Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Environmentalism, Cloth Diapers, Composting, Packaging

I would never really call myself an environmentalist. But by most definitions, I suppose I am just a teensy bit of one. But I think of it totally differently. Here are my jumbled thoughts...

God gave us this one life, this one body, this one earth. We were told to be "good stewards." To me this means to treat the earth, our bodies, and each other with respect, dignity, and love.

I would never be so extreme as to say people should stop having children or start considering abortion/euthanasia "for the good of the planet." That's just (obviously) WRONG. I think it's a bunch of bologna that a few extremist environmentalists are saying these things. This is part of the reason I hesitate to even think of or call myself "an environmentalist" because I DO NOT want to be anywhere near in the same category as those types of “environmentalists.” I may want to save the planet, but LIFE is always the most important thing to respect and preserve.

We live in a very "disposable" society. People buy disposable products without even thinking about it. Paper goods, cleaning supplies, diapers, food packages/packaging, tons and tons of plastics... the list goes on and on. Our landfills are filling up with toxic waste that isn't going *anywhere* for a very very long time.

This is not to say that I'm not just as guilty. I buy these products too. I'm definitely not perfect. At all. I especially have a weakness for disposable cleaning supplies and I readily admit to using 2 or 3 in my cleaning supplies currently. And sometimes I just use paper plates or disposable cooking dishes to avoid doing dishes. I still have junk food on occasion (and thoroughly enjoy it ;) which usually contributes to the landfill in some way... Snickers wrappers. Little Debbie wrappers. Etc. It happens. But hey- soda cans go in the recycling! :P

But I'm trying to change how I think of the phrase "throw away" because really- we don't actually throw anything away. NOTHING GOES AWAY. It goes somewhere else. And sits on the planet in a landfill. This thought disgusts and horrifies me. Every single thing that ever goes into my trash will eventually end up in a landfill just sitting for who knows how long...

Cloth Diapers

This is part of the reason why I can no longer justify using disposable diapers. I may use them for a weekend away when I can't wash diapers. But other than those few times here and there, my conscience can't handle it. And I find it so very upsetting when I hear other parents say flippant or disrespectful things about my (or anyone's) choice to use cloth diapers.

How often do they think of the billions of toxic, chemical-laden, feces-filled, plastic diapers that are plopped into our landfills on a daily basis!? This practice is totally unnecessary!

Here are some environmental facts about disposable diapers:

In 1988, over 18 billion diapers were sold and consumed in the United States that year.4 Based on our calculations (listed below under "Cost: National Costs"), we estimate that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S.13

The instructions on a disposable diaper package advise that all fecal matter should be deposited in the toilet before discarding, yet less than one half of one percent of all waste from single-use diapers goes into the sewage system.4

Over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill.4

In 1988, 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.5

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.5

Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp.3

The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth.3

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.6

Initially, I chose cloth mostly because of the savings (We used to spend nearly $60 a month on disposables for two babies, now we spend NOTHING except for the little extra water it takes to wash our dipies) and that is a huge benefit. I also enjoyed how cute they were and how they are hands-down healthier for my babies' delicate skin. But now I have to say that the environmental impact has taken priority over those other issues.

Just thinking of contributing to the already overwhelming amount of plastic, feces-filled, chemical-laden, nastiness dumped onto our earth each day is enough to make me nauseated. Does no one else think of it that way? Because we all should! And it is such a simple thing that almost anyone can do to cut down on how much abuse the earth suffers because of us.


So much of what we dump in landfills is left-over food bits or things like egg shells, potato skins, apple cores, used coffee grounds/tea leaves, banana peels etc. A very easy way to reduce that and return it to the earth in a healthy way. Composting! It is ridiculous that we just started composting though and it embarrasses me that we kept putting it off for so long. But I'm happy to say we now are avid composters and it is so easy! We have a little compost bucket in our kitchen that has a lid that holds down any odors. Almost all scraps we create from cooking/eating go into that bucket and when it is full it goes out to our compost pile in the backyard. It is slowly just decomposing and returning into dark rich soil that we'll be able to use in our garden next year! SO SIMPLE! I love it! Again, this is such a great way to make another reduction to what goes into our over-full landfills. Remember, you can't actually "throw anything truly away."


We've started just trying to be aware of the packaging on the items we buy. Of course we still buy things sometimes totally wrapped in non-recyclable plastics and we send that off to the landfill along with all of our other trash, but it is good to be more aware of packaging options. Instead of plastic bottles of shower body wash, we buy bar soaps that at most have a little cardboard (compostable!) sleeve as packaging. That's just one example of something simple that can be changed to reduce our landfill contribution. I've also started making our own deodorant and tooth powder (used in place of tooth paste) and I use re-usable glass jars for those things so that is yet more packaging we no longer need and no longer put in the landfill. When there is something on our shopping list that can be changed simply to reduce packaging, I try to do it. This is still something I need to work a lot on as we've made a little progress, but I think could do much better.

I wish more companies would keep their packaging either recyclable or compostable. That would help so much! But until we as consumers make it clear that we won't buy the "trash," companies will continue to do just whatever makes them the most buck.

I wish every American would watch "Food Inc" and "No Impact Man" to see what our culture, greed, selfishness, and consumerism is doing to the earth, down to the very way our food companies produce our food! I feel like our planet is on the super-speed-highway to being destroyed where if we all just made a few simple changes, we could slow that waaaaay down!

I still have a weakness in many of these areas and in no way am I saying I'm "no impact women" but I am proud of the few steps we've taken and the progress we've made. The trash we send to the landfill every week has been drastically reduced in the last year or two in some very simple and easy ways.

Next I'll work on prying the disposable cleaning wipes, Swiffer accessories, paper towels, and disposable toilet wands out of my white-knuckled vise-like grip... :P

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