Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Diaper Dilemma

I don't know what the deal is. Perhaps it's something in the water. That's an argument for another day though. Maybe it's only like this in my life, but it seems like pregnancy is a new epidemic. I have four people in my life who are all expecting. Most people react with something like, "Yay! Babies!" However, I can imagine that Mother Nature feels like the middle child every time a new baby is born. Rejected, ignored, unimportant, and unnecessary. With roughly 255 babies being born every minute around the world, you can imagine how depressed Mother Nature must be. And she is. The Earth is so depressed and we keep scraping all the resources from it without a second thought. Perhaps people don't really see the impact they're making because Earth's resources are cleverly disguised. If your baby's diaper was made out of leaves after a very short time ou would see just how much you were impacting the planet.
An average baby will use roughly 2,788 diapers in a year. Think back to the image of using leaves for a diaper. That's a lot of naked trees. I'm not suggesting you use leaves. That would just be itchy and ineffective. I just trying to put an image into your head of consumption. My solution? Simple, old fashioned cloth diapers. Why, you ask? Even more simple.
They're more comfortable, less of an impact on resources, not nasty chemicals, and it even helps speed up potty training.
I'm sure the real issue on everyone's mind is money. It always is... Again, another argument for another day. So let's talk dollars and sense. Average cost of disposable diaper is $0.36. The cost of an all in one cloth diaper is $18.95 ( At first glance there's no contest, but you have to think back to that number of diaper changes. The cost of diapers after one year is already $1,003.68. Again this estimate is based on the aforementioned average. The number of cloth diapers depends on how often you want to wash them. In order to only wash them three times a week you would need 36 diapers. The cost of those diapers is $682.20 which is just over half of only one year's cost of disposable. You may not even need that many if you plan to wash them more often.
Let's look at the carbon footprint left by both diapers throughout their life.
  • Born in a factory along with millions just like it.
  • Made with all sorts of chemicals like polyethylene, polypropylene, petrolatum, bleached paper pulp, etc.
  • Packaged in even more plastic
  • Shipped all over the country
  • Worn for a matter of hours
  • Removed and discarded
  • Tossed in a landfill
  • Left to sit and slowly break down for roughly 600 years.
600 years...? In 2007 alone there were 134,000,000 babies born. In one minute there were 255 diapers in use at once. A few hours later they were on their way to a landfill. If those 255 babies each use the average 2,788 diapers in one year we will have 710,940 diapers added to a landfill. Its hard to fathom any amount that large. And these are all the diapers from babies born within one minute of the entire year. What about the babies for the other 525,699 minutes in the same year?
To stick with my tree imagery an average mature oak tree can have roughly 200,000 leaves. If each of those leaves were a diaper, after one year you would need 4 trees to cover the amount of diapers used only by the babies born in one minute. Got that? Let your imagination run with that. Though personally is can't imagine diaper trees being too pretty.
Now put that information to the side and let's talk cloth diapers lives.
  • Born on a cotton field, many are organic
  • Processed in factory
  • Shipped to stores or directly from site
  • Worn for a couple of hours (leaving no diaper rash)
  • Removed and tossed in Wet Bag
  • Waits till laundry day
  • Worn again and repeat next two steps till potty training
  • Sits in closet waiting for baby number 2
  • If no baby number two, sits in landfill for 6 months until completely degraded
Would you rather spend more money to let your child's 2,788 diapers sit for 600 years? Or spend a few extra minutes on laundry so that your child's 36 diapers can be part of the earth again before he or she even starts school? True, the plastic diapers are a little more convenient. However, future generations are going to have to pay the price of our convenience.

Want one more good reason to use cloth over plastic? Look at them. They come in all different colors and prints. Have a stylish baby that flaunts his or her environmental awareness.

Friday, March 5, 2010

You've Heard It A Thousand Times

"I'm melting! I'm melting!" - Polar Ice Caps

Global warming. It isn't really news, but tht doesn't make it irrelevant either. All the fossil fuels we're burning are ultimately causing polar bears to drown and/or eat each others young. That's right, every time you drive a car, buy something from a factory, have something shipped from China you are condemning a polar bear to it's death. It may even be a baby polar bear that dies. Feel guilty? You should, though that's not really my intent. The guilt is a bit of a plus because sometimes it motivates people to do something. Take me for example. I'm mostly interested and worried about the food industry, but the problems entailed with that go far beyond eating vegetables and not using pesticides.
People in New Orleans joke that while other people eat to live, we live to eat. Whatever the reason may be, everyone has to eat. How many of us actually think about what it takes for that burger to get on your plate. Some people think of it is terms of hours worked. Others only think about the calories, or rather, try not to think about the calories. The truth is that a lot has to happen before you can unwrap that warm, tasty indulgence. Even if we only look at the meat it still has a high impact on the environment. Your one hamburger can contain up to about 100 different cows. (That should make the vegetarians out there feel a little better.) Of those 100 cows they're all, most likely, factory farmed. Meaning the cows are being mass produced rather than raised. And what are they being produced on? Corn. Michael Pollan, one of my heroes, explains in one of his books that basically everything is corn. And where does said corn come from? Yes, farms, but more specifically big Industry Agriculture. Like the cows, the corn is being mass produced on farmland.
It's basic supply in demand. There's a huge demand for corn therefore we need a huge supply of it. The machines used to sow, water, and harvest the corn all run on fossil fuels. Not to mention the pesticides also used on the crops. The burning fossil fuels create greenhouse gasses, which as we all learned in middle school, are what's causing global warming. And the pesticides are a whole other environmental matter that create a whole array of problems.
All of the pollutants, funk, and crap we think we're throwing away, or don't even think of at all, always make their way back to us. There's so many chemicals in most of what we eat that are harmful to us. To anyone who tries to refute evolution you're a moron. The fact that people are surviving in places like California with all its smog, is more evidence that human beings adapt to survive the new environmental conditions. Don't worry Darwin, I got your back.
I didn't start this blog to bombard you and scare you with facts. I'm not trying to tell you that you're living wrong and making the world worse for future generations. I'm not here to say that society is wrong and we need to renounce things like fast food (though we should), grocery stores, and other basic everyday luxuries. My only goal is to open your eyes to the consequences of even your smallest decisions and to suggest ways to leave less of an impact.
One person can make a difference. You may be tired of hearing that, but it's true. Even if every person in the world changed one thing about their lifestyle the world would be a much better place for it. Skeptical? Come on, what do you honestly have to lose?