Where quality meets the Environment!

Our Disposable Planet

Being environmentally responsible is a lifestyle choice but it can be challenging to stay on track. No matter how hard we try to slow it down, the reality is that we live in a fast paced, throw away, instant everything world. With our lives so busy it’s sometimes hard to remember why we are spooning the yogurt into reusable containers for the kid’s lunches instead of simply buying the one-serving sizes, or why we are using the push mower to cut the grass when it would be so much faster to fire up the gas powered mower, or why we are sorting the recycling instead of simply throwing it all in the trash. It is hard to stay focused.

The articles and stories in this section are designed to reinforce your smart decision to be environmentally responsible. Admittedly, some days it is not easy, but if we persevere and lead by example, maybe this lifestyle will catch on and the world will slow down to a more manageable pace.

Table of Contents:
1.  The Diaper Debate – examining both sides of the cloth vs. disposable diapers debate
2.  The Environmental Impact
3.  Convenience of Cloth Diapers
4.  The Dangers of Using Disposables
5.  IndisposablesTM Cotton Sanitary Pads
6.  Global Warming

 The Diaper Debate – examining both sides of the cloth vs. disposable diapers debate
By Terri Shobbrook (Copyright 2005)

In 1961 Proctor and Gamble gave us Pampers – the one-use paper/plastic disposable diaper. Ten years later a Pennsylvania Boy Scout group, after conducting a highway cleanup, reported “that the largest single source of litter [was] the disposable diaper.” Today, one-use disposable diapers comprise 2% of the solid waste diverted to landfills. US Senators have introduced Bills designed to ban the use of disposable diapers and in 1990 twenty-four US States introduced legislation to reduce the use of disposable diapers.

Hundred’s and thousands of dollars are spent by both sides conducting studies comparing cloth and disposable diapers. In 1990 Proctor and Gamble sent “more than 14 million copies of a pamphlet [which included coupons] to US households stating that their diapers can be effectively composted in municipal solid-waste plants.” In 1991 The American Public Health Association and the American Academy for Pediatrics recommended that “only modern disposable paper diapers with absorbent gelling material” met their suggested standards for daycares. Others advocate that disposable diapers are more sanitary. In 1994 Proctor and Gamble settled out of court for misleading advertising regarding their claims of composting and recycling.

By 1998 only one in ten Canadian and US households were using cloth diapers. The National Association of Diaper Services membership dropped by 37% and 35% fewer cloth diapers were produced in 1997 as compared to 1996.  A 1999 study shows that certain disposable diaper brands released chemicals into the air causing eye, nose and throat irritation which included asthma-like symptoms. A German study in 2000 links disposable diaper use to male infertility.
(From:  The Politics of Diapering:  A Timeline of Recovered History.  Mothering, Issue 116, Jan/Feb 2003).  
Even now, over 40 years later, the cloth vs. disposable debate rages on. With advocates on both sides of the debate claiming that their diaper is more economical, healthy, convenient, and environmentally friendly how does the consumer decide? Let us look at the facts.

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 The Environmental Impact

• It takes 250,000 trees annually to produce diapers in the US or one-billion trees world-wide.
Although wood and wood products such as paper can be considered a renewable resource we need to remember that our forests are complex, fragile ecosystems. Selective logging, the practice of removing some trees and leaving the healthier ones standing, creates a more stable, sustainable environment for the water, fish, and the wildlife on the land. Clearcutting, a common practice, is the removal of all the trees and vegetation. Pine seedlings are then planted in rows and thus transform a once diversified forest ecosystem into a barren plantation of same-age, same-species trees.

• Annually In Canada 75.5 million pounds of paper goes into the production of 1.7 billion disposable diapers and in the United States 800 million pounds of paper goes into the manufacture of ten billion diapers.
In 1981 a proposed Disposable Diaper Ban Bill from Oregon reported that all of this paper, which could not be recycled, was only used once and then thrown away. It further stated that the diversion of this precious pulp/paper into disposable diapers was diminishing valuable resources and could be better used elsewhere.
• It takes about 30 lbs of cotton to manufacture 6 dozen diapers
Growing cotton can have a negative environmental impact. Cotton growers are a major user of harmful pesticides but organically grown cotton is becoming more readily available as is unbleached cotton or cotton bleached with hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine bleach.

• Dioxin, a bi-product of the production of wood pulp, is a highly toxic chemical that has been linked to health issues such as cancer, birth defects, miscarriage, and immune-system depression.

• Waste water from the production of pulp, paper, and plastics used in disposable diapers contains harmful ingredients such as dioxins, sludge, solvents, and heavy metals.

• Waste water from washing cloth diapers is generally benign due to the use of biodegradable detergents.
Many cloth diaper manufacturers recommend the use of environmentally friendly laundry products. My Lil’ Miracle Inc. does not condone the use of chlorine bleach on their diapers. Its usage causes the product warranty to be “null and void”.

• A valuable, non-renewable, and diminishing resource, petroleum, is used to produce the plastic in the disposable diaper and in the packaging. 3.5 billon gallons of oil are used to produce 18 million disposable diapers each year.

• Cloth diapers require a cover or wrap.
The manufacture of the synthetic covers does have a negative impact on the environment. If you compare 25-30 covers (and that number may be high) to 6006 disposable diapers (and that number could go as high as 10,000) per child the negative impact of the covers can be put into perspective.
Advocates of disposables diapers claim that cloth diapers “consume more water and produce more sewage than disposables”. (Proctor and Gamble, Diapers and the Environment, 1991)
• It is unclear as to whether the P&G study refers to the actual production of the disposable diaper or if they are including the production of its components as well. The actual amount of water consumed is not indicated. 

• We do know that you use approximately 50 gallons of water every three days washing those cloth diapers. This is equivalent to an adult (or toilet-trained child) flushing the toilet 5 - 6 times per day.
Let’s put this into perspective. Washing cloth diapers for approximately 2 ½ years will use about 20,000 gallons of water. Two adults taking a 5 minute daily shower each (and how many of us take a 5-minute shower?) will use, in those same 2 ½ years, almost 60,000 gallons of water.

• As for the claim that cloth diapers create more sewage
… well, technically they are correct. Technically. Dumping human waste into landfills violates the World Health Organization guidelines and is technically illegal. Depositing feces laden disposable diapers into landfills creates a potential biohazard. There is the risk leakage which could cause the contamination of our drinking water with bacteria and live viruses. Fortunately, Landfills are fairly well constructed in North America and the risk of contamination is more of an issue in developing countries.

Disposable diaper packaging contains instructions on the proper disposal of the feces. The inner liner is supposed to be removed and flushed away.
• Most reports on both sides of the debate agree that disposable diapers contribute to 2% of the solid waste that goes into landfills. That 2% represents the 3rd largest contributor after newspapers and food and beverage containers.
Bluewater Recycling, from Grand Bend, Ontario (Canada) recently conducted a Waste Audit. They studied 83 households in a user-pay community over a one-month period (during the winter). They concluded that each household produces 360 kg of residential waste per year. Of that, 48% was directed to the bluebox. That left 187 kg that was directed to the landfill. Almost 25 kg/household/per year, 13%, was disposable diapers.
Despite Proctor and Gamble’s claim in 1991 that disposable diapers can be effectively composted in municipal solid waste plants the reality is that these facilities are not setup to compost diapers and likely will not be. The financial costs are too high. There are only 14 composting facilities in the United States and none in Canada.

• It takes a disposable diaper 500 years to decompose (contained in a plastic garbage bag and buried in a landfill).
This disposable diaper has only been used once.

• It takes a cloth diaper about 6 months to decompose.
This discarded cloth diaper has been used countless times as a diaper on at least one child in the family and then it has been turned into a rag or donated to a developing country for further use as a diaper. It has many practical uses before it eventually goes to the landfill.

•The Diaper Dilemma:  The Environmental Cost of Diapers, The Diaper Dilemma:  Your Baby’s Health and The Diaper Dilemma:  The Opportunity Costs - By Susan Crawford Bell
•The Joy of Cloth Diapers, by Jane McConnell (Mothering Magazine, Issue 88, May/June 1988)
•The Diaper Debate, )?by Fiona Hill (Indisposables
•The Loma Prietan, March/April 2002 (Clearcutting: Serious Trouble in Our Forests by Karen Maki, Forest Protection Committee Chair)
•Various In-House Training Publications

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 Convenience of Cloth Diapers

It seems that one of the biggest deterrents to using cloth is time. No time for the laundry. Too many diaper changes. What about the poopy ones? We live in a throw-away society that demands instant gratification and high speed. I thought about the time factor and did some research and a bit of a self-study and this is what I came up with.

Laundering - A cloth diaper parent will need to launder those diapers once every two to three days (depending on how many diapers you have). It has been several years since I have had to launder diapers so my laundry memories may be a bit hazy. Here’s what I remember. In addition to the regular laundry - towels, adult clothes, bedding, and (seemingly endless loads of) baby/toddler clothes - I had my husband’s work clothes (twice a week) and diapers. That is equivalent to about eleven loads of laundry per week. I have guesstimated that it takes about 20 minutes of actual hands-on time to do a load of diapers and about 50 minutes of hands-on time to do other laundry. This includes hanging the laundry on the clothesline or drying rack and the sorting and collecting of the laundry. So, I spent just over 8 hours per week doing laundry. Only 40 minutes of that was actually spent on the diapers. I’ll bet the disposable diaper users spend about the same amount of time (or more) doing those emergency diaper runs.
The Mess – The other issue with time is those few extra minutes it takes to clean up those messy diapers. Theoretically, this is a non-issue. Dumping human waste into landfills violates the World Health Organization guidelines and is technically illegal. Although disposable diaper packaging explains how to remove the inner liner and flush the waste very few people actually do that. The time it takes to rinse out a cloth diaper and the time it takes to remove the inner liner of a disposable diaper are probably equal. I actually had a customer who kept a pair of rubber gloves and a large plastic spoon in the bathroom to deal with the messy diapers. Honestly though, I don’t think you need to be quite that dramatic!

Diaper Changes - Many parents complain that there will be too many diaper changes. Well, in my opinion even one diaper change is too many but diapers and babies go hand in hand. Although parents like to change a disposable diaper about every four hours the reality is that that diaper needs to be changed about every 2-3 hours or whenever (which sometimes feels like always) the baby has a bowel movement. Honestly, diaper changes used to make me crazy. For a while I had two kids in cloth diapers and I felt like I lived at the change table. Then something amazing happened. When I was pregnant with my second child I worried about how I would manage to spread myself between the two kids. I had no idea how to do that. After the baby was born I never seemed to have any one-on-one time with either child. One day it occurred to me that during the diaper change it was just him and me. We would talk and play while taking care of business. Although it only lasted a few minutes at a time the moments happened consistently every 2 – 3 hours. I don’t have that kind of one-on-one with my kids now … I’m lucky if I can snatch a few minutes once a week! My advice ... take the negative and make it a positive. Diaper changes are yet another opportunity to interact with your child – and these moments are one-on-one, up close and personal!

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 The Dangers of Using Disposables

Disposable diapers. They seem relatively harmless and easy to use.  But are they really? Here are some little known facts.
Chemical Content - Did you know that there are possible, potentially long-term, side effects associated with the ingredients added to disposable diapers to make them ultra-absorbent? Ingredients like:

  • Sodium Polyacrylate  - This is a super-absorbent gel that shows up as little crystals on baby’s skin. It has been found in the urinary tract of babies. It causes severe diaper rash and it may cause bleeding in the perineum and scrotal tissue. This chemical was linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) in tampon users and has since been discontinued in tampon production. No mother would ever knowingly expose her baby to this toxic chemical, yet millions of mothers do for the first few years of their baby’s life, with babies at risk twenty-four hours a day, every day!
  • Organochlorines - These chlorinated toxic chemicals are found in disposable diapers in trace amounts. Some countries (North America excluded) have outlawed the use of chlorine-bleached paper goods and use hydrogen peroxide instead, especially in diapers.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - This chemical off-gases vinyl chloride which is recognized by the EPA as a health hazard (remember when all the mini-blinds were recalled?) Yet this dangerous chemical is a recognized, acceptable component in an infant consumer product.

Health Issues: A disposable diaper keeps a baby’s bottom 5 to 10 degrees hotter than a cloth diaper. This increases the incidence of diaper rash. There’s more. A study in Germany (Professor W G Sippell - 2000) has linked the increase in testicular temperature, caused by disposable diapers, with a reduced sperm count in males.
The Environment:  Although disposable diapers contribute only about 2% of the solid waste in landfills they represent 30% of the total non-biodegradable waste. Did you know that you are supposed to dispose of the feces in the toilet before throwing the disposable diaper away?  Feces potentially contain trace amounts of diseases, medications, and vaccinations (i.e. live polio virus) that are potentially harmful to environmental and human health. Each baby will use between 6,000 – 7,000 disposable diapers. This means that each child contributes in excess of 1.4 tonnes of non-biodegradable, potentially disease-laden plastic waste to our already overflowing landfills. This translates to an estimated 20,000,000,000 disposable diapers thrown out in North America every year!

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 Indisposables™ Cotton Sanitary Pads
By Sue Woollard, Designer of Indisposables™Sanitary Pads (1994)
and Terri Shobbrook (March 2005) (Copyright March 2005)

The story of disposable diapers and the negative impact they have environmentally has been well documented over the years. Media and environmentalists however, have largely ignored the horrendous burden posed on landfill sites by women’s feminine hygiene products i.e. disposable pads and tampons. A woman throws away 10,000 pads and tampons in her lifetime! This is not to mention packaging containers, plastic from individually wrapped pads and plastic and cardboard holders from tampons. In the 1990’s the number of women in Canada of menstrual age (between 12 and 45) was just under 7 million. Based on those numbers, if each woman uses about 12 pads or tampons every month then there are 1.7 billion pads and tampons being thrown into landfill sites in Canada each year. In the United States the figure is even more staggering – 11.3 billion.
Chlorine bleach is used to get the wood pulp (used in making the pads) “whiter than white”. This is both an environmental and a health concern. Organochlorines are by-products of the bleaching process of wood pulp.  Dioxin and furan are among the most carcinogenic. The organochlorines found in the effluent or runoff from factories that use chlorine bleached wood pulp has a definite negative impact on our waterways.
From a health standpoint traces of the organochlorines have been found in the disposable sanitary pads, tampons and diapers. To regularly place such products on the periphery of the vaginal area, or even worse, inside it as in the case of tampons, is a questionable health benefit. In the wake of the “dioxin-in-paper products” scare of 1987 manufacturers spoke of “safe levels” of dioxin and other similar chemicals in the disposable diapers, sanitary pads and other paper products but for many consumers there is no such thing as “safe levels” of toxic chemicals.

Using pads instead of tampons allows for a natural flow. Using cotton, which is reusable and biodegradable, allows air to circulate, promoting healthy perineal skin and avoiding odours. There is no need for deodorants and there is no plastic which can irritate and cause allergic reactions. There are reduced health risks when using cotton, especially unbleached cotton.
Like cloth diapers, there are economic benefits of using cotton sanitary products. The amount spent in a 60 month period (5 years) on disposable pads, tampons and panty liners by one woman is approximately $600 (or $10 - $15 per month) depending on flow.  Indisposables™ Sanitary Pads, with proper care, should last in excess of 60 months. The cost of using these pads full time (with medium to heavy flow) over the same 60 months is $100 - $200.  That means a savings of approximately $400 over 5 years. The laundry costs are minimal because the pads do not need to be laundered separately (see Washing and Care Instructions). 

There is also a savings in time. Never will a woman have to go out for an emergency trip to the store to pick up some pads or tampons. The pads are always there, clean and ready to use!

Although these pads were designed primarily for menstruating women, it is also an excellent product for women who have mild stress incontinence (involuntary urination). The pads would last a shorter time if used for stress incontinence because they would be washed more often.

There is still some resistance on the part of many women to the idea of washable pads. As our society grows forward from a consumer to a conserver society and as women hear more about the alternatives to disposable sanitary protection they will become more comfortable with the idea and begin to explore making the switch. It would be naïve to think everyone will switch and use washable pads on a full-time basis during menses.  The Canadian Market Trial of Indisposables™ Sanitary Pads conducted in early 1993 indicated clearly that the majority of women (over 80%) used them in combination with disposable pads. Part time use of these pads during the evenings, nights and weekends while at home is a good way of making a positive contribution.
Buying disposable sanitary pads contributes to air and water pollution, deforestation and the growing global garbage problem. Over the next few years with concern over the environment on the upswing on all levels we, at My Lil’ Miracle, feel that women will begin actively looking for ways in which they can make a contribution to the greening of the planet. We invite you to try Indisposables™ Sanitary Pads and see for yourself how easy to use, comfortable, absorbent and convenient they are. A feeling of well-being comes from doing something that is not only good for the environment but is good for your body and saves money too.

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 Global Warming
An award-winning speech written by Meagan C. (age 12), Seaforth, Ontario, Canada (2007)

What is more powerful than an elephant, uncontrollable and created by none other than, the one and only, humans?
Teachers, judges and fellow classmates, Global Warming’s consequences are a serious threat to our planet and we need to do something about it!

Global Warming is the natural warming of the Earth due to Carbon Dioxide and Methane. These gases are called “Greenhouse Gases”. They contribute to the “Greenhouse Effect”. The Greenhouse Effect occurs when Greenhouse Gases enter our atmosphere and form a layer that acts like a greenhouse. It lets sunlight in while preventing it from escaping. The heat off of the sunlight remains close to the Earth causing it to be warmer than usual – thus the name Global Warming.

In today’s society, the amount of Greenhouse Gases entering our atmosphere are above the naturally occurring level, which makes dramatic changes in the natural world. Certain animals can only live at certain temperatures, so if the temperature changed, they might become extinct. Some other changes include: melting of the polar ice caps and sea levels rising due to the melting of the ice caps. In addition, Greenhouse Gases causes the ozone layer to deplete causing even MORE sunlight to enter our atmosphere then what occurs naturally.

Some “experts” believe that Global Warming is just something that the Earth naturally goes through, “…like the Ice Age, we didn’t cause that, there were no cars, so maybe, that is what’s happening here?” they would say. Unfortunately, scientists have proved that Global Warming is caused due to the excessive amounts of Greenhouse Gases, and who causes it? Yep, humans!

Other people, who have their priorities set straight, say different things. Albert Gore, more commonly known as Al Gore, is one of these people. He was the former vice-president in the USA, and was very concerned about Global Warming. Even today, he is still trying to save our planet. Oh, how I wish I could meet him! He is a hero in my opinion. One of his famous quotes is: “Global Warming will be the greatest environmental challenge in the 21st century”. If he can’t predict the future, I don’t think anybody can! In addition to all of this, he made a movie called “An Inconvenient Truth” about Global Warming. I have seen it, and it has changed my view on Global Warming completely.

Currently, our scientists cannot truly show signs for Global Warming. However, they have been able to predict connections between certain occurrences to raise the idea that the world is changing. Some of these ideas include:

  • Dramatic weather
  • Affected crop growth – for example an increase in some areas, and a decrease in others
  • Flooding (Does New Orleans ring a bell?)
  • Alpine plants moving higher up mountains due to temperatures rising.

Now brace yourselves. What I am about to tell you may shock and devastate you. Does anyone have a cell phone ready for a quick call to the hospital? Just kidding! However, the information is shocking. That is true. Today’s scientists believe that since 1900, the Earth’s temperature has risen by at least 0.5 degrees Celsius! Now, to some of you that doesn’t sound like a lot. However, the Earth is a little like us. We have an “ideal temperature” – 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If that temperature changes by even one degree, it shows that we are sick. It goes the same way for the Earth. Even a slight change isn’t good.

After all of this, do you want to do something about Global Warming? No? Well, if not, there is still hope for you. I’m now going to tell you the worst of it all … what will happen in the future. If we don’t change, Global Warming will only get worse. Some scientists are predicting that the level of the Great Lakes will drop between two and eight feet! Are they so “great” now? There is still more! In an early 1990’s report, by 2100 the coastal plains of Bangladesh and the Netherlands will flood, while the islands of the Maldives will completely disappear! And that’s only if there is a two foot increase in sea level! Global Warming will also cause the arrival of spring to be early, plant and animal population changes, coral reef bleaching, downpours, heavy snowfalls, flooding, droughts and fires! We need to do something! Now!

If you do want to change our terrible fate, there are simple changes that you can make. Walk instead of driving. Replace your lights with energy efficient ones. Use wind, solar, hydro or any other renewable energy source instead of fossil fuels. For those who really want to change, you could buy a hybrid car. But don’t let that scare you! You can just use the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse and then Recycle. Be sure to reuse bottles and other containers and try to find a different use for them before you recycle them. You could use your old Kleenex box for a place to keep your little items so they don’t get lost. As Al Gore would say, “We’re all in this greenhouse together. Nobody can stop the world to get off.”

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