Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Line-Drying the Research

As I mentioned before, fainting with some regularity led me to become somewhat of a hermit--a pregnant hermit who does a lot of research. It occurred to me that perhaps others could benefit from the hours I've put in and maybe even some company executive will see my blog and give me a free supply of goodies for all this free PR I'm giving them. Hey, one can dream, right?

Birch and I try our best to buy local, buy organic, buy eco-friendly, et cetera, et cetera. This may be where some people roll their eyes and think to themselves, "Seriously? Another blog about going green?" If this is you, I suggest reading something else because all the research I've done recently has at least something to do with having a baby without contributing massive amounts to landfills each year without going broke. I cannot stress this last point enough. Birch is a high school teacher here in Northern California and if you didn't know this before let me enlighten you: they don't make the big bucks. When Birch and I got married we decided that we'd make the monetary sacrifice of me being a stay-at-home mom. With me still in school and the economy the way it is, this decision seems to have worked out for now. With serious thanks to my older siblings and parents, that is. I'm the youngest of six and my siblings have helped us out so much by donating their old baby gear to us. A crib, a changing table, several different kinds of carriers, a car seat, a bassinet... you know, all that stuff that costs some serious cash to buy new or even used. And yes, that list does go on because we haven't even tapped the surface of what has been offered to us. We just need to clear out some room first before we bring anymore in!

So, armed with the big stuff and a budget for the rest, I went into the cyber-world to find the perfect necessities for our little boy.

First up: diapers and diapering accessories.

I knew right away that I didn't want to use brands like Huggies or Pampers purely based on the waste factor, both in landfills and in our bank account. (Note: Working on the assumption that because Birch is so prone to skin issues that baby Keats could very probably have the same, I only looked into sensitive skin options. Plus, it's a baby, so... yeah.)

First I did some research on which of the eco-friendlier disposable diapers were the best. Which had the best reviews both for performance and its ultimate effect on the environment. Mostly, I looked into Seventh Generation, Nature Babycare, and Earth's Best brands. Here are some sites I came across (definitely not all, but I bookmarked these):

Nature Babycare came out on top in my opinion and so that was the brand I ended up using in all my pricing scenarios. Here is the link to their website:

So let's go over the numbers. It became apparent very quickly that buying in bulk was a great way to save money no matter what kind of disposable diaper we were going to buy. I looked on Amazon and their subscriptions (which were very good), but ultimately found that had slightly better deals. I put together a spreadsheet that included the price of the necessary number of diapers, wipes, diaper pail refills, and any other necessary items that were unique to that product or service. For this, though, I will just include the differing diaper costs as that was the most variable. (We decided to go with Nature Babycare wipes no matter what diaper scenario we found ourselves in, and we received a Dekor Plus Diaper Pail from one of Birch's friends/colleagues, so we knew what kind of refills we'd be getting, too. The biodegradable ones from that brand.)

Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive Economy Size Pack:
Size 1: 8 - 14 lbs., 180 diapers. Price: $41.99 ($0.23/diaper)

Nature Babycare Case of 4 Economy Pack:
Size 1: 8 - 14 lbs., 160 diapers. Price: $44.99 ($0.28/diaper)

So, the eco-friendly ones are more expensive, but for us, the peace of mind concerning their ultimate demise made the price difference bearable, even understandable (desirable? No, just understandable).

Because Nature Babycare diapers are 100% biodegradable/compostable, I began looking into diaper services that compost diapers and there are a few. However, these services do not allow you to buy your diapers from another source, claiming that they cannot guarantee where the diapers have been... or something to that effect. This seems somewhat ridiculous to me, but they gotta do what they gotta do, I guess. This revelation somewhat diminished my enthusiasm for the services, but I looked into the pricing anyway. Maybe it wouldn't make a big difference. Maybe the services would have deals just like/close to the ones I'd found.

Earth Baby: The Compostable Diaper Service and Tiny Tots Composting Service were the two in my area that looked the best. However, Tiny Tots uses only one brand of compostable diapers and it comes all the way from Canada. Seemed kind of backwards (and it was expensive!) so I looked into Earth Baby more closely.

For the first month, I figured I would need at least ten diapers a day and one or two wipes per change. Nature Babycare Size 1 diapers come in packs of 40, so I figured I would need seven packs for the first month alone. Ouch. Earth Baby sells these packs at $11.79. Their service is $29.99/month. Nature Babycare wipes (a pack of 70) cost $3.59 and I figured I'd need at least four packs. Through this service I'd have to buy compostable bags through them, not Dekor, and those cost $4.99 for a 12-pack. All together: $161.86/month. Wow. Yeah, that wasn't going to work with our budget. So, disregarding the months of service after month one, I looked into their Starter Pack and how that would help lower the cost of that initial month. The Starter Pack includes 2 packs diapers, 2 packs wipes, 1 pack diaper pail bags, 1 box diaper bags for purse, and Baby Bum Balm all for $46.74. This meant that in addition to the Starter Pack we'd be paying for the service ($29.99), five more packs of diapers ($58.95), and two more packs of wipes ($7.18). All together: $142.86/month. Going with the Starter Pack saved about twenty dollars, but that number still seemed a bit too high and it was going to mean some serious rearranging of other budgetary needs to allow for it. So the search continued.

I thought to myself, "Okay, maybe we just can't afford a service and we'll just have to content ourselves with biodegradable diapers that end up in the landfill but that won't last as long there as Pampers or Huggies would." In my mind, it was an ideological sacrifice, but one that our budget might have to make for us. So, I went back to and figured the numbers there. How much would it cost to get the same products without any composting service?

Two 4-pack 40-count diapers: $89.98
Ten 70-count wipes (special deal, more than needed for one month): $34.99
Two-pack of 240-count Dekor Plus refills: $10.99
All together: $135.96/month.

Okay, so this didn't save us that much money a month. I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that just diapering the baby was going to be more expensive than Birch or I had realized and that a serious discussion was necessary once he came home from work.

Frustrated, I ended my search for a week or two, trying to readjust my brain away from factoring together costs, environmental implications, daily performance, and a computer screen.

When I came back to the search I decided to look into cloth diapering again. Birch and I had thought this impossible for us as we have no personal laundry system in our apartment (it costs $2.25/load in our communal laundry without doing a pre-wash, etc., that is necessary for cloth diapers) and we hadn't found a service that cleaned and sanitized the diapers without the use of chlorine bleach. But, on a whim, I looked into Tiny Tots again, this time at their cloth diaper service and boy was I overjoyed at what I found. They are locally owned and operated and have been awarded first place as Best Resource Reduction Program in the State of California and first place in Innovation in Industry Water Conservation in the State of California. More information can be found here:, now onto the money...

With Tiny Tots, you don't buy your cloth diapers and then have them launder them, instead it's as if the diapers are on loan to you, so there is no one-time cost to buy the diapers initially and then you pay for a service. The diapers are part of the service price. Tiny Tots recommends 80 diapers/week (about the same that I expected, thankfully). This amount is $22/week and you pay every four weeks, so $88/month (approximately). I then added the cost of wipes (from somewhere like or Amazon) at $15.16/month and the cost of pail refills ($10.99). All together: $114.15/month. Phew. Okay, I could work with that. Of course, there's the added "one-time" cost of diaper covers and clips (about $11/cover and $8/pack of clips), but even with that, our monthly cost of diapers had become much more manageable and the stress level that had been building in my brain dissipated as soon as I saw what this did to our monthly budget. Deep breath, sigh, deep breath... Thank you Tiny Tots.

So, that's my scoop on diapers. I could say more but I've said enough, I think. More feedback will come as I actually use the darn things, I'm sure. In the meantime, I hope this was helpful for those of you that are in the same boat as Birch and I. If you have any questions be sure to ask as it's very likely that I have the answer written down somewhere in my research notes (or at least know of a way to find the answer. Haha, or merely an opinion on the matter).

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