Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm the Reason Our Planet is Doomed

Here is a story that I think explains why we can't just rely on people's good nature to save us from climate change and other environmental problems:

As you might have guessed from the post about our car buying dilemma, Hubby and I are fairly concerned about the environment. We try to consider the environmental impacts of all of our decisions. So, when I was pregnant with Pumpkin, I did some research about diapers. We knew that we'd have to us disposable diapers at day care, but we could use something else at home if that made the most sense. I found an analysis from some academics in Ohio (which of course I cannot find now) that convinced me that in my drought-plagued location, cloth diapers aren't necessarily the best choice. As any new parent can tell you, babies go through a lot of diapers, and that's a lot of laundry, which translates to a lot of water- especially when Pumpkin was little and we lived in an apartment with an old, inefficient shared washer.

My research led me to gDiapers, which I still think are ingenious. They consist of cute cloth "little g" pants, a plastic liner that snaps into the pants, and an insert that you press into the plastic liner. The system works great. They seem to be comfortable for the baby. Pumpkin refuses to wear them anymore- she says they are "too tight"- but I think that is due to her aversion to change more than any actual problem with the diapers. They contain the "poop-splosions" of babyhood far better than disposables. I almost always have to wash the plastic liner after a big poop (but this rinses out easily, and can be washed in with the rest of our laundry), but only rarely have to wash the little g pants. And I can't remember a single time with either Pumpkin or Petunia when the outfit over the diapers got dirty. With disposables, I have to change Petunia out of a poopy outfit several times a week. My only functional quibble is that the baby fusses when wet earlier than with disposables. However, since the wet diapers can be composted (really!) that isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. The poopy diapers are meant to be flushed: you tear open the insert, dump it into the toilet, and swoosh it around with a long plastic stick they give you with your starter kit. This is far easier and less messy than it sounds, and I've never had a problem with the diaper flushing, either here at the house or in our old apartment.

So... why am I struggling to get through the one pack of 40 small size inserts that I bought before Petunia was born? She is about to outgrow the small size, and I still have about 5 inserts left to use. Given the fact that Petunia easily goes through 7-8 diapers in a day, that pack should have lasted about a week. Petunia is 11 weeks old. So one time out of 11, I do the "right" thing. The rest of the time, I put her in a disposable diaper. I do this because I am lazy. The extra work required to use the gDiapers is minimal- I have to "load" the insert into the lined little g pant. When the diaper is used, I have to either flush it or compost it. But that extra little bit of effort over wrapping the diaper around itself and dumping it in the diaper pail is apparently too much for me. Hubby, who is arguably more environmentally conscious than I am, will almost never reach for a gDiaper. Two environmentally sensitive adults who know full well that our actions are suboptimal in terms of the environment can't be bothered to add a a few extra (easy) steps to the diapering routine.

And that is why our planet is doomed.

I will, however, dig the medium size little g pants out of storage and order some appropriately sized inserts. If we get moving and buy the low water use, dual flush toilets we've picked out, I should be able to report back on whether we have any difficulty flushing the inserts with a 1.6 gallon toilet.


  1. paola6:12 AM

    I've just finished reading 'Ecological Intelligence' by Daniel Goleman. The take home message is that YOU (1 individual)really do make the difference. My resolution after reading the book is not to be lazy about recycling.

    We have to seperate all our rubbish into 3 or 4 different collections and the hardest thing for me is take the aluminium stuff (cans mostly)downstairs to put in the glass and aluminium bin which gets taken out once a week. I often just toss the cans the tuna or beans have been in into the non-recyclable bin( which is confortably located under the sink.) And this is due to sheer laziness and nothing else. I mean, I go downstaira at least 4 times a day, and I can't bring down an old tuna can???

    I have to remind myself, YOU alone(me, that is) can help save this planet.

  2. I have a book by the Union of Concerned Scientists, The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. It's a bit dated, but it nicely lays out the BIG things individuals can do to make a difference to the environment. Their take home message is that you should concentrate on a few big areas and not sweat the small stuff. They include the diaper analysis you cited as an example. Basically, the cloth vs disposable is not a big deal to the environment, so don't waste too much energy worrying about it. The things that matter are 1) don't drive very much 2) don't eat much meat and 3) don't buy a lot of 'big' stuff. I think, I can't really remember #3 and don't have the book with me now.

    I also agree though that there's only so much individuals can do. Fighting climate change is about much more than individuals, it's about government taking action and making the big decisions and commitments that are going to change the way our economy works.

  3. You probably know this already, having been there before, but I'm still going to say it anyway, in case the newborn fog is causing a memory lapse: the first three months of infancy are all about survival. Every little thing that eases your way is worth doing. If disposables are making life livable right now, then don't sweat it. We diaper with cloth (from a diaper service that uses comparably little water, few chemicals, blah blah blah, but who knows if it's actually better than anything else) but it was HARD to convince ourselves to do it those first few months. Especially since we had a pack of disposables on hand at all times for "special occasions." Sooo easy to just grab one of the disposables.

    If you really want to use the gDiapers right now, I'd suggest moving the disposables to the opposite side of the room. The incremental cost to the gDiapers will always nudge you to the disposables at any given diaper change, so if you add a slightly bigger incremental cost to the disposables, it will probably nudge you back the other way.

    Or, you know, just wait a few weeks. Somewhere around 4-5 months, my son dropped from 10 diapers a day down to 6 or so, and doing the "right" thing suddenly became so much easier.

  4. Anonymous12:59 PM

    I'm glad to hear about your experiences with gdiapers. We tried them out when DS was a baby (we decided to go with cloth, but thought gdiapers might be good for traveling, rather than disposable), and had no end of trouble with them - it took me a while of getting the hang of how to put them on properly, so we had lots of middle-of-the-night leaks and then the newborn poop kept running over to the liner and the diaper part. At that point I didn't want to invest in buying a bunch of extra liners, etc, since I'd paid a fortune for the cloth. But I always thought they seemed like a great idea and a good design. Maybe with #2 we'll try again. . .

    (We don't live in a water-drought area, and I throw in the regular laundry with the cloth diapers after a brief vinegar-water prerinse, so I don't feel so guilty about water overuse w/ cloth. I think diaper services are the least green way to do cloth.)



Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.