There are several people in my local community who I find truly inspiring.  One such individual is Erin, the owner of our cloth diaper service.  Erin is a mother who decided to give up her job when she realized she could make a meaningful difference if parents in our community made the switch from disposable diapers to cloth.  There are times when I feel so inspired by her work that I want to switch career paths and join her in her crusade.  Then I remind myself that, however admirable her quest may be, bottom line is she spends much of her time dealing with baby crap (and, as us parents know, that isn’t pretty at the best of times).

Cleaning cloth diapers may not be for all of us.  When we were expecting Tess we considered buying cloth diapers.  Upon further research, I discovered that heat and high-powered cleaning agents would be required to eradicate bacteria.  I was warned by other parents of the massive amounts of laundry I would be undertaking with children.  Plus my husband wasn’t exactly thrilled with throwing a load of work shirts in the wash after a loads of dirty diapers. Luckily, cloth diaper services present an option for parents who cringe at the scale of waste involved in disposable diapering yet are too overwhelmed to wash cloth themselves.

There are advocates of disposable diapers who claim the energy and chemicals involved in cleaning cloth diapers negate any environmental benefits associated with reduced waste.  When I inquired with our service on the merits of these arguments I was impressed that they had done their homework.  Reputable diaper services special order environmentally sound cleaning agents that are powerful enough to eradicate bacteria, then they test the pH of outgoing diapers to ensure they are safe for use on our children.  They are constantly researching and implementing the most efficient way to wash diapers using as little energy as possible.  And they pool their deliveries to reduce gas consumption and GHGs (though I will be even more impressed the day our delivery shows up in a hybrid or electric van).

Our cloth diaper model

Another argument against cloth is the hassle involved, but I counter that hassle is eliminated for those who opt to go with a diaper service.  We leave our dirty diapers out on our porch once per week and these are taken away and a fresh batch delivered right to our door.  Our service offers cloth wipes and all natural diaper ointments, which means I satisfy all of my diapering needs without even leaving my home.  We are not required to rinse the diapers but are asked to dump any solid stool down the toilet (a practice I would follow even if we did use disposables).  The diapers in our delivery are fitted and there are no pins or folding involved.  The only extra step involved in cloth diapering involves diaper covers, which is a waterproof membrane that prevents a soaked cloth diaper from leaking onto clothes (taking only an extra couple of seconds to secure).  Unless Tess exited the womb with an innate capacity to use the toilet, diapering could not be much easier.

Using a diaper service is not cost prohibitive when compared to disposables.  The cost of our service is roughly $20 per week, about the equivalent of buying disposable diapers at a big box store.  Granted buying and washing cloth diapers is a much cheaper option, but the work involved is daunting to many parents (this author included).

Cloth diaper services are an example of solutions that bridge the gap between sustainability and convenience for parents.  If we all resolve to do a little research before we open our wallets, we can find many more new designs and services that reject the unsustainable status quo of baby products.  Luckily, as a society we are rethinking our consumption habits in a way that will facilitate a less daunting climate challenge for our children.  I maintain that eliminating disposable diapers from the weekly garbage pick up is a great place to start.

Is there a more sustainable option than cloth diapering? In Green Baby, Susannah Marriott explains that, in some cultures, parents do not use diapers at all but continually monitor their babies expressions for signs they have to go.  When the signs present themselves, parents rush the infants to a designated latrine.  While I applaud these parents for their conscientious child rearing, I am one of those parents who likes to leave the house from time to time.  I’ll stick with my cloth diaper service for now.

So to Erin and all of the other parents and business owners who are dedicated to making cloth diapering easier for the rest of us, matriarcade salutes you.