Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hybrid vs. Disposable: Diapering a Vacationing Bum

The last few weeks have given me an opportunity for hands-on comparison between disposable diapers and hybrid cloth diapers. My first trip was to my alma mater (College of Wooster) for my five-year reunion; the second was a vacation on Long Beach Island, NJ. Here I'll compare fit, function, convenience, and cost.

This is What Happened...

My reunion crept up on my quickly, and because I failed to plan ahead (one of the more important rules for cloth diapering!), I found myself in a bind. My GroVia BioSoakerbiodegradable inserts, which I last used when Owen was about two months old, were in a box somewhere in Colorado. There wasn't time to get the inserts in the mail by the time this occurred to me. I searched for the inserts in local natural-parenting-friendly stores to no avail. Annoyed with myself, I bought a package of disposable diapers.

Attitude makeover: I decided to embrace my mistake as a chance to compare, to see if I was missing any perks to disposable diapering. I also ordered a pack of 50 GroVia hybrid inserts to prepare for my week at the shore- trying to keep an open mind, but being a realist.

Disposable Reunion Long-Weekend

The disposables I tested were Earth's Best chlorine-free diapers. I paid $12 for a package of 40 size two diapers, for a cost of about 30 cents per diaper. You can find better deals if you order these types of diapers online in bulk.

The first thing I noticed with the disposable diapers was that Owen's clothes looked baggy. With the exception of some jeans, he wears clothing that fits based on his height and weight- I don't put him in pants that are larger than his shirts. Some parents find that cloth diapers are so bulky that larger bottoms are necessary, but my boy has a tiny tush (a wee bum, if you will) so normally his six month clothing fits him from head to toe. The disposables were very trim, and I understood what parent's talk about when they think that cloth is so much bulkier than sposies. I guess it is. That doesn't bother me, though. I guess I have grown used to my son's fluffy bum, and it doesn't seem to bother him either. I guess you can grow used to most things aesthetic.

On the road and living in a dorm room for the weekend, I found it was pretty convenient to drop the diapers in the trash and not give them a second thought. Except I did end up thinking about them, feeling guilty when I realized that I was contributing to huge landfills encroaching on a backyard. Out of sight doesn't always mean out of mind. For me, the convenience wasn't outweighing the environmental impacts.

I noticed that the Earth's Best diapers absorbed tons of urine. I mean, they could have gone on for hours and hours. I change cloth diapers much more frequently, and found myself changing the disposables probably earlier than I had to because I was used to doing so. A poopy diaper met my expectations- no leaking, no blowouts in the legs or up the back. I had no functional issues. My only disappointment was that, after a few days, my son began to get an all-over contact rash. Not all babies will have this problem, but the fact that mine did made me even more pleased that we use cloth.

Hybrid Beach Week

My extended family rents a beach house each year, and I knew I'd have access to a washer and dryer while I was on vacation. To do one or two loads of covers during the week did not seem at all daunting. When I ordered my GroVia inserts, I picked up a few sample-sized packages of Tiny Bubbles detergent. For fifty cents a load, it was affordable and easy to prepare myself for the small amount of laundry I'd need to do. The inserts cost $19.99 for a pack of 50, or about 40 cents per diaper change. Because I already own and regularly use the GroVia shells, I had no additional cost incurred.

The GroVia BioSoakers are incredibly easy to use. An adhesive section at each end of the insert secures it to the GroVia shells, though you could use these inserts in almost any diaper cover imaginable without worry that there will be bunching or slipping. The adhesive does leave a bit of tackiness on the inside mesh layer of the GroVia shell, but the stickiness washes away easily. Once the insert is in place, just fasten the diaper on your baby. GroVia shells are available in velcro or snap versions, and the elastic around the legs and waist has never once left me in a leaky situation! The fit with hybrid inserts is as perfect as your normal cloth diapers. In fact, depending on what is inside your cloth diapers, the BioSoakers may offer a superior trim fit.

BioSoakers easily match or exceed the amount of liquid trapped by a disposable diaper. They are wide enough to trap almost any mess, sparing your shells for same-day reuse. I took eight shells on my six-day vacation and I didn't have to do laundry until the very last evening at the beach. Only one poop-related event put a shell out of commission until laundry day; after all other such events the shells were mercifully spared by the excellent coverage of the BioSoaker. As for the insert, you can flush the contents, compost them, or toss them in the garbage. Straight to the garbage is not really ideal from an environmental standpoint, but personally I'd prefer to throw away something that I know has the ability to decompose in my lifetime- instead of something that has an unknown rate of decomposition.

My only complaint about the GroVia BioSoakers is that they can be difficult to find in a pinch. Unless you live in an area with a brick-and-mortar cloth diaper store, and they happen to be a GroVia retailer, you are probably out of luck. Costco has started to offer GroVia hybrid diapering packages, though as with most things at Costco you'll have to be prepared to pay a large amount of money for a huge number of BioSoakers. (If you're considering hybrid diapering full-time, Costco might be the way to go!) Planning ahead to have enough hybrid inserts on hand is essential to the success of this option.

In the End

You might already have guessed that I'm sticking with my cloth diapers. Once you get started, it is easy to keep things going. For the occasional travel situation I'm happy that there are options that allow me freedom on the road. It is absolutely possible to travel and use exclusively cloth inserts- personally, this is where I have decided I'd like to take the easier route. The two convenient perks of using a disposable option are that you have less laundry to carry around and fewer loads to run. Between the "earth-friendly" disposables and hybrid cloth, I preferred hybrid cloth. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bac-Out: I'm On Board!

I'm guessing that most people today have a list of things they know they could change to live a "greener" lifestyle. Some changes could be very easy; others would require a mindset makeover or some personal sacrifice. With green living being a huge trend, it can be difficult to see past all of the media hype to the core issues of the "going green" movement.

For me the desire to live more naturally began well before this cultural movement. Understanding how the choices of millions of consumers can negatively or positively impact the environment is important to me, and it informs many of the lifestyle changes I embrace on behalf of my family. I do not see the desire to be environmentally aware as anything more than the conviction that we are all stewards of the planet, and the legacy we leave behind to our children is vitally important.

Enter Bi-O-Kleen, makers of toxin-free household cleaning products. Bi-O-Kleen products consist of natural ingredients, enzymes, and botanicals. They are without fumes, ammonia, harsh chemical toxins, optical brighteners, and many other nasty components of nearly all mainstream cleaning solutions. The Bi-O-Kleen website does a wonderful job of explaining the many toxic hazards lurking in modern household cleaners.

My reason for brining this up does have to do with cloth diapers- stinky cloth diapers, to be specific. I discovered Bi-O-Kleen when I tried Bac-Out, their laundry wonder product. Bac-Out has many possible uses, but where it really shines for me is in my cloth diaper pre-soak. I was beginning to battle stink issues, even with natural fiber diapers. I was getting tired of my diapers smelling faintly (or in some cases, not-so-subtly) of urine. I put approximately 3 teaspoons of Bac-Out in a large pre-wash load of diapers and was completely amazed with the results. This stuff gets my diapers looking and smelling so clean, with absolutely no harsh chemicals- a boon because if I used bleach, I'd have to run many rinse cycles to wash out the chemicals, and that would be a huge waste of water and money. The Bac-Out Stain and Odor Eliminator leaves my diapers smelling brand-new after every single wash. As a bonus, I've noticed that the laundry room smells faintly of citrus after I clean my diapers. (The scent of this stuff is to die for, evoking a walk amongst orange and lemon trees.)

It is so concentrated that the bottle will not be used up too quickly- I'd estimate that mine will last three months or longer. I don't know for certain yet, because at two months my supply is still going strong! To me, the clean smell and look of my diapers is completely worth the extra cost. A little extra spent on diaper care should result in additional longevity- meaning that for my next child, I'll only buy new diapers if I can't resist a cute print.