Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cloth diapers and the environment

I mentioned that our first reason for switching to cloth diapers was honestly about cost.  It just didn't make sense to me to keep "throwing" that money away.  Not as far as cloth diapers and washing machines have come.  We have been cloth diapering for almost 4 months now.  I have probably already broken even with the amount I would have spent on disposable diapers.  The second reason we switched was for environmental or health reasons.

Pampers has recently made a product change to "dry max."  Their diapers are supposed to be even thinner and more absorbant.  Let me tell you, I had to turn my nose the first time I opened a package of their new diapers.  They smelled worse than ever.  Coincidentally, this was right about the time we were talking about cloth diapers.  I started hearing more and more about the chemicals in disposable diapers.  I also heard many stories about the serious diaper burns babies were experiencing from the Pampers dry max.

Here are some of the things I've learned:
Scientific studies have linked disposable diapers and their harsh perfumes and toxic substances to increasing asthma rates.  Children with respiratory disorders can even have problems from the emissions of disposable diapers...the fumes.

There were also two studies (one by Proctor & Gamble) that found that scrotal temperature was higher in disposable diapers.  Potential sperm counts could be affected in boys.

One of the chemicals used in the disposable diaper process is dioxin.  Dioxin has been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, liver damage, skin diseases, and genetic damage.  It is a by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in manufacturing disposable diapers. Dioxin is listed by the EPA as the most toxic of cancer related chemicals.  It is banned in many countries.

Disposable diapers also contain Tributyl-tin, which is a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.

Disposable diapers also contain sodium polyacrylate. This is the gel-like, absorbant crystal material that you may have seen. Sodium polyacrylate is the same substance that was removed from tampons because of its link to toxic shock syndrome.  Diapers get thinner and thinner.  They don't magically absorb more and more liquid.  These chemicals do the absorbing.

Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest waste product in landfillls, behind newspaper and beverage products.  They don't exactly decompose.

Enough studies have shown that the disposable diaper manufacturing process actually uses more water than washing cloth diapers.  The process also uses tons of petroleum and chlorine and wood pulp.

Studies go round and round about cloth vs. disposable.  There will never be a study be even the largest cloth diaper company that can stand up to a company like Proctor & Gamble.  However, I've read enough, smelled enough, seen enough, and felt enough to know the difference.  I much prefer the smell of well, nothing to the smell of plastic and chemicals.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back to cloth diapers

 I know I'm bouncing around, but some nights I just blog about what's on my mind or what's easiest (depending on how much effort was needed to get the kids not only in bed but asleep).  So I'm back to cloth diapers for awhile.  Deciding to cloth diaper was actually a pretty easy decision for us.  The conversation went something like, "Lee, what do you think about cloth diapers?"  "I think that's a great idea!  I would have been ok with it earlier, but I didn't think you'd go for it."  That was it.

Honestly, if you know me and definitely if you know my husband, our first motivation was for money.  Disposable diapers are crazy expensive at the rate you start going through them with two kids!!!  It just irked me that we were spending so much for something that was going in the trash about 14 times a day.  I knew it was a good thing to do for the environment, too, but it wasn't until I read further about all the chemicals in disposable diapers that really convinced me to make the change. 

This first post is just to look at the cost savings of cloth diapers.  Then I'll talk about the environmental impact, which is slightly more political.  Last of all I'll talk about how far cloth diapers have come because you probably already think I'm crazy for using the old Gerber cloth diaper "burp rags," plastic covers, and stabby diaper pins...which I don't!!

I think we easily went through a minimum of 10 diapers a day for Caitlin, if not 12-14, at first.  Now, we're down to about 6-8.  Kai is potty training but at the time we first switched he was going through at least 4, probably 6.  Caitlin is not a small girl so she was never in newborn.  Pampers size 1-2 are about $0.20/diaper.  That's about $2.50/day or $75 a month.  Pampers size 5 are at least $0.35/diaper, so $2.10/day and $63/month.  TOTAL = $140+/month (and that's on a conservative day, not counting all the extras in diaper bags, and after poop explosions right after you put on a clean diaper, or all the tabs that rip off in the middle of the night).  That's just one expense that I was eager to cut out.

What's the hardest part about cloth diapering?  The start-up cost.  There are definitely ways to do it on a budget.  There's even a Cloth Diaper Foundation that helps families afford diapers.  The second hardest part is deciding what type of cloth diapers to use...which system.  Maybe I should be doing that post first, about the different types, but I want to explain our reasons for switching first.  I'll just tell you what we put into our "stash" and then tell you more about our stash later.  For all intensive purposes, I decided to go with the most daddy/sitter/grandparent friendly diapers and chose the Flip diaper and Bum Genius all-in-one diapers (BG AIO).  That will make a lot more sense later.  The Flip diaper comes in a "day pack" of 2 outer covers and 6 inserts for $50.  You probably need at least 3 days packs to get through 2 days of diaper laundry.  Some people would recommend 4, but Caitlin just doesn't have as many poopy diapers as Kai EVER did...combined, added up, muliplied, and doubled again.  Bum Genius was also running a promotion at the time that if you spent $10 on any of their products (Flip is a also BG product) you get a free all-in one so I also built up a stash of about 9 BG AIO diapers.  I probably put $200 into enough diapers to last 3 days, plus another $50 into a diaper pail, liners, and detergent.  Not bad for less than 2 months of disposables, and wait, I've been doing this for almost 4 months with not other additional costs!!!  (Except for the occasional boutique cloth diaper that Caitlin HAD to have...)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Organic on a budget

One of my biggest fears with making organic babysteps was the pricetag!  There's a reason I didn't shop at Earthfare or health food's expensive!!  We went from living in a very "earthy" town to a very southern, textile, suburban area.  There aren't many options to buy organic, let alone shop around for the best prices. 

For awhile we had really gotten into the grocery coupon craze.  I remember a few receipts where we saved over 50%!!  It was almost sickening to realize how much discounted food I would be givening up, but it was also sickening to think about how 90% of the food in grocery stores is processed or contains preservatives.

Here is one of the best blogs I have come across about the Maker's Diet and cost savings in particular:  Catherine did an amazing job of throwing out some ideas that really jumpstarted my cost savings when buying organic.  I make it a game to see how much I can save at Earthfare.  While there aren't many organic coupons, I really haven't spend a ton more.  I am still compiling a spreadsheet of what we were spending before couponing and what we were saving with coupons and what I'm spending now on a lot more organic food.  One thing I've noticed is even though I'm buying more from Earthfare I am buying less in general.  I'm not buying prepacked meals or boxes of things.  I'm buying whole foods that can be used for multiple meals.

Here are some other sites that have really helped our budget:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cloth diapers

I've been wanting to do this post for awhile but there is so much to write.  Being a pharmacist I like for things to be as scientific and OCD (CDO as I like to call it--rearranged alphabetically), and I just haven't had time to put in the research that I would like.  There are numerous claims about all the chemicals in disposable diapers, but the diaper companies do not have to list all the chemicals so it's hard to know what's what.  To be perfectly honest, the main reason we switched was for economical purposes (not surprising if you know anything about my husband and me!!).  I have to say it is by far one of my favorite switches.  I LOVE cloth diapers.  I love the way they look, the way they feel, the way I don't have to buy anymore (yeah, right!), the way the fit.  I really don't even mind the washing.  If anyone is ever reading this and is on the fence about cloth diapers, you can't go wrong!!  In the next few posts, I'll write about why/how we switched, the different types, and what we use ( including our wash routine, which is highly personalized).  I really can't say enough about how much easier it is than I thought and how good I feel about making this switch. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Coconut oil

Did you know that coconut is oil is 92% saturated?  "A fatty acid is saturated when all available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom.  They are highly stable, because all the carbon-atom linkages are filled--or saturated--with hydrogen."  (Nourishing Traditions).  Monosaturated fats (olive oil, almonds, peanuts, avacaodos) have a kink or bend so they do not pack together as easily as saturated fats.  Like saturated fats, they are relatively stable and can be used in cooking.  Polyunsaturated fats have multiple kinks or turns and do not pack together easily.  These oils are highly reactive and go rancid easily.  They should never be heated or used in cooking.  Vegetable oils contain a lot of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Two-thirds of the saturated fat in coconut oil is in the form of medium-chain fatty acids/triglyceride.  MCFA are absorbed directly for quick energy, and contribute to the health of the immune systm.  Lauric acid is found in large quantities of coconut oil (and in breast milk).  The fatty acid has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properities.  We would benefit from a lot more fat in our diets, but we must choose the fats with care.  Populations that consume coconut oil have low rates of heart disease.

In the Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife he lists several recommendations for coconut oil:
When taken as a supplement, used in cooking, or applied to directly to the skin, coconut oil has been found to:

- Promote weight loss
- Help protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and many other degenerative diseases
- Strengthen the immune system
- Improve digestion
- Prevent premature aging of the skin
I wish I could explain this better, but what I have learned is that coconut oil is a much more stable oil, and it tastes and smells great!!  I have used it in recipes for cooking, baking, deoderant, toothpaste, conditioner, facial moisturizer, diaper rash, cloth wipe solution and there are so many more uses than I have not tried (cuts, burns, aftershave, belly balm, cradle cap, chapstick, sunscreen).  Just google "coconut oil uses or benefits" and you'll see what I mean!

Here's my favorite recipe for coconut oil...spread coconut oil on bread, add cinnamon and sugar, toast!  Mmmmmmm.  Or add it to brownie mix instead of vegetable oil and see if you can wait for the brownies to be done before wanting to yank them from the oven and dig in!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rockin Green Review

Yesterday I mentioned our semi-switch to a green detergent, literally.  The detergent that I use for cloth diapers is called Rockin Green.  I have to say it is the only detergent that I have tried on diapers, with the exception of one load of Tide because I had not figured out whether I was using enough Rockin Green at that point.  Other than that I have only used RnG and love it!  I'm almost bummed that I haven't used anything else because I don't have any great before and after stories.

When we made the decision to cloth diaper (several blog posts in itself), I knew we'd have to use a different detergent on the diapers.  I read, and read, and read, and read.  I kept hearing things about RnG and Rockin a Soak.  I decided to order a few samples.  Meanwhile I kept hearing amazing stories about people that were making the switch.  Stories of repelling issues, ammonia issues, stink, stains, etc all gone with RnG.  Since we just recently started cloth diapering we didnt' have any of those issues.  However, the first time I washed her diapers I only used the recommended 1 TBS in our he frontloader washer.  The whole laundry room had a slight odor to it.  Ugh.  After doing lots more reading I decided I wasn't using enough so the next time I doubled it to 2 TBS and have not had any issues since.

Samples are available for $0.75 to do 2-4 loads!  This detergent is also quickly becoming famous for stripping other detergent build up from diapers and clothes.  It's been known to pull trapped detergent, minerals, and grime while soaking.  It comes in 3 formulas:  soft rock (sensitive skin), classic rock, and hard rock (specially formulated for hard water).

It now comes in several new scents:
Smashing Watermelon
The Green Tea's
Rage against the Raspberry
Motley Clean
Lavender Mint Revival
Bare Naked Babies

Ingredients: sodium carbonate , sodium percarbonate, natural chelating agents, sodium sulfate, biodegradable surfactants, natural fragrance oils (if scented is chosen)

▪ Dye free
▪ Biodegradable
▪ No fillers
▪ No enzymes or optical brighteners
▪ 100% Phosphate free
▪ Disinfects
▪ Vegan
▪ Great for sensitive skin
▪ Easy rinsing formula
▪ Eco-friendly ingredients
▪ 100% natural scents
▪ Perfect for cloth diapers
▪ HE compatible
▪ Reusable packaging
▪ Great for all water types
▪ Economical at .15 cents a load!

It is available at and many other online retailers.  Use the code KIWIrocks right now for 15% off.  Here's a picture of someone who rocked a soak for 1 hour on a baby blanket washed weekly...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Detergent Review

So you saw the pictures...I was surprised myself.  Is that not a little gross?  The first picture (clear) is Rockin Green detergent, and the other (murky) is Tide.  I have to admit, I have loved Tide for a long time and I love the smell of "clean."  I was pleasantly surprised when I got married that Lee preferred it as well (it's the small things in life).  We've never used anything different.  It wasn't until I starting researching detergents for cloth diapers that I ever even considered switching.  If it weren't for that I can guarantee you that it would not have been one of my babysteps anytime soon.  After our Tide runs out (yes, I'm still using it up), I guess Lee and I need to have a heart to heart ;)  I think I'm also going to have to run some stain tests before he'll be convinced that the "green" detergents actually clean as well.  Here is what I have learned thus far...

Most commercial laundry detergents, like Tide, contain enzymes, whiteners, and brighteners.  Sounds clean, right?  Where it starts to go bad is that they are not required to list specific ingredients.  Some of the unlisted ingredients are phthalates (harmful to wildlife in lakes and streams) and 1,4-dioxane (a petrochemical carcinogen).  1,4-dioxane is not easily removed from water.  See this excellent article which also provides of a list of products that contain the most and least 1,4-dioxane:

My favorite diaper detergent is Rockin Green (RnG).  Here is a list of their ingredients: sodium carbonate , sodium percarbonate, natural chelating agents, sodium sulfate, biodegradable surfactants, natural fragrance oils (if scented is chosen). 
Seventh Generation also does a fantastic job of listing the specific chemicals that they use and explaining what each does.  Charlie's Soap and Bio-Kleen are some of the other green favorites in reviews.

I have to admit I'm still researching this babystep.  It makes sense to me why you don't want whiteners, brightners, and enzymes coating your clothes like the murky water in my cup.  Basically they bind to your clothes and make them reflect light, add colors to cover up dirt, and cover odors.  However, I'm fully aware that just because a label says natural and eco-friendly doesn't not mean that it's entirely safe nor does it mean it will clean well. 

I do know that most of the enzymes, whiteners, and brighteners will bind to cloth diapers and repel moisture instead of repel it.  Most detergents can also build up and cause stink issues so it's extremely important to use a low-sudsing, clean rinsing detergent on diapers.  It makes me feel very good to see how RnG dissolves in water in my cup.  So for now, it was an easy babystep to use RnG on the diapers.
This are the two best detergent reviews for cloth diaper detergent comparisons:

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Which detergent would you prefer for your clothes to sit it??  One has 1,4-dioxane and other unnamed enzymes, brighteners, and perfume.  The other has exactly 4 very specific ingredients.  Guess which one is which...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gift bag idea

Do you hate paying $4 for a fancy schmancy gift back, ribbon, and tissue paper only to worry about keeping it uncrinkled until it's thrown away?  Or do you have so many gift bags to re-use but still never have one the right size or theme?  A friend gave me a great idea!!  Use a reusable shopping bag.  It costs as little as $0.99 and certainly no more than a flimsy paper gift bag.  So many grocery and discount stores have gotten into making cute shopping bags so they look great.  They're great for groceries and gifts!!