As a very young man living in a rural area of the U.S. during the economic depression of the 1930s, my father was familiar with the once-famous household saying, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” That demand on depression-era lives can be equated with what is now called “sustainable living.” (Everything old is new again.)
“While many people would like to adopt sustainable lifestyles to save money and help the planet, the thought of giving up what are common “convenience items” makes some of us squirm. If that’s you, the good news is that you don’t need to give them up. You just need to use less expensive, more environmentally friendly alternatives.”
– Disposable diapers – Without question, the disposable diaper is one of the most convenient inventions of the 1950s and 1960s, but did you know a disposable diaper will remain in a landfill for 500 to 600 years? (A cotton diaper in a landfill will disintegrate in six months.)
Cloth diapers are an environmentally friendly and economical alternative. They’ve come a long way since our parents and grandparents used them. The biggest change is that they don’t require pins now–they all have snaps or hook-and-loop fasteners. One brand, Mother-Ease, offers a one-size-fits-all diaper, with many different snap configurations so that the same diaper can be used for infant through toddler sizes (saving you from having to buy a bigger diaper as your child grows).
A relatively new product, gDiapers (the “g” stands for green), offers convenience the cloth counterparts don’t. gDiapers consist of washable cotton outer pants and plastic-free flushable diaper refills. The flushable pads fit into the snap-in liner of the pants. The manufacturers say the pulp comes from trees on plantations that are sustainably managed, and if not flushed, the pads will break down in a landfill or compost pile in about 90 days.
Initially, the gDiaper system is slightly more expensive than disposable diapers, but proponents expect the price to go down as demand increases for the innovative product.
For more strategies for reducing waste, read the rest of “10 Ways to Reduce Our Dependence on ‘Must-Have’ Convenience Items” in the 2010 Farmers’ Almanac.