I once got into a fight with the CEO of the company where I work over the question if the industry or the consumers are responsible for the current environmental destruction in this world. He said consumers like me (and I quote) are and I told him he was dead wrong; industry leaders like him are. (No, didn’t get fired, though some colleagues feared for my survival, and I’m pretty sure I’m on the black list.)
If I had to put a number on it I’d say the industry carries 75% of the responsibility and we only 25. At best, I’d accept a 50/50. Here’s why.
Heading home from work, super late and hungry, I might stop at a coffee shop or gas station for human fuel. Pretty fast, I will discover that there is 1. No tasty vegan food (and no, kale chips don’t count) and 2. Everything is wrapped in or packed in plastic. Not minimalistic style plastic either – huge boxes, double wrap. Should conscious consumers skip the snack because the industry only provides us with bad eco-choices?
There are countless situations like this, where consumers “have no choice” but to swallow the plastic wrap. Like, for example, when
The grocery store automatically prints a BPA-coated receipt and hands it to you like you want it.
The airline serves you and millions of other travelers factory farmed beef on a one-time-use plastic plate. (I’m pretty sure that what isn’t consumed on the flight is thrown out, so there’s no point in “zero wasting” this one, unless you emailed before and told them not to make a meal for you.)
The municipality where you live decide not to invest in safe bike lanes, side walks and public transport so you can safely skip the car.
The oil companies work full time to make legislation that prevents solar power and electrical vehicles from taking off.
There are no organic strawberries at the store, but you promised to make strawberry cake so you have to buy conventional ones (in a plastic container).
Tell me CEO, how are these eco-disasters my responsibility?
A few years ago we didn’t know we wanted tablets. Apple invented the I-pad, and suddenly consumers decided they needed one. Industry took the lead, consumers blindly followed suddenly not even remembering how life was before there were I-pads.
If only the industry would be as inventive when it comes to environmentally sustainable practices as it is when it comes to launching new products, the world would look quite different (excluding you Elon Musk!). Consumers all over would automatically buy the eco-friendly choice that was presented to them.
Since I doubt that the industry will start acting all “eco” on their own (I just saw that Snapple now comes in a plastic bottle instead of glass! Snapple!!!) we, the conscious consumers, must again act and invest our enthusiasm and energy. This time into generating emails, tweets, posts and making calls. We must
Urge our favorite brands to manufacture HERE.
Tell our local grocer that we need more bulk bins.
Convince clothing stores that receipts and printed coupons are so 1990.
Ask our local eateries to ditch the straws and disposable kids’ cups.
Go to the town hall meeting, demand better infrastructure.
Etcetera, etcetera. AND, of course, we must continue to vote with our dollars, by buying everything made right (here). Our 25% (or 50, whatever) does make a difference – I’ve blogged about us taking charge and changing the market, the industry (and the world) for three years.
It’s time for the industry to wake up, take responsibility and act.
But, then came the question; If we are to buy fewer leather bags – are there any durable, good-looking, made in USA, vegan handbags out there we can buy instead?
When it comes to “pleather”, a plastic, leather-looking material, often found at H&M and Forever 21, I have one thing to say: no thanks. It breaks, it doesn’t look as good, and we don’t like plastic anyway, now do we? There is a new material in town though, Piñatex, which looks a lot like leather, is durable and also eco-friendly. Piñatex fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest so no extra land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them. However, shops are not exactly overflowing with this material yet, and why if we don’t want leather would we have bags that look like leather?
I say screw that! Instead why not venture out and pick one of these five nothing-to-do-with-leather materials:
Cork is super sustainable and as it turns out, super stylish.
Did you know that a cork tree that has its bark removed every nine years will absorb up to five times as much CO2 as a tree that doesn’t? In other words using the cork is good for the tree, good for the environment and good for, mainly, Spain’s and Portugal’s economies.
One brand to keep in mind if you’re into the look and durability of cork, is Nest Pure. Handcrafted, high quality bags and accessories, made right here in Minnesota. In addition to the main material, cork, the bags come with various colors of organic cotton.
2. Recycled Sails
It may sound like a bit of a stretch but old, no longer usable sails from boats become the most awesome tote bags up in Maine. You may have read my blog post a few weeks ago about Seabags of Maine and my new turtle tote? If not, check it out here for more details about this cool brand.
PS. The fabrics are not really recycled, they’re “reused” :)
What’s wrong with the look of cotton? Actually, nothing as far as I’m concerned! I’ve been sporting my cotton tote bag quite a bit on the blog actually.
Canvas is made from either linen, hemp or cotton – all natural materials – and make for durable fabrics when waxed. What about the wax you say? Well, yes, using beeswax means this fabric is not vegan, so I’m cheating a little, but it is still far from the eco-nightmare of leather. In my opinion, using beeswax makes much more sense than using a poly-based (fossil fuel) wax. But that’s just me.
Newton Supply Co. out of Austin, Texas, makes the cutest waxed canvas bags. (Some do come with natural color, veg-tanned leather details so look out for that.) This company is extra awesome because they’re partnered with Open Arms, a division of the Austin-based Multicultural Refugee Coalition which empowers refugee women by providing living wage employment. Cool.
5. Seat Belts
It may be unusual, but yes, Harvey’s makes bags out of seat belts, in sunny California. There are endless styles, colors and sizes to chose from. My good friend has a backpack, which is lightweight, well made and sized “just right”.
The company started out using actual old seat belts, salvaged from broken cars, which was super sustainable! I’m pretty sure the current handbags are made from newly woven “seat belts” though. Still, this unusual “fabric” makes for a fun, vegan handbag.
6. Bonus Tip: If all else fails, go second hand
Here’s what, if you can’t stand carrying a purse that doesn’t look like leather or in fact IS made of leather, yet you’re not keen on another cow dying and more pollutants being released; second hand will be your saving grace. Mom’s or grandma’s closet is normally a great place to start browsing! It’s made, it’s there, give that leather bag a new home.
(And yes, I do know that a vegan would never go for option number 4 or 6, but not all leather-skipping readers are. It’s all about inspiration to shop differently ;))
Anyone still in the mood for a leather bag made in China??!
For starters, India and China are investing billions in renewable energy – wind, solar, hydro – more than any other nations. In addition to this, China is shutting down its last coal plant in Beijing in an effort to clear the air (switching to natural gas) for millions of Chinese living in the region. Developing countries all over the world are going from no electricity to solar powered life – skipping the burning of fuels all together. Good news.
Meanwhile Donald (aka the worst president ever) is leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about bringing jobs back in the coal industry as part of his plan to “put America first”. Although coal is never going to happen (sorry Donny boy!), the fact that he’s pro the most polluting technology we have and doesn’t believe in climate change, is bad news.
So, does it still make sense, as a sustainable shopper, to be on a Not Made in China Challenge?
Of course I would say that – hello blog – but there are great reasons for it too. Here’s why I am on this challenge, and keeping at it in 2017 and beyond.
The President is all talk
We know by now that all the campaign promises made by the Republican candidate were just false. He is not doing anything to bring jobs back here, he is not even ensuring that his beloved pipelines are to be made with American steel. He may have come up with the “Made in America Week” which is a great initiative, but so far, NOTHING has been done to ensure more items are, or remain “made right here”. (Also leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and not investing in renewables would most likely create fewer jobs for Americans down the line.) He talked the talk, but as usual, it’s still up to us consumers to walk the walk. And as far as that goes, no policies have been put in place that would make it easier or more affordable for Americans to choose “Made in USA”.
The core of my Not Made in China Challenge is to support small businesses that use sustainable production practices and eco-friendly materials. That effort supports our local communities; the tax-paying entrepreneurs, makers, builders and artisans living here. (Supporting a small business might mean a family can afford health insurance when/if GOP takes it away!) Basically this challenge is about “Main Street not Wall Street”.
Environmental questions remain
Even though China is switching things up in the energy market, honoring the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about implementing a carbon tax (YES!), small rural factories are still powered by burning coal. Not only by pulling electricity from the coal fired grid, but many actually run their own, tiny furnaces which have no filters, no air cleaning catalyst (NOx being an issue) and low efficiency.
There’s also more to a healthy planet than a low carbon air. China, India and several other countries are still polluting their groundwater and surrounding oceans by uncontrolled wastewater from manufacturing. (So is America, I know, I know, but I find it easier to spot the businesses here who do that, like Georgia Pacific.)
The force is not with the workforce
I have yet to see a certified fair-trade item come out of China. What’s going on with decent wages and healthy workplaces? Not much, I’m afraid.
This is of course also true for many other places; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, neighboring Latin American countries and even, dare I say it, we’ve got some sketchy California sweatshops too. Best to stay away from them all unless we’re talking about certified fair-trade, organic and/or small business/artisan style items we can trust. If it’s too cheap to be true (aka in the West as “A GREAT deal”) – someone suffered to make it.
The trade deficit
Our ginormous trade deficit with China isn’t shrinking. In fact, what we export most to the Chinese is AIR. Yep, empty containers are constantly heading across the ocean to pick up more “stuff” for bored Americans. How much are we talking? The trade deficit with China was almost FOUR BILLION DOLLARS in 2015, and it grows every year.
The issue here is that Chinese business men (and women!) are investing more than ever in the USA, buying land, real estate and factories as we speak. Basically China could soon “own the USA” thanks to you shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Transport hasn’t gone “clean”
There has not been any breakthroughs when it comes to shipping transport. Large container ships are still burning through barrel after barrel of fossil fuel shipping the above mentioned “stuff” and empty containers back and forth. Container ships remain a threat to marine mammals by interruption of sound waves and migration paths as well.
Honestly, it’s the easy way to shop less
Since most everything is imported, reading labels and tags so I can avoid “Made in China” means I can’t buy anything. I feel like this issue is so often forgotten when we talk about Climate Change and the environment. We can elect all the climate friendly politicians for Congress we want, but it won’t matter if we continue down this path of OVER-CONSUMPTION.
I’m not saying that a Not Made in China Challenge fits all, different rules work for different people. This works for me, and I am sure it would work for most suburban Americans with access to Target.
So I’m staying on the challenge – I am thriving at it actually. Sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t respect China and their efforts to act on climate change.
Buy less, buy local.
Main Street, not Wall Street.
PS: To find out more about what this challenge means to me, read my entire blog! (it’s fun I promise!) Or maybe start with reading my “About” page :)
Despite being on a shop-local-misson, when it’s fair-trade and organic, I occasionally import. This summer, I decided to import a shirt.
After all, certified fair-trade initiatives must be supported and organic cotton growers in India must get paid. In fact, because of our purchases, they make a much better, safer living than farmers still growing conventional (pesticide-covered, fertilized, Monsanto seed) cotton.
Did you know that due to debt owed to the seed producer, one conventional cotton farmer commits suicide every eight hours in India? That’s three souls per day.
When we demand organic fabric, more and more farmers can make the transition to growing organic crops. Here’s a promising read about how growing organic cotton frees Indian families from the (GMO) debt traps, if you’re interested.
Back to the shirt.
A light, airy, plaid shirt from eco-friendly brand PrAna looks and feels just right for summer and my upcoming days at the office (going back to work soon!).
100% organic cotton, certified fair-trade, soft, great fit. Also, loving me some great bonus details such as the green stitching on just one of the button holes and a hidden pocket on the right side. I paid $47 for this shirt (sale price!) at our very favorite co-op REI right here in Houston.
Organic is cool.
Oh, and you might be wondering how much I’ve shopped this year, since I’ve written posts about a few new things lately! In addition to this shirt I’ve gotten a new eco-friendly bag ($160/USA/recycled fabric), a handmade scarf ($55/USA/organic), black tights ($10/USA/cotton) and a well made t-shirt ($36.50/USA/cotton). Five things in six months – that’s pretty good!
I’m wearing a size XS of the “Gina Shirt”, I’m 5’8″, 140’ish lbs.
It’s been a bit quiet on the blog lately because 1. Vacation in Europe with baby and 2. Vacation in Europe without wifi. Yes, there are still places without it! (I did manage to publish one blog post about my new eco-friendly bag which I photographed i Denmark. Check it out here if you missed it :) )
Windbreaker needed. It’s cold, and I love it.
Now, when it comes to vacationing, or traveling if you will, dealing with the guilt of flying is always hard. This activity, which I always try to undertake responsibly (have a great reason to go, travel zero waste) and rarely, is certainly the most unsustainable thing I do. One return trip to Sweden in economy class adds 1.28 metric tons of carbon to my yearly carbon footprint which is a lot. So what to do?
The easy and obvious thing to do is to carbon compensate, which I can do directly thru KLM’s website when buying the ticket (more on that in this post from last year) and/or by planting trees at Stand for Trees. This trip I realized that I could actually “compensate more” by collecting items abroad for baby August to bring home with me. That’s only previously used items – otherwise no point!
You’d be amazed what friends and family are hiding away in closets and are dying to get rid of. Because the people “donating” to me are my closest friends, not only do they have things I want, like and need, but also aren’t offended when I say no (aka “why’d you buy that?”). Most importantly they feel great about giving, they don’t have to spend money to spoil our baby, and together we prevent waste and reduce new material being purchased.
In addition to friends’ used (perfectly awesome) stuff, I also got my hands on a few of my own childhood items (sorting boxes at dad’s) which thrills me so.
The CO footprint of each and every thing I collected probably can’t be found on google, however I know it takes lots of energy, oil, resources and chemicals to produce just one new plastic cup.
I like lists, so here is one of everything we brought home with us for baby August’s current and future endeavors!
Lots of clothes
A pair of shoes
A teether that goes in the freezer
Three reusable squeeze pouches for baby food
Two baby bottles (not pictured – in the sink!)
Two cans of baby food (my friend’s baby never got to!)
Mini flounder for bath time (mine from 1989!)
20+ Children’s books in Swedish and Danish
Eight baby books
13 Mini (pixi) books
Five puzzles (one not pictured)
Bib that catches food
Pear-shaped mold for playing in sand
Soft toy reindeer (which baby loves!)
Long list right? All of these things aren’t need-to-haves perhaps, but most are! How much carbon would I emit if I were to buy all of these items new?
I’m not sure, but not having to do so makes me feel better about those long fossil fuel burning flights we took. And, it IS more fun to have previously loved things :)
Now, vacation is over, I’m back to blogging (some fun posts coming up!), enjoying my last few weeks of maternity leave and, of course, living it green in Texas.
The cool thing about this new bag by my new favorite maker Seabags of Maine, is that it’s made from old sails. Some may refer to the fabric as “recycled” but actually it’s simply reused, or upcycled, if you will. No energy consuming recycling process is needed to turn sails into bags – just washing, handcraft, threads and needles. That’s American handcraft of course.
“Our materials come from Maine first, New England second and USA third. We use the last remaining thread manufacturer in the U.S. We use the only rope manufacturer in New England. And our sail supply chain? Well, that’s as local as it gets. We collect our sails one at a time through a network of passionate boaters who love our community waters as much as we do.”
Though there are plenty of prints and designs to pick from, this medium size (14″ x 14″) turtle tote had my name on it.
I fell in love with turtles when we first moved to Texas because they’re everywhere! In ponds, lakes, bayous and sometimes backyards. Mostly we’ve got the red-eared slider here, and I’m pretty sure that that’s a sea turtle on my bag, but I love them all equally. (I love them more than enough to never use straws in my drinks! ;))
My new tote bag is sturdy, easy to clean (wipe off!), great size (I’ve got lots of baby gear with me and recently used it as carry-on on a cross-atlantic flight – it worked perfectly), vegan and has a very low carbon footprint for something new – being as it’s partly “old”. In fact, over the past 15 years, Seabags of Maine have saved over 500 tons of material from going into landfills.
And that is how it should be done, fashion industry.
PS. Since we are on vacation in Scandinavia at the moment, I shot these pictures on a Danish beach, on the other side of the Atlantic from where this bag was made. Same water, different shore. Pretty poetic.
Bags start at $45, totes at $120. Read more at Seabags.com
As a Swede in USA, it’s nice to sometimes show off my Swedishness with fashion. Not just with stripes and Euro stylishness (ha!) but with fabrics from Sweden.
Presenting this scarf; made by small business owner and Dallas-based designer Louise, whom I’ve gotten to know through blogging. It’s an infinity scarf, half Dala horses, a classic symbol of Sweden, and half stripes, my favorite thing. Both fabrics are organic and GOTS certified.
Louise normally spends her days sewing and designing children’s clothes, but it wasn’t hard to convince her to make a scarf for me.
The idea came to me when she gave us the cutest onesie for baby August, and I realized I wanted, no needed, Dala horses too. (Ok, that’s a lie. My inner consumer wanted it!) At least I won’t grow out of my scarf anytime soon, like baby will with his outfit :)
If you’re looking for well made, locally made and handmade kids’ (or maybe adult!) fashion, check out Louise on Instagram @MammaLouiseSyr or on her Facebook page (she’s got a sale going on the month of June!).
Prices vary depending on fabrics and styles. Find out more by reading my wonderful interview with Louise (from 2015) about her business here.
PS. If you’re not looking for a Swedish scarf or baby clothes, I encourage you to contact your local makers – maybe they can make you exactly what you need, or let’s say it, want. Not only working for, but also with customers, that’s the beauty of small business.
If you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.
I read this statement the other day, and it stuck with me because it’s so true (and people forget).
Recycling is an energy consuming process. It is not the solution to our waste issues, our plastic oceans and high consumption of resources, but a last resort that can minimize the carbon footprint of our modern, on-the-go, lives. IF we use the materials that come out of recycling, that is.
Here’s the twist; most of USA’s plastic “recyclables” are exported to China. There, they are used to make everything from fleece jackets to stadium seats. China imports around 40% of the world’s plastic scrap, so if you buy “recycled plastic products” from China, chances are the material came from your curb. It’s a crazy world (and sadly, China is drowning in western trash).
Another twist to the plastic recycling business is that many processing centers actually don’t have the funds to recycle low grade plastics anymore, like plastic bags and produce containers (think cherry tomatoes and strawberries) so they end up in landfill or being incinerated (dioxin pollution!) anyway.
Why? Because there is NO DEMAND for the products that can be made from low grade plastic.
So yes, we must stop consuming plastic like it is “recyclable”. We need to avoid it like the plague! Plus, whenever possible, we must choose recycled products.
In a perfect world we should not be shipping off our “trash” to other countries but recycle it locally, so in an effort to get there, we should buy locally manufactured products made from recycled materials.
Of course not just plastic, the other recyclables too; paper, glass, metals, clothes.
Need ideas? Ok!
Reusable water bottles
Liberty BottleWorks make lightweight and durable bottles from recycled aluminum in Washington State. In fact, it’s the only US-made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.
Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services.
Did you know that recycling aluminum saves a lot of waste? While 2.2 lbs of aluminum extracted from the earth creates almost 200 lbs of waste in the process, 2.2 lbs of recycled aluminum creates only 7.5.
Can an environmentalist live without using “disposable batteries”? Almost. Smoke detectors, wireless keyboards and baby gear use them though.
Energizer now has batteries made from 4% recycled batteries. I know that sounds low, but it’s a start! By voting with our dollars and buying these instead of regular batteries, hopefully that percentage will go up, up, up. (Always check where batteries are made. There is absolutely no reason to buy made in Asia, when made in USA costs the same.)
Toilet paper, kitchen towels, trash bags
We actually really like Seventh Generation’s paper products and I encourage everyone to make the switch to 100% recycled paper. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use less paper, by opting for cloth napkins and cotton towels 99% of the time. We keep paper kitchen towels around for picking up the occasional dead cockroach or wiping greasy pans (then compost).
Did you know that if every household in the USA switched just one packet of eight kitchen towels to recycled paper we’d collectively save 3,400,000 trees in a year?
Seventh Generation’s large trash bags is a better choice as well, as they are made from 65% post-consumer recycled plastic. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use fewer bags by creating less trash. Avoid one-time-use items and start a compost for food scraps.
Did you know that if every household in the USA replaced just one package of 14 count trash bags made from virgin plastic with 65% recycled ones, we could save 221,000 barrels of oil?
Plastic bottles (when/if we must)
If you’re buying shampoo or drinks in plastic bottles, look for the symbol that tells you part of the bottle was made from recycled plastic. Every bit of fossil fuel saving helps.
For the kids
Green Toys Inc. have a bunch of different products likes buckets, water toys, kitchen play sets, cars, airplanes and an awesome green recycling truck. All their toys are non-toxic, safe, BPA- and phalate-free, and made in USA from curbside collected recyclables.
Re-Play make their products using only recycled milk jugs. While Green Toys focus on play, Re-Play has all the essentials for baby dinner time. Eco-friendly and made in USA.
Did you know that for every pound of recycled milk jugs used to make products, enough energy is saved to power a TV for three weeks straight?
SCANPAN utilizes 100% recycled aluminum – aluminum that might previously have served as beer cans, bicycle frames or something else. These pans are made in Denmark though (from aluminum consumed over there naturally!).
Did you know that 75% of the world’s produced aluminum is still being used, over and over, thanks to recycling efforts?
There are countless products using recycled materials! We just need to make it a habit to read labels so we can pick them out from the rest. Remember, if you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.
Got a favorite “recycling” brand? Please share it in the comments! :)
There’s nothing better than ordering something online and being pleasantly surprised by the quality, is there? So often we find ourselves in the opposite situation.
Lucky for me, buying mostly made in USA, my latest purchases have all been grand. That Tradlands’ flannel this winter, all the US-made cloth diapers for baby, and now, a green, cotton tee from American Giant.
I got this t-shirt on a bit of impulse, adding it to the cart as my husband was ordering two more of American Giant’s 100% cotton “fleece” workman’s jackets ($89). He had one and wanted another two (in other colors) simply because they fit great, work great, and look great. Though they call it fleece, which traditionally is made of polyester, these are made with a long fiber cotton that holds up during the yarning and knitting process with minimal breakage and produces a heavyweight, durable fabric. (And no plastic microfibers to worry about like with plastic fleece!)
My Premium Crew T is made from 100% slub cotton, sourced in the USA. “Slub” was originally considered a defect, caused by knotting in the yarn during the knitting process resulting in a uniquely textured look and feel. Slubs tend to be flimsy and transparent but the fabric used here is thicker than regular slub and not see-thru at all (yay!). At the same time it allows the shirt to actually be quite form fitted. I love it. It’s well made.
There’s also a surprise seam on the back that adds a bit of interest.
I envision wearing this tee with my beige blazer, black skinnies, Oka-B black flats and a necklace when I head back to work. For now, I am wearing it casually, out and about with baby. I wore it to the Overland Expo in Flagstaff a couple of weekends ago, and got some cute pictures of it.
Yes, I am holding an unsustainable one-time-use Sprite bottle (thirsty!), but I’m making up for it with my all US-made clothes and baby’s fashion is all second-hand. We did recycle that bottle at least! ;)
This comfy classic sells for $36.50 at AmericanGiant.com and they’ve got free returns! (I’m wearing a size S, I’m 5′ 8.5″, 140 lbs.)
For all the moms and dads who successfully cloth diapered, the ones that might with future kiddos and all the others who decided not to, I hope this will be an interesting post!
When you decide to use cloth or reusable diapers for your baby, the first thing people will say to you is how hard it is going to be. How much work you’ll have washing them. How they’d never do it. How brave you are. Most of the folks telling you this have either never attempted to cloth diaper their kids OR are the kind of people that think bringing bags to the grocery store is lots of work. I took it with a grain of salt.
The eco-community, on the other hand, sang a different tune and was a great inspiration to me before I even had my cloth diaper baby. Blogger Meredith simply said “You need to find a way to use them, wash them and dry them”. Great advice as it turned out. (Read her take on diapering here.)
There are many reasons to go with reusable diapers such as saving money, that they’re so darn cute and the fact that they’re easier on the environment than disposables are. As an environmentalist you may think the third reason was my biggest motivator to do this (and more on why it is eco-better later in the post!), but the truth is, it was “all of the above” as well as the “do to others what you’d want done to yourself” thing. I cannot, I swear to god, think of anything worse than for two (or more) years straight wear petroluem-based, toxic, sweaty, itchy, disposable undergarments.
Now, we went with all made in USA diapers and wipes for eco-baby (more brands here) because made right here is my thing!
We’ve been using Thirstes’ all-in-one natural diapers (easy, organic and stylish) and Blueberry Simplex (super absorbent) all-in-one. I’ve gotten pretty much everything I needed at Nicki’s Diapers, but there are plenty of websites.
PRO TIP: Buy a few diapers you believe in, in advance, try them on baby when she gets here and then order more of the brand/style that works for you. (We needed the newborn sizing for our baby, because he was small, not all babies do.)
I knew I wasn’t comfortable buying diapers second hand for my son, but I did feel comfortable accepting hand-me-dows from a friend who’s daughter had used cloth for about a year. It might be silly, but it felt different when I knew who’d been washing and using the diapers. So, I have a stash of BumGenius pocket diapers (made in USA of imported parts) in a larger size for later.
You’ll need about 22-25 diapers to comfortably maintain a routine of washing every other day. An organic, made in USA diaper costs about $20, though there are sales, bundles and tons of other, imported, cheaper options out there.
PRO TIP: If your budget requires you to later sell your diapers, to get some of that cash back, know that baby poo can stain natural materials like cotton and hemp (even though diaper is clean!) whereas synthetics wash completely clean and white again (without bleach).
How to use diapers might seem self-explanatory to some, but it’s not for a new parent looking into cloth. Here’s the deal; there are lots of options for diaper styles. All-in-one, pocket diapers, wraps. I read this blog post from Homegrown Heaven and found it helpful.
You’ll need wipes and inserts too. Inserts, or boosters, help with absorbency and you’ll need them for night time. Again, organic cotton works great.
PRO TIP: For a simple wipes-solution, use 1.5 cups filtered water, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (liquid) and a splash of organic baby soap for scent. Moisten wipes and keep in an airtight container. Keep coconut oil around for dry skin and rashes too.
You’ll also need a wet bag or some sort of container for keeping wet diapers until your next laundry day. For us, two large wet bags from Planet Wise work great. We fill one, empty it into the washer (no touch!) and fill the other while the first one is drying.
PRO TIP: Cloth diapers add inches to the length of your baby’s torso (fluffy butt!) meaning she’ll grow out of those onesies faster than her buddies in disposables will. Look for long and lean instead of short and wide clothes.
Before I started doing this, I read a lot online about washing diapers. Everyone seemed to make it a big deal; you need to “strip them”, have them out in the sun to dry, yada yada yada. No, it’s simple. First, cold rinse cycle to get all the junk out. Second, hot wash with detergent and an extra rinse (to make sure all suds from detergent is gone!). Third, throw them in the dryer on low heat or hang try. DONE!
You do need a detergent without any type of softener in it. Softeners will make the diapers less absorbent, which we don’t want. I have been using Allen’s Naturally in my Samsung, front loaded, HE washer, and occasionally I add their special “Stink Out” liquid to make sure the diapers don’t smell. Apparently, regular, powder Tide works great for diapers too (a good choice if you don’t obsess about biodegradable detergents). Don’t go cheap on the amount of detergent, use plenty, get them clean, extra rinse.
PRO TIP: Don’t wait to start cloth diapering. The washing routine will NEVER be simpler than when baby only eats milk and poo is water-soluble and doesn’t need flushing in the toilet.
All-in-one diapers have lots of layers and fabric, so they do need an hour at least in my dryer. We have a few (less eco-friendly) synthetic ones that dry super fast.
Diapers and the environment
Some parents may feel judged because they didn’t do the eco-thing and use reusables but they shouldn’t. Our society promotes a use and toss lifestyle so don’t feel bad about using disposables if your kids are done with diapers already. Some other parents may feel defensive and tell you that the water used in the wash is WORSE for Mother Earth than filling landfill with their kids’ poopy diapers. This is simply not true.
When it comes to water, my HE (High Efficiency) front loaded washer from Samsung uses 13 gallons of water for a FULL load (two days worth of diapers are not exactly that but I do add a rinse cycle). If you wash diapers every other day for a year, that adds up to about 2,400 gallons of water. Basically the same amount of water is takes to produce cotton for one pair of jeans or produce one pound of steak. The water use with today’s washers is negligible in our water intensive society. A baby will go thru about 6000-8000 disposable diapers before he is potty trained, while 30-50 reusables will do the same job. How much water is used to produce 8000 disposable diapers? I have no idea, but I know the amount is nowhere near zero.
Some might argue that there are eco-friendly disposables (oxymoron!) now like Honest, Babyganics and Seventh Generation on the market and I agree they are a better choice than the leading big-box brands. However, even if these “eco-friendly diapers” use FSC stamped cellulose as the base material, they still contain oil basedpolypropylene, glues, polyester, polyurethane, ink and are packed in plastic wrap. Diapers are not recyclable because of their mix of materials and will always be landfilled.
Landfills are already full of diapers that won’t biodegrade (500+ years) and their contents (poo!) contaminates our lands and rivers. (Landfills are responsible for about 20% of our country’s methane emissions.)
When our baby starts childcare at six months, we will have to provide disposables for him to wear, simply because care centers in Texas won’t accept reusables. I will go with something plant-based, and I’m sure it will be just fine.
At that time, baby will also start eating solid foods, meaning poop will change (ugh!) and I’ll have to figure that situation out and write an update to this post! We do already have a (second hand) sprayer for getting contents into the toilet (oh my, this is getting serious!) we just haven’t used it yet.
Finally, let me say that any routine that involves reusables is a good routine. No time to wash that one day that got crazy? Use a disposable. Traveling and no washers at the hotel? Use a disposable. (This happened to us!) The world will not end, and we are not failures just because we can’t be 100% cloth. Every saved diaper counts!