Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Parents magazine's cloth diaper slip-up

Has anyone read this? It was rated by 422 people so far and only got one star out of five, plus dozens of negative comments. I first read it when I got my copy of Parents the other day. It was written by a dad who was conducting an "experiment" in switching from disposables to cloth diapers. The article was funny, but presented no helpful information and in the end he said cloth diapers were too much trouble and wasted time he could be spending with his son. And besides, the water and electricity it takes to launder cloth diapers makes them as bad as (or worse than) the disposables!

(I'm not saying people who use disposables are bad--I used them for a long time with Suzi, and when I started with cloth it was mostly because I knew we'd save money. But it's almost like this guy made them the butt of his joke.)

His first two reasons were not true for me, but I haven't read many details on the last one. One thing I learned as a psych major is that you can't take someone's word when they say "we did a study and found that ____ is better." I want to know the details. Exactly what are they counting here? Because it looks like people imagine diapers just magically appear on the shelf in the store, and are only bad for the environment because they end up in landfills and will not decompose for hundreds of years. You have to factor in how they are manufactured, packaged, and shipped. My favorite rebuttal to this issue, which I found in the comments of the article, was that if washing cloth diapers is bad for the environment it must be bad for us to wash our clothing too. Why don't we start wearing paper clothes and throw them away every night?

I did find this from a comment on the article and I think it puts things more in perspective. Do any of you have good info on the environmental differences? I wasn't able to look at the study in question because I'd have to buy a book to see it. I'm already sold on cloth, but I want to know what to say next time I get asked the environment question.

Also, does anyone get a parenting magazine that has more helpful, constructive information rather than a bunch of common stuff? Parents has a few interesting articles each time, but I know its main moneymaker is advertising, not subscription fees. Besides, I don't agree with everything it says and I don't appreciate seeing mainstream ideas (about vaccinations, for instance) presented as gospel truth. (As a sidenote, I do sometimes look at websites for ideas and tips, but I can read magazines while I breastfeed Suzi.)


Jules said...

I didn't read the article but I heard talk about it at the Cloth Diaper group. I'll bring my latest copy of Mothering Mag to pass along to you at the next BW mtg. It happens to be their cloth diaper issue. :)

Anonymous said...

i too have given a few quizzical looks at people who told me that cloth was "nearly" as bad as disposable for the environment... when you insert the term "study" it seems unquestionable!
there are numerous good resources online comparing everything from shipping and manufacturing to laundering and labor costs. i'll weed through the bookmarks... meantime, consider the vast differences in the term cloth diaper... a recycled flannel shirt with a wool cover you made yourself v. an american sewn organic cotton blend all in one v. a bum genius v. a bamboozle. those are some serious, serious differences in sustainability, labor, shipping, etc.
it's a mess. i think it boils down to logic. you've got to make them both...
as a side note... i had a lovely chat with gina today about your mommy evolution... much talk of your niftiness. ;)

Janya said...

"Brain, Child" ( is my all-time favorite mommy magazine. Funny, irreverent, thought-provoking, and off the grid without being mega-crunchy, I really love it. Check it out! It comes out only 4 times a year and you can usually find it at a natural foods grocery store or co-op.

Vicky said...

OK....Suburandaddy used this as his "hot topic" of the week. I wrote out a good post on how I used disposables with my sons, but if we ever adopt I would probably try cloth diapering. It didn't post, so I will try again Monday.