• Bella

lowered impact diapering.

Updated: Mar 31



Lowered impact diapering is not something we talk about too often. The conversation seems to find itself situated at the ends of two solutions. Cloth diapering vs. Disposables. While the environmental burden of disposable diapers weighs much on many concerned parents and caretakers there are still many others who need immediate convenience. Especially not in exchange for having to handle poop filled diapers. Let alone even think of such a daily struggle with a newborn and while sleep deprived.


I understand it. I was there back between February to June of 2016. As much as I was starting to becoming conscious about environmental concerns, I was also learning how to diaper for the first time, and just starting to think about the toxins that seem to be in common "child" products. Here I was experimenting as well, and discovering new things. Even cloth diapering. It never stuck for us though. Something about an afternoon diaper change and discovering urine burns, made me take two steps back. Even with that, I was still determined to diaper healthier. If in doing so I was honouring Mother Earth too, well then I was in.


The first two weeks back home from the hospital with my newborn, my mother in love came to help. She cooked, she cleaned and most important to me at the time, she held Loulou while I took long hot showers. She was emotional support and the woman that stood and welcomed me at the pearly gates into my motherhood. It was also because of her that I can count on one finger, the amount of prepackaged disposable wipes I ever used in my diapering career.

As the months progressed and a good nights rest returned after an osteopathic therapy, so did progress in diapering healthier and greatly lowered in environmental impact.


so what is lowered impact diapering?


I describe it like this; choosing to swap out as many disposable (single use), toxic and unsustainable components in the way you diaper. Not necessarily meaning there isn't any sort of waste involved or compromises. Lower impact diapering for me is some middle ground between, as previously mentioned, polar opposite ways of diapering.


what does that look like for our family?



In our case, to have reassessed every aspect of conventional diapering solutions. Here is what that looks like for us:



what are the pros and cons of the alternatives we employ and conventional diapering components?


diapers.


conventional:



  • From oil-based plastic-lined disposable diapers (like pampers). According to Zero Waste Switzerland, disposable diapers are made up "between 75% and 95% plastic and petrochemical materials. These plastics have a huge long term environmental impact if they find their way into nature. As well as this, there is quite a bit of raw material sourcing, which due to single-use becomes nonrenewable.

  • Toxic ingredients: fragrances, phthalates (endocrine disrupters), bleach, dioxins (known and classified carcinogen) and plastic microfibres that contain further toxic chemicals.

  • Girls are more damaged by exposure to chemicals found in disposable diapers. This is because of how "open" and exposed the vagina is in the natural design. So you might want to think twice if you do have one. For example, phthalates can imbalance vital hormone productions and affect the female reproductive system with damaging effects as far as into womanhood.

  • Non-biodegradable and nonrenewable ingredients, such as polypropylene and polyethylene are found in many conventional and big name diapers. Both in layers and stay dry gels. These leave plastics to break down into smaller plastics called micro-plastics that find their way into the environment and into the food chains. If that was not terrific enough, both toxins found in the plastics and other chemicals in the diapers can leach into your child's body. This is not the case with diapers made 5-10 years ago. I am talking about current and active ingredients.

  • Diapers can take up to hundreds (200-500) of years to breakdown.

  • Often comes in non-recyclable and nonrenewable oil-based plastic packaging. Packaging can take up to thousands of years to decompose. If packaging finds its way into the environment, it can kill marine and wildlife and find its up to the eco systems to us.

  • As recently as in January of this year, there were some tests run in France by the countries environmental agency. The government asked for immediate revision by companies, saying the same substance found in weed killers, were also found in a wide range of brand name diapers.

  • More likely to catch a rash in disposable diapers, due to contact with plastic film & exposure to a very common chemical found in diapers. Sodium Polyacrylate increases the absorbency of the nappy, but it also over absorbs natural oils that a baby produces on the surface of their skin to protect them from irritation. In most conventional disposable diapers, you will find a considerate amount of absorbency function relies on this SAP technology. The chemical is also linked to urinary tract infections in girls. Yikes.


our alternatives:



  • Lowered environmental impact than conventional oil-based plastic diapers.

  • Packaging has been Independently certified for renewability of raw materials. Certification comes from Vincotte.

  • The packaging is a plant based plastic (sugarcane), that is also highly recyclable and a large % of it will biodegrade.

  • Independently certified by Vincotte as the only eco diaper that is OK Bio-based.

  • Made from renewable and Bio plant-based materials (GM free corn based film).

  • Tested and Certified by STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX.

  • 100% FSC certified pulp.

  • Hypoallergenic.

  • Colour used in print patterns are heavy metal free, and Naty chooses to have a very little amount of images printed on diapers.

  • Not 100% Biodegradable but 60% of the diaper is made from the amount of the diaper is. There are some other eco diapers like from The Honest Company that claim their diapers are 90% biodegradable.

  • Free of Toxic chemicals: No TBT, bleach, fragrance, dioxins, phthalates, VOCs, or dyes.

  • Contains very little amount of super adsorbents as compared to conventional diapers. This means very low amounts of Sodium Polyacrylate salts & more natural pulp. When I started using Eco by Naty diapers in 2016, there was no gel technology at all. I began to notice they had made a change by the time Bubby was using them. Regardless of the amount employed, I still find the switch a controversial one, the chemical has been linked to urinary tract infections in girls.

  • Environmental impact due to the fact that there are still single-use disposable diapers which encourage wasteful consumption of raw materials and works against building a circular economical responsibility.


Part-time Cloth diapering

Around April of this year, we started to reintroduce the use of cloth diapering. In particular, to employ them in combinational use with Eco by Naty diapers.

As much as this seems like a halfway effort, which it is, it does reduce a significant amount of lump sum and immediate waste posed by full-time disposable diapering. Thus reducing the environmental impact created even when you diaper with biodegradable diapers.


There was an independent two-year study published in 2005. The report is quite interesting in that it concluded that both cloth diapers and disposable ones have equal environmental impacts, just in differed ways. Most disposable diapering companies point to this report to justify the further existence of disposable diaper use. Even though the study concluded in what seemed favorable to the conventional diaper industry by pointing out that what is marketed as better for the environment wasn't, the report noted something important to note the difference in environmental impact:


"Although the impacts are very similar, the life cycle stages that are the main source for these impacts are different for each system. For the disposable nappy system, the main sources of environmental impact are raw material production and conversion of these materials into disposable nappy components, for example, fluff pulp and super absorbent polymer.
For the home laundered nappy system, the main source of environmental impact is the generation of the electricity used in washing and drying the nappies. For the commercial laundry system, the main sources of environmental impact are the fuels and electricity consumed by laundry activities."

The environmental impact of disposable diapers comes from the waste of nonrenewable raw materials. This cannot be changed or improved very much upon, because disposables are classified by a single use, thus waste production. On the other hand, in the case of cloth diapers, since the environmental impact comes from a place of consumer maintain habits and there are alternatives to modern laundering activities, there is room for improvement.


As a matter of point in 2008, the UK Environment Agency published an updated study on the very first study, considering many relevant factors like more modern diapering systems (All-in and shaped/fitted systems) and concluding to highlight the following:


"Cloth nappy users can reduce their environmental impacts by:
Line drying outside whenever possible.
Tumble drying as little as possible.
When replacing appliances, choosing more energy efficient appliances (A+
rated machines are preferred).
Not washing above 60°C.
Washing fuller loads.
Reusing nappies on other children."

So if you cannot make the switch 100%, please do still consider using a few reusable diapers in your diapering routine. Most of the above-recommended changes to cloth diaper maintenance are also already recommended by cloth diapering companies. For example, most brands recommend washing their diapers be washed between 40-60 degrees, and not higher as it also ruins the materials and melts closures. I also haven't come across brands that say too or people that throw away reusable diapers after use. In fact, it is widely encouraged by the zero waste movement and people in it to buy second hand, diapers included. This thus covers the fact that most cloth diapers will be reused by more than one child, unlike disposables. Likewise, sun and air drying cloth diapers are recommended to naturally disinfect and dry diapers. Most modern washing machines come with A+ ratings and in other parts of the world like Ghana, people hand wash and sundry reusables because of the convince and economic benefits of doing so. Even if you do not make the necessary adjustments to your cloth diapering routine, at the very least it is a healthier option for your baby.


wipes.


conventional:


  • Pre-packaged in a thin non-recyclable plastic. This is due to the type of plastic film required to lock in moisture and keep wipes wet. However, with packaging where there are fill top lids made of polypropylene (#5), this can be removed and recycled. These plastics can also cause danger through ecosystem ingestions to wildlife, marine life and eventually humans.

  • Tissue made from synthetic material (nonbiodegradable), plastic-based fibers.

  • Long term impact on the environment.

  • Contains harmful ingredients such as synthetic fragrance, bleach, and synthetic preservatives.

  • Even when using "flushable" or "biodegradable" wipes, the effects of having fabric bits that do not immediately fall apart into natural pulp when flushed can have a serious impact for sanitation workers and systems. Does the word "Fatberg" ring a bell to you? More than likely no. If so, here is a short video worth watching about why flushable wipes shouldn't be flushed.



  • Immediate convenience.

  • No prep needed.

  • No water needed.


our alternatives:

  • Reusable.

  • Over time a better economical choice.

  • Multi-purpose uses. We use them as handkerchiefs as well as family wipes.

  • Made of natural material: cotton (bio). Also available from other brands with more sustainable materials such as Hemp and Bamboo.

  • Cuts down on disposable und nonrenewable plastic packaging.

  • Cloth wipes (imse vimse) as reusable diapering liners.

  • Can be repurposed after use as diapering clothes.

  • 100% Biodegradable.

  • Environmental Impact: Need to be washed, thus water consumption. Cotton farming is tedious and requires a vast amount of water.

  • Can be sun or air dried to cut down environmental impact. Sun drying even helps to disinfect them and bleach (chemical free).

  • No non-renewable waste involved.


care.


conventional:



  • Environmental impact of plastic tube and lid packaging. These plastics can also be deadly when they make their way up the ecosystem. Once ingested, wildlife or marine life, if the animal survives, they eventually make their way to our plates. As well as this, microplastics in the environment can leach harmful chemicals into soil and water bodies, affecting vegetation and drinking water of impoverished communities. The most common type of cosmetic packaging is PP Polypropylene (#5). This type of plastic is highly recyclable. It also takes 20-30 years for them to decompose into microplastics. In some countries, both the needed infrastructure, money & energy required to convert PP back into a pellet for reuse is simply is not there. In these cases, where it is inaccessible to do so, it is better to avoid them altogether.

  • May contain unrecognizable ingredients, some of which can be toxic to your baby (especially with extended use and exposure) as well as when washed off into the environment.

  • Example of these include fragrances, talc, polyethylene glycol (PEG), polypropylene glycol (PPG), Triclosan, etc.


our alternatives (for maintenance):


  • Natural oils. Extracted from plants and vegetables.

  • I use, almond oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.

  • As they are extracted from naturally occurring things, and not chemically altered, they can return back into the natural environment when washed off of the skin.

  • You are also more than likely to know what avocado oil is and where it comes from. However, polypropylene glycol isn't a recognizable ingredient for most of us or where and how it is obtained.

  • Non needed chemical additives to make them absorbent.

  • Oils can be purchased in bulk and refillable, as well as in glass containers that can be recycled or reused. Which means lowering waste too.

  • Oils, unlike creams, make for a great cleaning aid to cloth wipes. I usually spray directly on the area I need to wipe down or add a few drops of oil to the cloth wipes to make sure to really get away and fresh. Some natural prepackaged wipes and even big-name companies add in oils to sooth and aid cleaning. If sourced in reusables, waste can be completely avoided.

our alternatives (for irritation):


  • Natural creams from trusted brands, like Weleda. A company like Weleda can be trusted for their dedication to natural ingredients as well as their overall dedication to sustainability. I have used the following creams, interexchanges, for diapering since Loulou was born:

Weleda Baby & Child Calendula Baby cream

Weleda Heilsalbei

  • Packaging: In Canada, the US and the UK, Welda has partnered with a company called TerraCycle to enable free collection and provide recycling off their packaging.

  • Aluminum tube with PP plastic caps. PP Polypropylene (#5) is highly recyclable plastic. However id it finds its way into nature, it can take between 20-30 years to decompose into microplastics. In some countries, both the needed infrastructure, money & energy required to convert PP back into pellets for reuse is simply is not there. In these cases, where it is inaccessible to do so, it is better to avoid them altogether. Here in Zurich, I simply cut the aluminum tube in two and clean out the tube, then I bring this to my local aluminum recycling point or center. As for the cap, I am fortunate enough to have access to recycling plastic caps too. I collect these in a plastic recycling bag and it goes to a center specialized for recycling them or successfully incinerated. I consider this option to still be wasteful and lowered impact. Aluminum and plastic even when recycled, still have an environmental impact because of the energy that goes into doing so. Then there is the fact that I know the packaging isn't made of recycled material either. If it is incinerated, I still consider this wasteful, because it is a waste of resources.

  • I use this option as a last resource. Only ever opting to use it, when the girls are very irritated. Which happens seldom. In three and a half years, we have been through 5 tubes in total.


My favorite option.

Made with all pure and natural oils and kinds of butter that I source in refillable and or highly recyclable containers. As the name suggests, I produce the body butter at home. This way I can lower waste, while also familiarising myself with ingredients. I can also produce quantity based on need. If ingredients are sourced in reusables, waste can be completely avoided.

Click here to view my recipe.

I also opt to use pure coconut oil, shea butter or cocoa butter as first aid to treat diaper rashes and or irritations.



swimming diapers.


"poop catcher"


Let's begin with Why? I know this might sound like an extra thing to purchase, but there's a real-life function to this!

Simple, they are poop catchers! There are no two ways around this. They just are.

Not only can public pools be disgusting, but before swim diapers existed, image what it was like swimming in a pool more than likely riddled poop particles containing and spreading of fecal and infectious bacteria like E.Coli. And don't try using regular diapers for swimming, it isn't some hack and it will not work out well. Swimming diapers are specifically made to hold poop better and longer, while also avoiding the regal "swelling up" that happens with normal diapers when filled.

However, even here, there are options.


conventional:



  • Can be put under swimming costume or bottoms and don't bulk up.

  • Simple to remove, just as with pants or as with diapers.

  • Single-use, disposable.

  • Just as with conventional disposable diapers, these typically contain similar toxic ingredients and plastic layers.

  • Have a high and multi-factor environmental impact. Almost identical to that of disposable diapers.

  • Made with more plastic-based materials and contain more super-absorbents.

  • You need to bring along extras just like with a diaper.

  • Check every 20-60 mins for soiling.

  • Need to be changed away from the swimming area.

  • Need to be changed immediately after being soiled with number 2.

our alternatives:



  • Can be put under swimming costume or bottoms and don't bulk up.

  • Simple to remove, just as with pants or as with diapers.

  • Reusable and washable.

  • If there is poop they need to be pre-rinsed immediately and then stored in a wet bag.

  • You need to have and use a wet bag to keep and transport these swimming pants.

  • Because they need to be waterproof, they typically have an outer layer made of PUL. PUL is a synthetic plastic based material, which can potentially lose microplastic fibers when washed. These can enter into the environment via sewage.

  • Inner pant is typically made of natural materials such as cotton, bamboo or hemp, which reduces the number of microplastic fibers lost in washing as well as limits exposure of baby's skin & intimate parts to synthetic material. You can opt to wash them in a thin cotton bag to catch microplastics.

  • Dry easily in the sun or air. Not recommended to tumble dry.

  • Employ water to wash, which still an environmental impact.

  • Lowered environmental impact, when used in combination with an adjusted lowered impact maintenance routine. Such as the ones recommended with cloth diapers (see above).

  • No non-renewable waste.

  • You don't need to bring along extras. Simple remove the pants, give them a warm wash with mild soap and then use again.

  • Check every 20-60 mins for soiling.

  • Need to be changed away from the swimming area.

  • Need to be changed immediately after being soiled with number 2.

  • Can be used for more than one child, passed down or resold as second hand.



potty training.


conventional:



  • Single use.

  • Contain super-absorbents. While this is great for avoiding leaks, chances are you child is less likely to notice when they have. Which was work counteractive to the goal of having them potty trained.

  • Just like conventional diapers, these can also contain toxic components and ingredients, which can leach into the environment or your baby's body. Read above, under disposable diapers.

  • Cute patterns and familiarised cartoon character (such as familiar Disney characters) get your child interested in wearing them!

  • As they cannot double as actual underwear and do not feel like them either. This might make it harder to transition, as your child might be reluctant to switch to regular feeling or looking underwear.

  • Tare away sides and scratch opening training pants are less messy to remove off a child, but require them to lay down.

our alternatives


  • Reusable cloth pants from Imse Visme.

  • I trained my oldest with these, and in 1 month, she was fully potty trained. I attributed this to the fact that she felt her wetness, and it even leaked though enough for her to not want it to happen again. Can be removed just as with pants.

  • It posed an immediate inconvenience that I had to constantly change and clean her up when pee leaks did occur, but they held poop very well.

  • These reusable cloth pants do retain more than regular pants, and they are made with cotton, inside and out.

  • Cute patterns! Got Loulou excited to wear them, especially coming from wearing very neutral colored Naty diapers.

  • They can be used as regular underwear after potty training is complete.

  • Feel similar to actual underwear. This aids transitioning your child to regular underwear.

  • Require washing.

  • Made of 80% cotton (inside), 20% polyester (outside) and laminated (on the outside) with polyurethane. Polyester and polyurethane are made of plastic-based fibers. This put at risk, the possibilities of micro plastics when washed. You can opt to wash them in a thin cotton bag to catch micro plastics. Child's skin and intimate parts do not come into contact with any of the synthetic materials. These material work as water repellents.


accessories.


Wet-bag for storage of used cloth wipes, cloth diapers. These wet bags can double to store soiled training clothing and or reusable training/swimming diapers. I have 3 varied sized Wet-bags that we use for diapering as well as storing cloth wipes used as handkerchiefs and for reusable pads. Our wet-bags are from Imse Vimse and are OEKO-TEX Standard 100 class 1 for baby products.

These bags are made of PUL (polyurethane laminated polyester). We wash these below 60 degrees as to not melt or lose microplastic fibers. You can also consider washing them in a cotton bag to catch microfibres or in a Guppyfriend washing bag.


how do we adopt diapering like this on the go?




On the go, I need to consider all possible outcomes. So I carry a few accessories. Some additional and others that I use at home as well. Apart from carrying a reusable water bottle for drinking, I also use this to wet wipes in a situation where I cannot find and have water close by. For obvious sanitation reasons, I avoid using water from our bottle once it has been drunk out of. Another thing I considered for sanitation is to store my wipes (when dry) in a clean pouch that can be closed. A change of clothing in case "diapering accidents". A wet bag is essential to the way we diaper, so on the go, it is also important to have had one. In particular, a wet bag with a zip closure to avoid dirty wipes, soiled cloth diapers, and wet swimming or training pants from falling or leaking out. If I do forget a wet bag at home, I simply place the wipes in the dirty diaper and wrap them closed in. When I get home, I take out the wipes and place them in a wet-bag. This goes for both cloth diapers and Eco by Nay disposable diapers.


Not shown in the photo above but also taken along is a muslin cloth or a foldable changing matt. While some places do have designated changing stations, I still want something to place on their station or matt to keep from my baby coming in direct contact with as well as to capture any leakage while changing. Pure oils and natural creams also included.


I can usually fit all of this into an old wet bag, that I now use as a diapering bag. This bag can be directly attached to our baby carrier or stroller. Sometimes I will also opt to use other bags we have at home like the woven kids' basket, seen above.



What are some extended ways in which lowered impact diapering impacts on other decisions?

  • We always wash with a full load. We usually wait out to wash every all our reusables, every three days, this way we have enough to wash. If we still don't have enough, we add in burping clothes, cleaning clothes, bathroom floor towel mats, face towels and or body towels.

  • We have an A+ rated washing machine, and use an ecological modus to make sure both energy and water are used sparely.

  • Wash with natural (refillable) biodegradable laundry detergent from Sonett. This detergent contains no enzymes, fragrance, preservatives, petrochemical and is purely vegetable based.

  • We purchase and use (refillable) white vinegar as a disinfectant.

  • We use wipes even after potty training as "family" wipes for our toddlers.

  • Avoid Plastic based materials or washing synthetic materials at higher than 60 degrees.

  • Using a cotton cloth bag to wash and catch synthetic fibers when machine washing swimming pants and training pants. We haven't tried this other solution but based on what we've read, it seems pragmatic. So go check them out this Swiss product,the Guppyfriend Washing bag.

  • As of 15 months start elimination communication training. Loulou fully potty (even at night) trained before her 2nd birthday.



All products/brands featured in this post:

Eco by NATY diapers

Imse Vimse Mini Wet bags

Imse Vimse Medium Wet bags

Imse Vimse Large Wet bags

Imse Vimse Swimming Nappies

Weleda Heildsalbe (healthily cream)

Weleda Calendula Baby & Kind cream (Calendula diaper rash cream)

Bambino Mio Training pants

Guppyfriend washing bags

Sonett Laundry liquid sensitive




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