  • Once baby has done his or her business, those soiled diapers must be stored using the wet pail or dry pail method.
  • Most fitted cloth diapers must be washed multiple times to ensure proper absorbance.
  • Make your own reusable wipes by recycling flannel blankets.
  • Even the most absorbent cloth insert won’t hold up during the night. Plan to double up.
Got a question? Submit a question to Mother Nature and one of our many experts will track down the answer. Plus: Visit our advice archives to see if your question has already been tackled.

Photo: MilamPhotos/iStockPhoto 

Also on MNN: 

• How to fold an old-school cloth diaper.

• Green and clean baby wipes.

What about cloth diapers?
Morieka Johnson discovers that cloth diapers have come a long way, baby. Includes diaperpin, gdiapers, weehuggers, bumgenius, econappi