“Green”?!

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!

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17 thoughts on ““Green”?!

  1. So here are the things I always wonder…

    Do you rinse out the dirty diapers or throw the whole thing, ick and all, in the washing machine?

    Ditto for the menstrual pads–do you rinse them first?

    Do you use different colored wipes for wiping off his face vs. his bottom? 🙂

    Does it gross you out to wash face rags and nursing pads with diapers and menstrual pads?

    Do you have a front load washing machine?

    -a non-green farmer’s wife

    1. Hello Gret…

      Do you rinse out the dirty diapers or throw the whole thing, ick and all, in the washing machine?

      Before Cedar started eating solids, I would just throw the whole thing in the washing machine and it was fine since breastmilk poo dissolves into the water. We started potty training him at around six months when he started eating solids so since then, most of his poos are in the toilet. However, if I miss one or if he goes while we’re out (which rarely ever happens, but I haven’t yet mastered the art of taking him to the toilet in a public restroom yet! :P), then I rinse most of it off into the toilet with a diaper sprayer (when we get home). A diaper sprayer definitely isn’t a necessity, when I lived in NZ we just rinsed them in the toilet (i.e. flushing the toilet while holding one end of the diaper) and it worked fine, but Aaron was pretty adamant about getting one so I asked for one for my baby shower.

      Ditto for the menstrual pads–do you rinse them first?

      No, I don’t rinse these first. Considering the fact that end up doing two washes with them, I didn’t think it was necessary. However, I know that a lot of women do rinse their’s out or store the soiled ones in a wet bucket (full of water and/or hydrogen peroxide). But, as I understand it, this isn’t necessarily because it’s cleaner (i.e. less germs), but because it reduces staining. Considering what it’s used for, staining doesn’t really bother me. 🙂

      Do you use different colored wipes for wiping off his face vs. his bottom? 🙂

      No, I don’t…does that make me a bad mom?! 😛 Again, because of the two washes, this didn’t really bother me. And, if they end up getting hung out on the line (which happened a lot more before I got pregnant again!), the sun sanitizes them, and if they get dryerized, I usually try to do it on high heat to help with that.

      Does it gross you out to wash face rags and nursing pads with diapers and menstrual pads?

      Not really, but maybe it should. To be honest, I had to decide how paranoid I was going to be about all that pretty soon after Cedar was born because for awhile I was using a folded prefold diaper as a nightime nursing pad since I had major leakage issues! 😛 With the nursing pads, I don’t usually throw them in the washer until the hot wash, but the face/bottom wipes end up washing with everything else. Maybe I should be more concerned about them all washing together, but the way I see it (and germ-freak me of many years ago could not imagine I would ever think this! :P), we’re always exposed to germs and honestly, the germs from cloth diapers aren’t nearly as much of a concern to me as those in grocery stores, etc. Does that make sense? I’d love another mom’s input though… 🙂

      Do you have a front load washing machine?

      Yes, unfortunately. 😛 It works fine, but if I had my choice (this washing machine goes with the cottage and therefore isn’t ours), I’d want a top loader. Yes, they use more water and therefore aren’t economical and environmentally friendly, but especially with washing diapers, I’d love to be able to add more water if I need to. But it works fine for now and I’m just thankful that I have my own washing machine…I didn’t for almost the first year of my marriage! 🙂

      I hope that helps!

      1. You’re amazing, Jessica. Thanks for answering all my questions!! You’re inspiring!

        Perhaps I’ll have to put cloth diaper wipes on a wish list next time around… And I do have a stack of cloth napkins we never, ever use… And I’ve had plenty of other friends raving about cloth menstrual pads…

        Yet another question–do you make your own laundry soap and/or use powdered soap in your front load? My hubby is worried about the mess of powdered soap in a front load, but I just saw this recipe, and it looks so easy/economical! http://firefightersfamily-dhjc.blogspot.com/2010/10/homemade-laundry-detergent.html

      2. Gret,

        For the cloth wipes, just for reference, these are the ones we got and love! I know a lot of moms make their own from old flannel baby blankets, but I never liked that idea because it always seemed like flannel could get kind of “smeary” with big messes (if you know what I mean). The terry side of the wipes we use (they look much thicker in the picture than they really are! :P) has a bit more “grab” to it which ends up reducing the number of wipes you have to use to get the job done! 🙂

        Yes, I use powdered soap in my front loader, but I don’t make it. For diapers I use Rockin’ Green (a cloth diaper detergent) and for the rest of our laundry, I use Charlie’s Soap. For us, I don’t think that using powdered soap makes any more of a mess than liquid would. I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own soap several times, but right now I don’t think that it’s really that necessary, especially since Charlie’s Soap is quite inexpensive. Let me know if you end up making your own and how it works for you!

      3. Jessica, I’m really fascinated that the Rockin’ Green has a formula for soft water. We have to use a water softener for our water, and I am sure that affects my laundry. I’ll have to do some research–I wonder if I could find a homemade recipe for detergent for softened water?! 🙂

      4. We have the opposite problem so I’m about to try their hard water formula…I’m curious if it will actually make a difference. And I don’t know about a recipe for a soft water detergent, but I’m sure some blogging mom somewhere probably tried it at some time! 🙂

  2. And about the cloth pads, Gretchen, (& you too Jessica :P) you should not wet pail these, lots of reasons why, but basically lets say it causes a LOT of stink (and no, I didn’t experience this first hand :)).

    Jessica, this “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!” was my favorite part. 😛 lol

    1. Brittany,

      That’s good to know about the wet pail…thanks for letting us know! As you already know, I don’t wet pail mine, but if someone asks me again about it now I’ll tell them not to! 🙂 Do you know if there’s still a stink if you use hydrogen peroxide instead of water?

      I’m glad you found that last part funny…I actually was wishing you were online when I posted that so I could have you read it and tell me how it came across! 😛 I didn’t know how to end the post and that was supposed to be funny, but since the written word can only communicate so much at instances like that, I wasn’t sure…

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
    We grew up on cloth diapers and I think they’re awesome. 😉
    What we did was rinse the poo ones in the toilet and then wash them in HOT water once; sometimes twice if they still needed it. We girls got paid to do it too; I didn’t mind 😉
    While they were adding up/waiting to be washed, we had a diaper pail they’d go in.

    I love use cloth napkins and being “green” even though I rarely think, “Oh, Im being green” when I do something that is green. Haha!

    The only thing I never got into was the cloth pads…. I guess I could give them a go and see how I like it. For some reason, I have a sensitive nose and don’t like the ‘smell’ so I usually go with tampons most of the time. I’m so active all the time so bedtime is about the only time I don’t use them.

    1. Hello Samantha,

      Have you ever heard of the Diva Cup (www.divacup.com)? I’ve used that instead of tampons for years and I love it! There’s a bit of learning curve when you first start to use it, but once you get the hang of it, it’s great!

      1. I have heard of it but never tried it. I should! 😉
        Thanks for mentioning it to me; it’s been quite a few years since I’d thought of that.

  4. I love this! I hate it when people think that just because we might want to do something naturally that we are one of those greenies who worships mother earth! I should try the cloth napkin thing! Good idea!

  5. I’ve been making our own Laundry detergent for close to a year now. Using the fels naptha, borax, and washing soda and water, and it gels up. Similar to the recipe Gretchen posted a link to, but not in powder form. It works pretty well; just as good as anything we’ve bought from the store. We have hard water; so I am curious to try the Rockin Green laundry soap you mentioned.

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