It’s no secret that disposable diapers aren’t great for the environment. They’re responsible for tons of waste (7.6 billion pounds each year, to be exact!), they take hundreds of years to break down in our landfills (27 billion per year end up there), and the toxic chemicals used to make them have been proven to be questionable at best.
The average number of disposable diapers a baby goes through before hitting the average potty training age of 2 ½ years old is a whopping 10,000. That’s a lotta diapers!
And while cloth diapers have been proven to be better on the environment than their disposable counterpart, is cloth diapering a realistic commitment? When my son was little, I loved the idea of cloth diapering… but there were several reasons why I didn’t choose that route:
-Cloth Diapers Aren’t Daycare Friendly
For one thing, many daycare facilities won’t change cloth diapers which makes it difficult to arrange for childcare. It’s more challenging for a daycare employee to change (and store for you to take home!) a dirty cloth diaper than to change and toss out a dirty disposable diaper. For a family whose parents both work full-time outside of the home, finding a daycare provider willing to change cloth diapers is no easy feat.
-Cloth Diapers Have a High Startup Cost
Another reason I decided not to cloth diaper is they’re expensive!
A single cloth diaper can cost anywhere from $10-$30, depending on the brand and style. For the cost of one cloth diaper, I can buy a box of 32 disposable diapers for quite a bit less. That doesn’t mean that cloth diapering won’t be less in the long run, but for someone living paycheck to paycheck, the initial investment of cloth diapers can be intimidating.
If you’re like me and aren’t willing to commit to the time and patience needed to use cloth diapers (because let’s face it—raising a baby can be stressful enough), but still care about reducing your carbon footprint, then you need to know which disposable diaper company is your best option. Here’s what I found:
1. Seventh Generation
Armed with their 2020 goals, Seventh Generation appears to be leading the way in sustainable disposable diaper production. Their line of Free & Clear unbleached diapers promise to “provide premium absorbency and leak protection, without unnecessary, harsh chemicals.”
But is it true? “When compared to other green diapers, it was a big disappointment,” says Baby Gear Lab in their extensive review of 24 disposable diapers on the market today. (This review includes eco-friendliness, price, absorbency, chemical additives, and softness.) In fact, their diapers paled in comparison to 18 of its competitors, which is a pretty big shock, given the company’s promises.
And to make matters worse, the Free & Clear diapers aren’t biodegradable and can’t be composted.
As one of the most well-known diaper brands, Pampers is widely available, relatively affordable, and in demand. Its parent company, Procter and Gamble, also makes Luvs (we’ll talk more about those in a minute!).
While they typically rank high in the leak protection and comfort categories, Pampers are anything but good on the environment, or for your baby. Most importantly, the diapers contain pigments, and are void of any biodegradable ingredients.
A sister company to Pampers, Luvs have been around for decades. But in Baby Gear Lab’s Battle for the Best Disposable Diapers test, Luvs did downright awful: “The price is good, but the diaper isn’t.”
Long story short: there are lots of other choices for less expensive and better performing diapers than Luvs.
4. Earth’s Best
These chlorine-free diapers offer big bang for your economic buck. They’re made with renewable resources and their absorbency is achieved through natural materials (corn and wheat).
The Earth’s Best line of diapers don’t disappoint: they offer plenty of leak protection, are mindful of the earth, and won’t make a the biggest dent in your wallet. Baby Gear Lab’s tests agree: “A great green diaper at a nice price.”
Listed at #19 on the list of companies that 1,021 people found socially responsible sits Proctor and Gamble, maker of Huggies (and Pampers, mentioned above). Whether or not they’re actually socially responsible is questionable, but I think we can all agree on one thing: Huggies is a highly recognizable brand and there are probably very few people, parents and non-parents alike, who haven’t heard of them.
Comfortable on your baby and easy to buy at almost any retailer that sells disposable diapers? Yes. But there are several other brands that cost less and have better leak protection.
The Bottom Line (pun intended)
So, what’s the point of this? Well, if you’re like me and don’t want to invest in the startup costs for cloth diapers, or then you need to choose the next best option: an eco-friendly, affordable disposable diaper. Maybe “choosing the right diapers” means something different for you or your family—but doing the research when you can is worth it.
For me, I’ve learned a lot through this exercise. If I could go back in time to when my sons were young, I’d choose the Earth’s Best brand. They’re easily accessible (you can buy them during your next trip to Target), safe for your baby (perfume-, chlorine-, and dye-free), are made with renewable resources and have leak protection comparable to the brands that scored high in that category.
Becca Tuck is a senior at Kennesaw State University studying Technical Communication. She’s a true crime show enthusiast, podcast junkie, and animal lover, who loves soaking in as much knowledge on linguistic phenomenons as she can. When not at the baseball fields cheering on her two favorite baseball players, you can find her on her website or on Twitter at @beccatuck85.