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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Confessions of a Future Ecodad

Posted by Rick | November 8th, 2007 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Sustainability

Baby_room_sm.jpgHaving a baby on the way is pretty crazy. So much anticipation, preparation, and opportunity to be a rabid consumer. It seems like everywhere my wife and I go there’s something cute, plastic, and “required” for a first time parent to buy. Changing tables, baby bathtubs, bottles, mobiles, strollers, not to mention the clothes. Even the staunchest minimalist has to admit that a tiny pair of Vans warms the heart a little.

But the thing about babies is that they could care less what they’re wearing or how they get around. They have a few basic requirements: to stay warm, dry, well-rested and fed. They grow so rapidly that they need to overhaul their wardrobes faster than a crazed fashionista, meaning that many of the clothes showered upon them at a baby shower go virtually unworn. That’s why my wife and I tried to encourage people attending our shower to give us their second-hand clothes and baby toys. It was pretty cool because a lot of my friends who already have kids had some very gently used clothing and even better, toys that had been passed along a few generations.

There are some things that can’t be passed down, though”like diapers… This has been the biggest source of head-scratching for us, because there are pros and cons for even the most eco-friendly baby waste disposal. We discovered that “biodegradable” diapers really don’t break down effectively in landfills where the oxygen required to do the job is cut off by more trash. Cloth diapers are a better solution, but using a diaper service requires lots of energy for gas (pick-ups) and washing machines.

Picture 5.pngWe think we may have found the solution, though. There’s a new Portland company called gDiapers that offers a natural, breathable, and most importantly, flushable diaper system. The deal is that these flushable inserts go into a plastic lining that goes into a pair of cloth “Little G” pants. When the baby does its thing, you pull out the insert, tear it open, drop it in the toilet, and give it a couple brisk stirs with a wand-like “Swishstick.” Then, just flush it like anybody else in the family would. And they look pretty dapper too (not that the baby would care).

I could go on, but it would also be nice to hear other sustainably-minded parents’ tips for leaving less of a footprint when you bring some small footprints into the world.

11 Responses to “Confessions of a Future Ecodad”

  • November 9, 2007 at 10:48 am | Austin Ramsland says

    Congratulations Rick!

    I don’t have kids, but I definitely understand the need to have less of a footprint when (as you so aptly put it) bringing “some small footprints into the world.”

    It seems that there are complex cultural systems and industries that hover at every personal milestone: birth, coming of age, prom, weddings, babies, you name it. And the things you need to buy always seem to add to the equation, not make things simpler. Another clear example is weddings. Everyone says – let’s just try to keep it simple; but the average price to get married these days is around $30,000. Is that what simple costs?

    The gDiaper story is a nice departure from that trend of consumption and complexity. Thanks for sharing.

  • November 9, 2007 at 2:32 pm | Peggy says

    I have two boys and we’ve been fortunate enough to receive so many ‘gently used’ items … toys/clothes/shoes/books. Between hand-me-downs & the secondhand stores, it’s so easy to do. With my second boy we asked for no new gifts since we saved everything from the first one. The one exception was our cloth diaper service. I’ve heard great things about gDiapers and I’ve used 7th Generation while traveling long distances (I’ll have to look into how they break down in landfills), but I love my cloth diaper service. I believe the cost of gas for pick-up/delivery is likely equal to/or better than the amount of gas it takes to deliver the disposables to the stores (I don’t know where they’re manufactured). And energy/water needed for washing them is less than washing them at home. I don’t think you could go wrong either way … but one good thing about cloth diapers … kids tend to potty train earlier. My son was fully potty trained before 2 1/2 years (I can only hope the same happens w/my second!). Best of luck w/your new addition …

  • November 11, 2007 at 10:12 pm | Rick says

    Thanks Austin,

    Yeah. Weddings, graduation, over-the-top children’s birthday parties…. I know it’s cliche to say it, but doesn’t it seem like Christmas decorations are up in stores even earlier this year? Cha-ching!

    Regarding gDiapers, my wife also told me that they have some kind of club on Wednesday for parents. I can only assume that sustainability and babies is one of the topics of discussion. Pretty neat.

  • November 14, 2007 at 12:53 am | michael nau says

    as an ‘ecodad’, i have to join the conversation on the issue of diapers. we have used gDiapers when traveling and found them convenient. after some *real* soul searching we concluded that flushing away inserts ten times a day (or more) with a newborn is not cool, and definitely not a responsible choice. likewise with ‘chlorine free’ options. so, we looked into cloth diapers and found a solution that works for us. it does involve scraping baby poop off the diaper, but we got over that pretty quickly when we figured out that we were keeping about 7000 diapers out of landfills, as well as supporting the small business which makes our favorite organic hemp diaper.

  • November 14, 2007 at 6:29 pm | Rick says

    Great suggestion Michael. I’m still leaning toward the gDaiper right now, but I guess there are different shades of green, so to speak.

    I’m assuming that your problem with the gDiaper was the amount of water used during flushing? I’m guessing that you factored in the amount of water used when rinsing, cleaning and laundering cloth diapers and found that flushing uses more.

    It’s one of those things that falls into that “Grey Matters” zone, and one that will continue to be debated by parents seeking sustainable methods of poo disposal.

  • November 26, 2007 at 12:21 pm | Jolly Green Girl says

    Hello Eco-dad.. congrats! I am also having a baby soon and trying to decide how to be more Eco-friendly and not give into the whole baby hoopla. I am also going with cotton diapers and organic clothing as much as possible… and organic veggies and fruits that I will make myself when the baby is old enough for solids. As for furniture and baby items.. it has been hard finding Eco things but I like your idea of 2nd hand stuff. Best of luck and will be checking in again. Cheers

  • November 26, 2007 at 1:40 pm | Rick says

    Hi Green Girl,

    There’s enough hoopla with a baby being born without adding piles of unnecessary plastic to the nursery to confuse things. My current dilemma is that we tried to switch baby Nico’s formula (he needs to be supplemented right now) to an organic, soy-based mix and he showed his dissatisfaction by getting a bad case of gas and rashy runs. Back to the hospital’s recommendation for now…

    Good luck with your little green sprout!


  • December 10, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Matt Rees says

    We’ve gone with cloth nappies, we inherited a bunch from friends and freecycle so only bought a few. We launder them ourselves, yes we use more water but avoid the landfill issue.

    When travelling we use disposable, I suppose we’re only light green but it’s a workable solution for us.

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