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Cloth vs. Disposable: The Environment is Indifferent

Are Cloth diapers better for the environment?

Cloth diapers certainly are cuter, aren't they?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m “team disposable.” I’m just too lazy for cloth. Even packing them up for someone else to wash is a burden I cannot bear. I’m lame, I know. So you can imagine my delight when my husband started reading aloud from this article in the Dallas Morning News. The article begins with a bit of background about the history of disposables and how they were slow to catch on in the late 50′s before becoming the standard by the 70′s. But that now, as we know, cloth diapers are making a resurgence, especially in notoriously “green” markets. It then goes on to say…

Today, saving the environment — and keeping anything that isn’t “green!” away from baby — is driving interest in reusables. The green question is especially vexing as both sides bandy scientific studies involving so many variables that the Natural Resources Defense Council considers the issue a wash when it comes to disposables in a landfill versus reusables in the laundry.

“We don’t recommend one over another,” said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the environmental action group and director of its solid waste project.“A compelling argument for getting rid of disposable diapers absolutely does not exist. It’s a personal choice, but it really can’t be made on environmental grounds. There are costs both ways,” he said…

There are a lot of “what abouts” in the cloth versus disposable debate. There’s the cotton, pulp, petrol and industrial agricultural complexes to contend with on both sides. And what about the landfills, a subject that comes up a lot.

Disposable diapers, according to Hershkowitz, comprise about 1.5 percent of all municipal waste generated in the United States, and municipal waste makes up about 2 percent of all waste from all sources. As someone who cares, he’s been looking for answers to the diaper dilemma for decades, “and there’s just no clear position to take. I wish it was that easy, but it’s not.”

There are other reasons to use cloth, including long-term savings, avoiding disposable diaper chemicals, and all the cute color options. But I have to confess, this news warms my cold, black, disposable-diaper-loving heart. One less reason for this mama to beat herself up.

Is “the environment” your main reason for using cloth? Does this make you consider switching to disposables or have you fallen in love with cloth for other reasons?

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