So I have to make a confession or perhaps an announcement to make to the whole wide world. I am about to become a parent for the first time. Sometime during the month of August 2020, I along with my partner will be welcoming a new life into this world. Unless of course, the new addition to our family decides to be fashionably late and arrive in September.
Needless to say with everything going on this has not been my idea of a good year to have a baby. Aside from the obvious pandemic, it has been a personally tough year in other respects getting ready for the new baby and all the changes it will be bringing into my life.
The biggest concern I have had on my mind is can I raise a child without compromising my green living values. Children can be inherently wasteful mostly in ways outside their control or even comprehension. It really falls on the parents to make the decision that is best for their child and in my case the values I live by.
But when you look out into society and the products and expectations that come with raising a child it is clear that disposable diapers, cleaning products, fast fashion, and cheap throwaway toys rule when it comes to raising children. I have received so much pushback on our plans to use cloth diapers, washable wipes, and to put our kid in all used clothing. It has mainly taken the form of knowing looks and the phrases,
“That’s gross why would want to clean dirty diapers”
“Ohh that's too hard you won’t keep up with it”
Now I will admit I have no clue how hard or challenging things will be once this new baby gets here but I do know what I want to do is everything I can to lessen the impact that a new human being will have on the planet. But that is really challenging when the people who raised me and my generation don’t support what I want to do.
What confuses and infuriates me is why are my choices to raise a baby in the greener and arguably cheaper way are looked down on by the previous generation of parents. Up until a few decades ago the only way to raise a child was the green way. Cloth diapers were the norm second hand clothes were expected and baby toys/cribs were passed down between siblings and parents. Unless you were very wealthy this was the norm for a majority of people.
So the question I have to ask is how have we as a society gone from durable and reusable baby goods to one where everything is expected to be disposable?
The Answer- corporate greed and the consumerism it creates….
It has been drilled into people’s heads that disposable diapers, butt wipes, and brand new clothes every time the fast growing baby needs them is the way to go. This message is pervasive across our society and it is part of a disturbing trend towards all things disposable even when some things being disposable make no sense. But making things disposable is how companies make money, the quicker items reach their end of useful life the quicker you have to go out and by a new one. This trend is why your grandparents had the same microwave for 40 years and yours breaks in 5 years. It’s not because we forgot how to make good microwaves it’s because the money is in selling new ones not maintaining old ones.
Probably the part that irritates me the most is the cloth diaper debate. Are they cheaper or more expensive, are they really better for the environment, are they worth the time to clean and dry? Now I could go on and on about this subject I have been chewing on it for a while like before I was even married a while but for everyone’s sake, I won’t do that. Instead, I will drill down on the cost argument since I think that is the one everyone gets hung up on the most.
Cloth vs Disposable- the cost debate
I will be the first one to admit that getting into a cloth diaper system from the start can be expensive upfront. But the costs have come down in recent years to be more manageable. A newborn on average needs around 12 diaper changes a day. This does vary from kid to kid but 12 is the number I am going with for this scenario. So theoretically if you only needed 12 diapers that would set you back around 80 dollars for one of the well know brands. But a more realistic number would be 18-24 diapers to reduce how often you are doing laundry. So you would more likely be looking at around 160 dollars to get into cloth diapers. These diapers assuming you take care of them will be the only ones you buy till the kid is toilet trained.
Disposable diapers cost around 20-25 cents for the average disposable with the cost per month adding up to 72 dollars per month. So let’s compare the two numbers now over the course of one year,
Cloth diapers-160 dollars for one year of use.
Disposable diapers- 864 dollars for one year of use.
The numbers are clear and unambiguous cloth diapers will save you money and are better for the planet since they have a longer useful lifespan. Most good quality systems can last several children and there is quite a market out there of used diapers which can save you even more money. For example, in getting ready for our kid my partner has been scouring the internet for deals. They managed to find two different diaper sales that between them cost around 12 dollars and got us half the diaper covers we needed and way more inserts than we will ever need. Those deals alone saved us 50-75 dollars over buying new and some of the stuff we got is brand new.
Now I know there are extra costs to using cloth. You have the water and electric bill costs to wash them, the other stuff like sprayers to knock poo off them into the toilet. You also have the extra time it takes to clean and manage your cloth diaper collection. The laundry costs and poo sprayer costs are pennies in the grand scheme of things so the only real additional cost to cloth is the cost to your time.
For those of you that say it takes to much time I only have one question for you.
How valuable is your freaking time?
On one hand, time is infinitely valuable since you only get so much of it. But on the other hand, there are people that waste whole days binge-watching soap operas. To them watching soap operas is important, to me, taking care of my kid in the greenest way possible is important so anytime I spend washing diapers is a good use of my time. Not everyone is going to see it that way but you should ask yourself what will you do with all the time you “save” using disposable diapers. Make sure to factor that into whatever decision you make.
Total honesty time
Despite all my grandstanding up there I know I will end up using some disposable baby care items. Especially when the kid first comes home there is a good chance the cloth diapers won’t fit yet. I also might run into issues when it comes to daycare. Daycare is so used to just dealing with disposable diapers that getting them to use my cloth ones and not throw them in the trash might be challenging. I am hopeful I will be able to come to some sort of agreement with whatever provider we work with on that topic.
But this will be my first kid so I know some of my values and ideals are going to be tested to there limits. But I also know who I am and what I want out of life. My partner is with me 100% on this and they have been incredibly supportive in my goals to live a greener life and share that life with you.
To that end, I will be starting a new section of this blog dedicated solely to raising kids in a greener way. In that section is where I will pass along what I find to be effective in keeping with my ideals and hopefully keeping my new kid happy and healthy. Along with that might be some more philosophical musing that occurs to me as I adjust to being a parent.
The moral of the story
The moral of this story is I am going to be a parent, and all I want is to raise this kid the best way I know how. I want them to understand my passions and hopefully maybe share some of them so they to can be good stewards of the one home that we have.
Wish me luck
Hello my name is Josh Larson and I am the creator of the Green Living Library. Here on the blog you will find updates to content found in the Green Living Library as well as stories from those living the sustainable life already.