When new parents weigh their diapering options, they often find cloth vs. disposable articles telling them there is little or no difference in their choice. You have all seen these simplistic comparison lists in simplistic parenting mags. So have I. On what do they base their analysis? Studies funded or sponsored by manufacturers of throwaway petro-chemical diapers. How the numbers play out in the analysis depends on how you draw the boundaries of the question. Use the least energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly methods of cloth diapering, and you will shift the numbers. Pretend that cloth diapers are changed 12 times a day and disposables only 3 times a day, and you will shift the numbers. If you shift enough numbers, you can make those numbers show that the lowest possible impact one-time use diapers can be compared to the highest possible impact reusable diapers. The outcomes are determined by framing the original assumptions.
Let’s reframe our assumptions. Let’s assume that you as a cloth diapering parent want to make the most environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient choices. Drop out of the high-impact discussion altogether and figure out how to make your cloth diapers a better choice. Organic cotton reduces the impact of chemicals from field through factory when compared to conventional cotton, so you buy organic baby diapers. Don’t stop with that one choice, though. How are the diapers made? How do you buy? How do you wash the diapers? Every step of the way you can reduce the impact of your choice.
Home laundering can require more energy than commercial laundering (diaper service). A story I saw this week tells me that our impact can be lowered with this step, too.
World’s Largest Laundromat outside of Chicago uses 36 10-by-4-foot solar panels to power the 24-hour laundry. The place is huge. They have 153 washers and 148 dryers. If the story ended there, it would be a simple profile, but it goes on to explain how, why, and when they use solar power.
I pulled the story from Environmenal News Network, but this AP story is making the news rounds of big and small media in the past few days–including business papers and sites. Isn’t that interesting? If it isn’t interesting yet, let me help you get interested.
Owner Tom Benson made this choice not because it was best for the environment but because it lowered his energy costs. The lower environmental impact in this case is also better for the bottom line of the business. This is why business papers and websites are all over the story. “This happens to be one of these wonderful cases where the idea works on every level,” he said.
The implications of this are huge. Could this not influence diaper services to not only lower their costs but gain attention for better environmental choices by using solar energy to power their laundry services? Would you be willing to lower the impact of your cloth diapering impact by using solar power? Do you do it already? My family wasn’t in a position when washing diapers to switch to solar power, but I think selling diaper services on solar power is doable. Solar power for laundry is a smart business decision.
My partner, the Dye Master, suggests that all the World’s Largest Laundromat needs to do now is add a Living Machine outside to recycle the water. (Read about Living Machines at Wikipedia.) You know there will always be more steps we can take to lower our impact.
Don’t panic. One step at a time.