I find the recent trend toward “going green” rather interesting. It’s now considered hip to bring your own reusable grocery bags to stores, with the assumption that you’re doing so “to help Mother Earth”. With any move toward using reusable products, cutting down on your plastic consumption, etc. it is taken for granted that you’re doing this in order to move toward having a better planet. Well, this may be the case for some or most people, but definitely not for all.
I recently read an exchange in a natural parenting magazine about cloth diapers. The person writing in assumed that the only reason you would use cloth diapers was because of the environmental impact of disposable diapers. As such, if you used cloth diapers, you needed to consider the landfill capacities in your area, you needed to look at your diaper washing routine and make sure that you weren’t using too much water, etc. I really appreciated the response the magazine made to this person. They brought up the fact that, regardless of the local environmental impact, cloth diapers are always better for the baby so therefore they shouldn’t be written off just because they supposedly might be worse for your local environment than disposables (i.e. if you live in CA where there is a limited water supply). This is so true! The main reason that we use cloth diapers is because I really hate the idea of my baby sitting in chemicals for the first year or so of his life. That and, in the long run, they end up saving you a lot of money. The fact that they may be better for the environment is a nice plus, but honestly it was not a deciding factor in our decision.
A good portion of the blogs I subscribe to with my Google Reader deal with some form of natural living. Natural eating, natural parenting, etc. And every several weeks, on one blog or another, there’s bound to be a post along the lines of “10 Easy Steps for Going Green” or “Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Consumption”. I read these with interest, but find that most times, I’m already doing a lot of the things they mention. Granted, we haven’t started using reusable toilet paper yet, but many of the other ideas brought up are already going on in our household. I’m not saying this so that we get the “Greenest House Award” or anything of the sort, but already practicing some of these “green” ideas, make me surprised that it’s somehow considered such a big sacrifice to do these things. And again, it’s assumed that the only reason you would practice such things would be to decrease your carbon footprint or something similar. That’s not the case with us.
It frustrates me to hear examples where it is assumed that there will be a lot of hassle accompanying implementing decisions to do things like get rid of paper products (napkins, paper towels, etc.) or transition from disposable to cloth diapers. Because the truth is…it’s really not that hard! Granted, in a larger household than ours, you’ll need more cloth rags and such, but it doesn’t mean that your house is constantly cluttered with rags and towels and such. For me, one of the main factors in our decision to get rid of most disposable products and use cloth whenever possible was the simplicity. It doesn’t have to be complicated at all. Some examples…
Napkins: After we were married, we went to World Market and for $20 bought two sets of six large cotton napkins, a green set and a brown set. We have used these pretty much every day since we bought them and have been so happy with them. The differing colours help when we have guests over for more than one meal – each family is allotted a colour so there’s not as much confusion about who used which napkin last. When dirtied, these napkins get tossed in with our regular laundry.
Kitchen towels: In our kitchen we have four sets of a dishcloth, a dish-drying towel and a kitchen hand towel that get changed every couple days. These towels, especially the hand towel, are occasionally used to wipe up spills, etc. and can be changed out whenever they need to be. Along with these towels, we have five tea towels that I use in place of plastic wrap for things like covering half-finished pies sitting on the counter or (dampened) putting over a bowl of rising bread dough. Whenever any of these towels are dirtied, they’re just tossed in the hamper and washed with our regular laundry.
Cleaning rags: Under our bathroom sink, we have a stack of old hand towels and worn-out washcloths/dishcloths. The larger rags are used for wiping up spills and the smaller rags are used for cleaning the bathroom, spot cleaning the floor, pretty much anything you can think of. When dirtied, they’re tossed in the diaper hamper and washed with the diapers every three days.
Wipes: Using cloth wipes was pretty much a given when we decided to use cloth diapers. We bought 24 bamboo terry wipes (the size and thickness of baby washcloths) and have used them for so many things. Obviously, they’re used with the diapers, but we also use them to wipe Cedar down after meals, wipe the floor under his high chair, etc. In the diaper basket, next to the dry wipes, we have a quart glass jar that we keep filled with water and a squirt of Baby Bee Shampoo. When needed, grab a dry wipe, dunk it in the water, wring it out and you’re good to go. These are washed with the diapers.
Diapers: In our bedroom, on the opposite side of the dresser from the clothes hamper, we have a plastic, lidded trash can that is lined with a nylon laundry bag. Into this are tossed dirty cloth diapers, wipes and rags. The lid and the clove oil we use for deodorising it keep most of the smell in. Every three days, the contents of the bag are tossed into the washer for a cold wash (no detergent), and a hot wash with detergent. With the exception of the covers and wet bags, the washed diapers go into the dryer to be fluffed (and then hung on the line) or completely dried, depending on how I feel that day. This is the only “extra” load of wash that we do as a result of using cloth, everything else is washed with our normal laundry.
Pads: Using cloth menstrual pads is kind of considered quite “hard-core”, but for me, it was such a great decision. I started using them after Cedar was born as postpartum pads and they worked wonderfully! These too get washed with the cloth diapers, along with my cloth nursing pads.
A big help in using so many cloth products has been organization. In my kitchen, there are five normal-sized drawers and most of these contain either towels or napkins. The drawers aren’t stuffed full and everything is kept in neat stacks. Rags are kept in a neatish stack under the bathroom sink. Cloth wipes are kept in the diaper basket on the dresser. The simplicity of this has been a great benefit when you quickly need a towel or rag. Just open the drawer and grab it…you aren’t left rummaging through a toppling jumble of towels and rags.
This post may have been incredibly boring to a lot of you, but I hope that was helpful to some in showing how simple it can be to use cloth products. And just to clarify, if you don’t use cloth…that’s fine! I don’t think you’re a horrible person or anything like that. For our family, I found the simplicity and natural-ness of using cloth made it an easy choice for us, but for some people, that’s not the case.
And if you’re surprised that I could make such a long post out of talking about cloth…well, some of us just have talent like that – or not!