At the risk of sounding like a mommy blog (which is not my goal or vision), one of the biggest issues on my mind lately has been whether or not to cloth diaper our second baby. I know that, after the initial investment, in the long run it is cheaper and better for baby’s skin, but the real clincher issue for me is waste. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the big issue on my mind lately has been the overwhelming waste in our society as a whole. It is not just the diaper issue, although I’ll get back to that in a minute, it is all the other ridiculous habits of convenience that produce an astonishing amount of garbage which most of us don’t give even a second thought to after it leaves our house twice a week. As though the garbage truck makes all of this non-biodegradable waste just magically disappear! Even things that are degradable, like yard waste, for instance, are placed inside PLASTIC bags that won’t break down and sent to landfills where they create piles of rotten vegetation entombed in plastic bricks. I say all of this with the indignation of someone who you’d think was proactive about reducing excess consumption and waste. But I suppose that is the problem I am facing. MYSELF. I am lazy. Like much of the rest of western society. I have a hard time relinquishing convenience. In the three years we have lived in our current house we have never put forth the effort to start recycling despite the fact that our neighborhood has curbside pickup. Why? Because I don’t have a good place for the bins or the time to sort my garbage. Please! I watch documentaries that get me all fired up, but then I rarely do anything about it. We did have our own garden one year, but it yielded so pitifully that I have not attempted again. We did compost for a while, but the smell (in our kitchen and yard) was just too much. We do buy many things second-hand, but I’m not sure it’s from a sense of resourcefulness so much as budget constraints. But, but . . . BUT. It’s time for change! This year instead of bagging our leaves and shipping them off to the dump, we are following the suggestion of woman we heard interviewed on NPR and mulching our leaves with the mower and spreading them over the grass to be driven in by the rain and used as natural fertilizer. We have gotten the recycling bins and the schedule for pick up and will be starting a habit of recycling soon (darn it!). I am making my own Christmas gifts, from the heart, instead of spending an exorbitant amount of money on a bunch of stuff that no one really needs or most of the time even wants.
But now we come back to the issue of diapers. And I have to ask myself, how far does this conviction go? I love the convenience of disposable diapers. I mean LOVE. My conscience almost got the better of me with our son, but since I work and we’ve had to have child care for him during the day, that’s always been a convenient excuse. But we have since switched sitters to someone who cloth diapers her own children. Bye bye excuse! What about time spent washing diapers as a working mom? What about the initial expense of investing in a supply of cloth? What about the added extent to which I will have to HANDLE someone else’s poo! (Sorry all you non mommies out there.) Are these inconveniences enough to allow me to ignore the fact that one child produces over a TON of diaper waste in their short time using them? Or the fact that approximately 27.5 BILLION diapers are consumed in the US alone in one year and each of those takes between 300 and 500 years to break down in a landfill! That means if disposables had been available in the 1500’s we would still see remains of them today! Diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills representing about 4% of all solid waste! And yet I am still having trouble making this decision. As I stated above, I am lazy. Will I overcome this laziness and take the leap into the world of cloth diapers? I still don’t really know. But after writing all of this, if I don’t, I give all of you, my readers, full permission to mock me mercilessly until I come to my senses.
(The facts about diaper waste in this post are found in numerous places online, but the most succinct collection of them came from http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php)