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Big Green Lies: Are cloth diapers and disposable diapers really equal in their environmental impact?
April 16, 2009 12:38 pm | by
The CEO of Seventh Generation hosted a show last year on Fine Living Network called “Big Green Lies”. Among the topics this disposable diaper manufacturer discussed was: “Are disposable diapers as crappy as everyone thinks?”

The video, hosted by Dr. Allen Greene concluded took a woman through the process of deciding between cloth versus disposable diapers. She toured a diaper service, listened to the diaper service owner explain the waste impact of disposable diapers and then visited with a mother who had chosen disposable diapers. After listening to the two arguments, she was advised by Dr. Green that the two approaches to diapering are really a tie in terms of their environmental impact.
What isn’t disclosed in this video is that it was funded by Seventh Generation, a
Looking carefully at the video, it appears that the conclusion advised by Dr. Green was primarily based on results from a recent UK study. When the study was published, disposable
The first conclusion showed that people who wash their diapers in water that is nearly boiling (90 C / 194 F — water boils at 212 F) and dry them in a hot dryer will have a greater carbon impact than people using disposable diapers. This conclusion only looks at the energy used to produce a disposable diaper, transport the disposable diaper and dispose of the disposable diaper. This study does not account for the environmental impact of that waste or the methane generated by the waste sitting in a landfill. It does not account for the future impact of that diaper as it does not biodegrade.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane is a much more potent gas than carbon dioxide.

This study does not account for future accomodations that will need to be made for other waste as diapers take up landfill space.

About the Author

Jenn is the founder of Cotton Babies & creator of bumGenius, Flip, and Econobum, worldwide leading cloth diaper brands. She has four children (Andrew, Oscar, Elsie and Louis) and holds an MBA from Washington University. When she's not working full time, she enjoys teaching business leaders how to implement sustainable economic & social change.


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