If you've started researching potty training, you're probably already exhilarated by the thought of not having to change another diaper. But there's another powerful reason to go diaper-free besides fewer interactions with poop, building your kiddo's self-confidence, and saving some cash: Diapers are terrible for Mother Earth!
If you don't know me personally, I am the type of person who has been into environmental stuff since I was geekily sporting Tree Hugger shirts and wearing braces (photo mercifully not available). I examine every piece of trash my family produces to see if it's recyclable. I hang my head in shame if I forget a reusable shopping bag. I consider our rain barrel a member of the family. I audibly sigh if my kids make a mess crazy enough to require a paper towel instead of a washable rag. So yeah, I'm (ahem) kinda/sorta Green-focused.
Meanwhile, if you're the parent of a toddler, the trash you're producing is largely diapers. An estimated 90% of U.S. parents use disposable diapers. Even as a greenie, I did, too. The convenience!
What's in a diaper, anyway?
There are 3 layers to your average disposable diaper.
Inner Layer - the part closest to your little one's delicate areas. This layer is soft and smooth. But many diaper companies don't disclose what it's made of. Hmm.
Absorbent Core - This is where the magic happens. This is a mixed bed of fluffy material and chemical crystals, known as Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP). This stuff can absorb up to 300x its weight!
Waterproof Outer Layer - All disposable diapers have some type of petroleum-based or plastic-treated material.
Petroleum. Plastic. Ugh. Plastic, as we're learning, doesn't go away. Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? This stuff is not going away. And inside each of these little balls of plastic is your child's poop.
Fun fact: parents are supposed to dump poop into a toilet before tossing the diaper. Say what??? Yes. It's recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as best practices for keeping toxic waste out of our landfills, preserved for all of eternity. Diaper packages actually instruct you to do this. I had no idea! I wish they would have taught us that along with the birthing and breastfeeding classes. And even if they had, I'm not sure I would have had the ability to do this at 2am on a cold bathroom tile floor with a crying infant. Just sayin'.
All of these indestructable balls with a core of poop are taking their toll.
Here are some sobering stats:
The average kid will use between 7,500-10,000 diapers before potty training at 30 months.
Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest consumer item found in our landfills.
Each child generates 2,000 pounds of garbage over a two year period. Yeah, that's literally a ton.
Each year, over 250,000 trees and over 3.5 billion gallons of oil are used to manufacture disposable diapers.
Wouldn't you like to put an end to your personal contribution to this massive diaper problem? Bonus: you'll be taking yourself out of the consumer pool for Big Diaper (a thriving semi-evil industry who loves having you as a customer, deserving of a future post).
Potty training is important for lots of reasons. The trees, and Mother Nature, should be among them.