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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Down To Earth

The ultimate green tip

Do you check out our "Daily Tips" each day?  Did you know you could sign up to receive them as an RSS feed?  And for all you bloggers out there, did you know that you could add our daily tip widget to your blog or website so your readers could benefit from a "daily tip for living green" each and every glorious weekday? 
So on the subjcect of daily tips we wanted to break away from the standard daily tip format for today and give special treatment to a daily tip issue that comes up a lot.  And when we say comes up a lot, we mean that because people know we write environmental issues stuff, we get questions when we're out with friends or family, or when wer'e at work or other social settings.  More often than not, these questions are less to do about policy issues or deep concerns, and more related to everyday concerns.  However, it's often the simplest questions that are the most confusing. For instance, we've been asked countless times about recycling beer bottles with limes in them.  For many, this is a HUGE concern.  (The answer by the way is yes, you can recycle beer bottles that have limes in them.)

But by far the most questions we field about everyday concerns is the great debate over diapers.  Weird right?  Here we are two young guys being asked repeatedly about diapers.  And so, without further ado, here's your answer all you worrisome mothers, mothers to be, or dudes stuck on diaper duty - courtesy of the Sierra Club's Mr. Green:


The central question is this: Is it worse to (a) waste billions of gallons of hot water washing diapers that come from pesticide-doused cotton fields or (b) produce and toss the more than 27 billion disposables that end up in U.S. landfills each year? I recommend cloth--a daring statement, because diaper ecology has long been clouded by "analysis paralysis," and many environmentalists still can't reach a conclusion.

National Geographic's Green Guide (, a source I greatly admire, says there's "no easy answer to the 'cloth or disposable' debate." The EPA doesn't take a position either.

So how can Mr. Green be so certain?

First, it depresses the hell out of me to think that an infant's first ongoing contact with the outside world involves the twisted cult of disposability that bedevils our environment--a subjective argument, true, but not all environmental decisions need be made solely on the basis of science. John Muir didn't protect the great outdoors because of life cycle studies and scientific findings but because he loved it, and its abuse made him feel downright rotten. And damn it, that's how I feel. 

The second major reason for rejecting disposables is the other bottom line. Disposables can cost from $1,500 to $2,000 between birth and potty training, while you can obtain four dozen cloth diapers and a half-dozen plastic covers for less than $100. Costs for washing, detergent, and drying are about $200 per year ($150 if you line-dry). So you save up to $1,500 per kid by using cloth. Invest those savings in a lifetime Sierra Club membership, and your reusable diapers dump all over disposables.


Down To Earth

The DTE blog is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability information from across the Inland Northwest.