Diapers Etc. :: Eco Friendly Buying Guide

Eco Friendly Buying Guide

With the visible effect of our ecological footprints growing bigger everyday it's necessary for each of us to make some changes in the way we live. Contrary to what Kermit the Frog sigs about, today it is much easier being "green" that you might guess.

In fact, you may already be doing more than you think. If your household recycles, reuses plastic shopping bags or swaps them for cloth bags, uses long-lasting fluorescent light-bulbs, opens the windows for fresh air instead of using air-conditioning, if you eat/drink organic/locally grown foods, if you buy organic cotton, bamboo, soy, or hemp clothing, reusable products, such as cloth napkins or diapers, natural bath and body products, nontoxic cleaners, rechargeable batteries or if you participate in a carpool or travel primarily by public transportation, bicycle or in a fuel efficient vehicle you are already helping the environment.

Okay, you might be saying "Whoa, slow down, that's a big list. How does any of that matter to the environment" Let's break it down, highlighting a few of the biggest things you can do to reduce your ecological footprint and increase the health of yourself, your family and your environment.

Recycle:

It's easy to ask "why recycle? Why buy recycled goods". The answer is actually ridiculously simple; you might say it's as easy as 1, 2, 3...

  • Recycling saves natural resources. By making products from recycled materials we conserve land and reduce the need to drill for oil and dig for materials used in making new products.
  • Recycling saves energy. For example recycled aluminum takes 95% less energy to produce than new aluminum from bauxite ore.
  • Recycling saves landfill space. About 300 million tons of trash ends up in U.S. land fills each year. When you recycle, the materials you recycle go into new products; they don't go into landfills or incinerators where they may leach toxic chemicals into our soil, air and water.

Many communities are doing their part to make it easier for everyone to recycle for with the introduction of curbside collection, allowing residents to leave their recyclables at the curb or in some other designated place where regular trash is picked up.

Communities may require residents to sort their recyclables, such as aluminum cans, newspapers and glass, into separate containers or they may be mingled together. Curbside collection programs typically have the highest recycling rates. Some experts saycurbside recycling nationwide could reduce the volume of solid waste by 15 to 25 percent.

If your community doesn't offer curbside recycling you can look for drop-off centers in your area. Today even the smallest communities have at least one drop off collection center. They are typically located near municipal buildings or local schools. These centers will usually impose some type of restriction for how you drop off your trash. News paper typical needs to be bundled, cans crushed and all containers cleaned.

If recycling seems like just too much to fit into your busy schedule, maybe your community doesn't offer curbside collection or a convenience drop off center, you can still help the environment by purchasing goods where all or most of the product is made from or packaged in recycled materials.

You can also do your part to reduce that 300 million tons of trash annually by purchasing recycled or repurposing goods. Some big culprits of landfill trash are children's clothes and toys. Rather than buy new you can easily come upon gently used items out grown by another child (they grow so quickly). Baby themed consignment and resale shops are springing up all over the place, even online, with mykidscloset.com, babyoutfitter.com, stylishstork.com to name a few. You’ll find these sites/stores have many items with tags that have never been worn. Most shops have very strict guidelines on the condition of the clothing they accept. They only take current styles that have been cleaned and pressed without stains, holes, missing buttons, etc.

If you are recycled treasure hunter there are many sites dedicated to this endeavor. One favorite is FreeCycle.com, a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. FreeCycle is all about reuse and keeping perfectly good products out of landfills. Everything in FreeCycle is well, free including the membership. There's also Craig's List, which has a large offering of free or inexpensive goods and let's not forget good ol' GoodWill.

Looking for something to do with the whole family? Organize a yard sale, get the whole neighborhood involved, but be sure to check with your community officials to see if there are guidelines for such undertakings.

For more information on recycling or to find a recycling or re-use location in your area visit http://earth911.org/.

To find your local Craig's List community visit http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites.html.

To find a FreeCycle group in your community please visit their site at http://www.freecycle.org/.

Eat Organic, Locally Grown foods:

The produce section of your grocers can be a bit daunting these days. With the introduction of more and more "organically" grown foods you may be asking "what's the difference, beyond the obvious cost?" If the label that says "USDA Organic." Does that mean it's better? Safer?

The word "organic" refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Any food labeled organic must meet a strict set of standards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed. Any farmer or food manufacturer who labels and sells a product as organic must be USDA certified as meeting these standards.

Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don't use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weed-killers, organic farmers conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

To find farmers nationwide, visit localharvest.org, sustainabletable.org, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture at www.ams.usda.govfarmersmarkets/map.htm.

Many people think that it is more expensive to purchase organically grown foods and there for not feasible in their everyday dates. In some case this may be true. Most organic food do cost slightly more than conventional food products. Higher prices are due to more expensive farming practices, tighter government regulations and lower crop yields. Because organic farmers don't use herbicides or pesticides, many management tools that control weeds and pests are labor intensive. For example, organic growers may hand weed vegetables to control weeds, and you may end up paying more for these vegetables. But when you consider the increasing costs of all foods combined with the 200 million dollars that tax payers hand over annually to pay for chemicals to be removed from drinking water, mainly as a result of the pesticides used in farming eating organically grown foods makes sense.

For a side-by-side comparison of organic vs conventionally grown foods please visit the Rodale Institute's website at http://www.newfarm.org/features/0904/bargain_wkst.shtml.

For more information on buying organic read Consume Report's article "When It Pays To Buy Organic at http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/food/diet-nutrition/organic-products/organic-products-206/overview/.

Buy Organic Clothing:

Everyone needs clothes. They shelter us from the elements and define our personal style but did you know:

  • A cotton t-shirt blended with polyester can release approximately one quarter of its weight in air pollutants and ten times its weight in carbon dioxide. It takes approximately one pound of chemicals to grow three pounds of conventional cotton, while organic cotton is grown chemical free.
  • Certified organic cotton is cotton grown without the use of harmful pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers. It is also free of formaldehyde finishes used to treat commercial, non-organic clothing. Organic cotton wears well and is extremely breathable, unlike synthetics that pill, emit static electricity, prematurely age and trap perspiration.
  • Most people suffering from skin dermatological conditions can comfortably wear garments made from organic fibers such as organic cotton or bamboo. Depending on your level of skin sensitivity, you may need to wear hypoallergenic, dye-free clothing. Bamboo Fabric is naturally antimicrobial, and will not harm those with skin sensitivities.
  • The Fair Trade Federation, FTF, is an association of fair trade wholesalers, retailers and producers whose members are committed to providing fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide. Fair Trade Organizations foster a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade that benefits people and their communities.

Parents who prefer organic food and natural fiber clothes for their children can take the next step in purchasing organic. Organic toys, made primarily from organically grown cotton and natural woods processed without chemicals provide both quality and safety. Organic toys also make a wonderful gift for children with allergies since the fabrics are pure and without harmful dyes.

For more information on buying organic products please visit How To Go Organic's website at http://www.howtogoorganic.com/index.php.

Looking for organic toys or the little ones? Take a look at Fat Brain Toys at http://www.fatbraintoys.com/toys/toy_categories/green_toys or LivingPlaying's vast selection of organic, green and fair trade (so you can make sure your toys are made for kids not by kids) toys at http://www.fatbraintoys.com/toys/toy_categories/green_toys.

Use Non-Toxic/Homemade Cleaning Products:

Your everyday commercial brand cleaners may not be as “clean” as you think. EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2-5 times, and occasionally, more than 200 times higher than outdoor levels. Cleaning products may be the culprits.

These products create hazardous waste, threatening human health and the natural environment. There are many green products available that are just as effective as traditional ones. If you are unsure of how to navigate the cleaning supply issue in your supermarket

  • When shopping for cleaning products:
  • Choose products that are biodegradable and non toxic to humans and aquatic life.
  • Choose concentrated products, and be sure that they can work in cold water.
  • Choose products with VOC concentrations of less than 10% of the weight of the products when diluted for use as directed.
  • Choose products with a neutral pH.
  • Choose products in recycled, recyclable and refillable containers and packaging.
  • Avoid petroleum-derived ingredients. Instead choose surfactants derived from vegetable oil. Look for d-limonene and pine oil solvents.
  • Avoid containing EDTA and NTA. Look for alternatives with sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, and sodium silicate.
  • Avoid phosphates, Choose products with a phosphate concentration of 0.5% or less by weight.
  • Avoid products containing chlorine bleach or sodium hypochlorite.

Additionally, for those of you looking to go completely “green” with your cleaning regime, simple recipes using products from your pantry make effective household cleaning solutions and these natural products are more environmentally friendly than commercial alternatives.

Try these easy recipes to clean your home faster, better and cheaper:

SOFT SCRUBBER

Simply pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, and wash the surface. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bathtub because it rinses easily and doesn’t leave grit.

Note: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar, to keep the product moist. Otherwise just make as much as you need at a time.

WINDOW CLEANER

1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Spray bottle
Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past.

OVEN CLEANER

1 cup or more baking soda
Water
A squirt or two of liquid detergent

Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture set overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven. If this recipe doesn’t work for you it is probably because you didn’t use enough baking soda and/or water.

MOLD KILLERS

Please note that the smell of tea tree oil is very strong, but it will dissipate in a few days.

2 teaspoons tea tree oil
2 cups water
Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and spray on problem areas. Do not rinse. Makes two cups.

FURNITURE POLIH

Mix in a sprayer bottle:
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
Shake well and apply a small amount to a flannel cleaning rag or cleaning cloth. Spread evenly over furniture surface. Turn cloth to a dry side and polish dry.

Switch from disposable to cloth diapers:

I know what some of you might be thinking…”Ugh, safety pins and bulky cloth diapers? That will simply not fit into my busy lifestyle.” Well believe it or not cloth diapering has come a long way in the last 10 years. Gone are the days of tacky rubber pants and thick unruly squares of cloth. Cloth diapers of today are actually quite stylish and the benefits of switching from disposable to cloth diapering are undeniable.

Take a look:

1. The benefit to your wallet.

You'll change thousands of diapers by the time your child is 2 to 3 years old and ready to be potty trained. Disposable diapers are undeniably convenient, but they're also costly. Many parents think nothing of buying a pack of disposable diapers, as the cost is typically hidden in the weekly grocery bill, but when you add it up over the entire diapering period, the costs are substantial. The figure of course depends on the number of diaper changes a day and the age at toilet training, but assuming an average two and a half-year diapering period, and an average of eight to ten diaper changes a day this translates to 7,000 to 9,000 diapers over the diapering period.

At an average price of $.24 per disposable diaper ($.28 for name brands) the price tag for disposable diapering is around $2,000. And as if that wasn’t enough, Huggies has announced they will be increasing the cost of their diapers an additional 6-8% in 2008. This after an already substantial cost increase in February of 2008.

Home diapering, on the other hand, can be done for as little as $400, or as much as $1,200, depending on the type of products you buy. Well-made products should last for use on other children. Diapers can range anywhere from $20.00 a dozen for Diaper Service-Quality prefolds, up to $60.00 or even $100 a dozen for fitted, contoured diapers with snaps or organic cotton diapers. You'll need somewhere between three and five dozen. Covers range from $4.00 to $18.00 apiece, depending on the quality and material, and you'll need up to 25 (about five in each size range). Figuring in detergents and energy costs of about $.60 per load, the average parent will spend well under $1,000 (usually more like $500) for home diapering.

Additionally, if you’re savvy, it’s often possible to earn back between 50-80% of your original cost through resale, depending on the quality of the diapers and covers.

And finally, an interesting note…money spent on cloth diapers is usually money that goes to support small businesses.

2. The benefit to the Earth.

Don't get sucked into thinking you are only "one" person making a negligible difference. The habits of one tiny baby can make a huge impact on the earth.
Over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill. In 2001, nearly $300 million dollars were spent annually just to discard disposable diapers, whereas cotton diapers are reused 50 to 200 times before being turned into rags. No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years, long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.

Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste.
Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials than cloth diapers. The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth. Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby each year.

In light of the recent increase in gas prices using our petrochemical resources to diaper our babies is probably using those resources in the wrong way, when you consider that we have cotton, hemp, wool, and other renewable materials that can use equally well.

By choosing cloth diapers, a family can keep from adding diapers to the landfills, while keeping their impact on the earth lower by using renewable resources.

3. The benefit to your child's health (and your's too!).

Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S..

Disposable diapers contain traces of Tributyl-tin (TBT). In May 2000 Greenpeace found TBT in Pampers Baby Dry in Germany. TBT is one of the most toxic substances ever made. It harms the immune system and impairs the hormonal system. There is speculation that it could cause boys to become sterile.

Disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance had been used in super-absorbency tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome. It is interesting to note that studies show employees in factories manufacturing sodium polyacrylate suffer from female organ problems, slow healing wounds, fatigue and weight loss.

On the other hand, cloth diapers are mostly made of natural fabrics and are gentle to baby's skin. Now I know that some commercially produced cotton is not without its evils but overall there is no contest between the chemically enhanced disposable diapers and its cloth counterpart.

Cloth diapers can also aid in determining whether your child is getting enough milk and in terms of early detection of whether your baby is ill.

When a new mother starts breastfeeding, one sign that she has produced enough milk for her baby and that it is ok is her baby’s wet diapers. Many women have a difficult start to breastfeeding and worry about their child getting enough milk (even supplementing with formula (which also can be flagged for having a negative effect on a child’s health). If you use cloth diapers, the wetness in the diaper will reassure you that your baby is getting enough or the dryness will alert that something may be wrong. With disposables you cannot get this reassurance as the chemicals in them turn any liquid into a gel-like form, in order to keep baby "dry".
A reduction in urine can also be an early sign of illness (sometimes even before other symptoms) and if you can’t monitor this or aren’t aware of this through changing diapers, it could be quite major.

Disposables also leave you blind to any changes in consistency or color of waste, which can be a good indication of the state of a child’s stomach. They leave you blind to this, because people claim one of the advantages of using them is the ability to wrap up the poop and dispose of it quickly, without even looking, pretending it isn’t there. This is exactly what people do. With reusable diapers you will notice the consistency and color of the poo, because you actively flush the contents down a toilet. After a while, like anything, you do get used to dealing with excrement and thus cloth diapers are also helping make you less squeamish to everyday messes.

Lastly, many experts believe that toddlers need to be able to feel wetness so they can make the connection between feeling and going to the potty. Cloth diapers, therefore give a great start to potty training, because the child can feel wetness, whereas the chemical in disposables absorbs wetness, keeping everything dry so the child cannot feel it.
As a result, children using cloth diapers have been found to potty train much earlier and a lot quicker, than those that wear disposables. This has an obvious impact on the child's self-esteem, not to mention the added impact on landfills.

So there you have it! With just a few simple changes in the way you live your life you can dramatically impact the health of your family and your planet, taking giant steps towards reducing the size of your eco footprint.

Best of luck!!!

What to know how big your eco footprint is? Take this quiz at Global Footprint Networks website http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=myfootprint.