Turns out Frugal Babe has a lot in common with Zach from Pennywise and Pound Foolish. We’ve both recently had babies, and we’re both committed to a frugal and ecologically sound lifestyle. I wrote a guest post for Zach today, and he’s written one for me as well. I’m not sure I deserve as much credit as he’s given me on the diapers – and a lot of it has to go to my mom, who made the diapers, all I did was cut out the pieces of cloth – but hey, I’ll take praise wherever it’s being handed out. As an update, our little boy is nearly four weeks old, and the diapers are working great. We’ve gotten into a pretty good routine with them. We keep a stainless steel trash can with a lid in our bathroom, and use that to soak the diapers. We rinse them first (and remove any chunks, although there isn’t much of that at this stage), and then they go into the soaking bin (with water and vinegar in it) to wait for the laundry. I do about three diaper loads per week, and hang them to dry on a clothes rack. So the only extra resources we’re using compared with disposables is the water to rinse, soak, and wash the diapers. Nothing to dry them, and of course nothing to throw away. And since we only spent a few dollars to buy the used flannel, t shirts, and baby blankets that we used to make the diapers, the frugal factor is huge. So here’s a guest post from Zach – and make sure you check out his blog too.
I’ve written a lot about how the principles of frugality and sustainability are often the same, I’ve even written about how sustainability is part of what it means to be an American, but I’ve never before written about diapers.
I had asked Frugalbabe if I could do a guest post on her blog and she graciously gave me the floor. I must confess that, while she gave me a most excellent post in return, I myself have been somewhat “dry” in the creativity department. In my blog I usually try to find ways to save a buck while “going green”; I also try to tie in the importance of current political meddling and the high-falutin’ world of corporate finance. Anyone who has been really, really poor knows that their consumption level goes way, WAY down, but in return their waste product decreases as well. Less stuff in means less trash out.
In a first-world society, if we want to maintain our standard of living (i.e., not return to the stone-age) then we’ll need to find ways to alter our consumption habits. Lately in the news and across the blogosphere, the discussions regarding both frugal and sustainable lifestyles have dealt mainly with three things:
- Decrease consumption
- Decrease waste
I’ve been thinking about this problem for a while now, and I’m realizing that people just don’t want to live a third world (logical enough thinking!) country lifestyle. Most people want to live sustainably, and they want to live frugally, however, they want to be neither misers nor crazy, closed off hermits (no offense to cabin-dwellers out there. . . I myself wish I could get away from all of this sometimes).
The solution to this problem lies in the fact that we have to regard waste streams much in the same way biology regards it: metabolically. What is it really that we consume but the waste products of some other process? If you were to buy a car, you’d be taking only one thing that the automobile company puts out (cars); but lets say that you were some metal thief trying to scrape together a little extra cash– you’d also be interested in any excess steel they threw away in the process of building the body. Some industrial processes use Hydrogen Sulfides and other corrosive acids that are the waste products of other industrial processes. Likewise, in your garden, you might see your compost bin as something that takes your wasted kitchen scraps and turns it into something useful, but from the point of view of the compost bin (assuming your bin was a person) your kitchen would be producing scraps to feed it and a by-product of that scrap production is. . . good home-cooked meals, plastic/shrink wrap garbage, meats, and everything eaten by people.
Recycling is an institutionalized effort to alter this waste-stream metabolic process and re-use some of those products, as is composting, and freecycling. But no matter how great you are at recycling, reducing and re-using, you’ll never get around. . . the diapers.
Yes, diapers. Since I’ve been a father, I’ve seen some amazing things: I saw a person’s head sticking out of my best friend, I’ve seen breasts do what man never thought they could (sure they teach us that in health class, but I’ve never actually expected to see it happen!), I’ve seen parents become grandparents and a wife become a mother. It’s all beautiful, but. . . man there’s a lot of diapers!
We use disposables at my house. I know, not very frugal, and horrible for the environment, but we have them and my wife’s not too keen on spending the money up front for cloth diapers, no matter what technological advances they’ve made since the days of Grover Cleveland.
So what in blazes am I rambling on about in this blog? It’s supposed to be a high-quality guest post, not an intimate portrait into the schizophrenic mind that is Pennywise and Poundfoolish. My point, patient readers, is that on April 27th, 2008, FrugalBabe solved all of enviro-concious parents’ problems.
There’s plenty of people that know how to recycle. Gardening and composting are picking up steam, but those damn diapers just won’t stay out of landfills. . . until now. I don’t know how many pageviews she got for that post, but it was simply genius. Whoever owns the site she linked to as inspiration, should back that site up now, because it’s about to get a serious ass-whooping for some major traffic, because I’m hoping readers all across our blogging networks (that’d be you, by the way) read the post and find a way to make those diapers, perhaps even market them to young couples starting their families. DIY people should definitely get a kick out of this as well.
Let’s take a look at the environmental impact of FrugalBabe’s diaper plan:
- There’s a bunch of initial energy input into making the clothes, but we won’t even count that because we could easily purchase most of the material second-hand, effectively neutralizing this factor.
- The impact of washing your diapers could be mitigated if your household, or your neighborhood had a decent water-use policy (I’m thinking a grey-water retrieval/purification system– perhaps even on the property). This would further decrease the money out of your pocketbook by requiring less in a water bill.
- Once the diapers are completely used up, or grown out of, they can be shredded and composted like anything else and you’re left with an overall gain in multiple places in your lives– the garden, the wallet, the water, and the peace of mind that one change can cause a lot of others.
I don’t know if this qualifies as the amazingly good post that Frugalbabe was looking for, but I do know this: I’ve always said that “green” living is supposed to be good for your wallet, and the “living” part means that you need to be enjoying your time here on Earth, not slaving away working for. . . diapers. There’s already an amazing post out there, waiting for somebody to come along and commercialize it (hell, I’d buy home-made diapers from some local college student or parent that wants to do something good for the environment whilst saving me money!), go and read it! Digg it for crying out loud!