Any parent who has tossed a diaper in the trash knows overloading landfills are an ecological issue. But what about the energy, water and chlorine involved in laundering cloth diapers? The truth is, both cloth and disposable diapers have a negative effect on our planet.
Studies show disposable diapers, home-laundered cloth diapers and commercially laundered cotton diapers have a similar overall environmental impact - but there are things you can do to reduce it.
For disposable diapers, the most significant impact occurs during manufacturing, so choose brands that focus on green manufacturing methods. And almost all diapers are recyclable, so use the green bin instead of the trash.
For home-laundered cloth diapers, the primary impact comes from the electricity used in washing and drying, so make sure your machine is marked "Energy Saver" and avoid peak wash times such as 5 to 7 p.m.
For commercially laundered diapers, the biggest impact comes from use of fuels and electricity. Choose a company that is close by to reduce fuels and emissions during transportation.
For green-savvy parents, the best choice is hybrid diapers with a washable outer pant and flushable refill. Brands such as gDiapers (gDiapers.com) are a good option (Julia Roberts even uses them) and come in fun colors, such as goodwill green and global blue.
Dr. Alan Greene is a pediatrician at Stanford University's Packard Children's Hospital, author of Raising Baby Green and Chair Elect of The Organic Center. www.DrGreene.com