Blog : NH’s only cloth diaper service determined to show green way forward

By Jim Cavan | Nov 18, 2011 | in

During the 1950s, few consumer products hit the shelves with a more welcome thud of convenience than the disposable diaper.

And with good reason: What had for centuries been a thanklessly necessary ritual had suddenly transformed into one as easy as flipping open the trash can.

The next five decades would find industry giants Pampers and Huggies engaged in all-out war, with both sides out to prove theirs were the cleanest, cheapest, and most convenient.

But as with so many other once nagging tasks suddenly rendered simple, it took a while before the true implications of all those plastic-based diapers – anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 per child – began to reveal themselves.

“Most people don’t understand that most diapers take anywhere between 250 and 500 years to break down in a landfill,” notes Kim Leo, owner of Green Earth Baby Works (GEBW), New Hampshire’s sole cloth diaper service. “When you add it all up, you’re talking about a sanitation crisis potentially worse than anything since the fall of the Roman Empire. It sounds bad, but it’s only when people start to realize the implications of disposable diapers that they start to think of alternatives.”

Citing her own daughter’s struggles with various rashes and allergies as her prime motivation for exploring the cloth diaper path, Leo’s research quickly revealed that not only did disposable diapers pose significant waste issues – human feces leeching into the ground being the most obvious example – but tangible health risks as well.

“The major diaper brands tend to have a lot of chemicals – things like dioxins and Sodium Polyacrylate,” explains Leo. “These chemicals not only causes rashes and allergies; they’re also known carcinogens. And that’s something not a lot of people are aware of.”

Still, adopting GEBW’s old-is-new-again alternative doesn’t have to mean shunning modern convenience. With a wide range of cloth diaper products, accessories, and services, Leo is forging a unique, affordable niche as green as it is user-friendly.

“A big concern for people when they hear ‘cloth diaper’ is, ‘gee, I hope it doesn’t have pins,” Leo chuckles. “But that’s how advanced these products have become. Now you can get diapers with snaps or Velcro closure that are just as easy to put on and take off.”

For just $25 a week, Leo will deliver anywhere from 50 to 80 100% cotton diapers right to your door, making sure to take the old ones off your hands. Need some wipes to go with the diapers? That’s just an extra five dollars a week. Have some of your own cloth diapers but need a few extra to get you through the week? Leo offers a half-week service for just $15. Have two kids that need the service? That’s just $40 a week, or $50 if you get the wipes.

Of course, no one enjoys washing their own cloth diapers. Which is why Leo will either wash them for you, or outfit you with a convenient diaper sprayer to help make the job a little easier – and cleaner.

Clearly, these aren’t your grandmother’s cloth diapers. Which begs the question: If they really are this convenient – and affordable – what took them so long to make a comeback?

“The technology has come a long way in the last ten years,” Leo says. “The waterproof layers they use are far more advance, and some are even biodegradable. Plus the snap technology is a lot more advanced, which has made them a lot more convenient and easier to use.”

What was once little more than a rectangular cloth folded just-so and secured with often faulty, skin-piercing pins has since morphed into a reusable, sustainable version of a once toxic time bomb.

It’s a green leap forward Leo is determined to prove can be convenient, sustainable, and cost-effective all at once.

“I’m trying to make having cloth diapers as accessible as possible,” says Leo of her unique service. “I’m not into up-selling products or cutting corners. I want to find out what works for you, work with you to achieve that, while saving you money and helping the environment at the same time.”