Sunday, October 10, 2010

How Much Does It Cost to Save the World?

We recycle. We use energy efficient lightbulbs. I use a manual lawn mower. We have cut parabens out of our lives. We use environmentally-friendly cleaning products. I make 95% of the little miss' baby food. I make my own deodorant, for Pete's sake.

While I'm by no means a goddess of environmental responsibilty, I do try to make smart decisions for our family. I emphasize TRY. Yes, we could live off the grid using no power, making and growing all our own food, drinking well water and making our own clothes out of cotton we pick and weave ourselves. That may work for 90's fitness maven Susan Powter, but it's just not for me.

I don't even buy organic on a regular basis (insert audible gasp). A few items here and there, but not all the time. I would love to buy all my fruits and veggies locally at a farmer's market, but sometimes the large corporate grocery store is just a lot more convenient. Sue me.

I'll be perfectly honest. It is a constant battle in my mind between cost, convenience and impact. Does the cost outweigh the environmental guilt? When it comes to health it's almost always no contest and I will pay the extra. The problem there is I'm pretty uninformed when it comes to most health risks - except for cancer. Given my employer I'm pretty up to speed on the cancer causing ingredients out there, hence the removal of parabens from our home.

Then again, there is something wrong with EVERYTHING on the grocery store shelves when you really start looking, whether the research is reliable or not. Is it certified organic or does it just say "natural" on the label? "All natural colouring" could mean it includes that red colour made from crushed up beetles. YUCK. But how do you know? And where do you draw the line?

I was recently asked to review diapers from Seventh Generation. I was familiar with the brand and their environmentally-responsible products, but have to admit I had never purchased any of them before because of price point. I'm sure ALL of their products are amazing, but unfortunately there are competing products making almost as good claims sitting right next to them on the shelf and they're half the price.

I was very curious about the diapers, however, as that's a pretty hot topic in my circle of friends. Cloth vs. disposables, the new hybrid variety like G Diapers, diaper services, the laundry, the landfills... I've done some research and given the resources used to launder cloth diapers I'm not 100% convinced there is really that much to choose between them. Where I do see a diference is between "regular" disposables and something like Seventh Generation. If we ARE going to use diapers that end up in a landfill, isn't it better to use something that is hypoallergenic, chlorine free, fragrance and latex free? Absolutely.

We tried them and were very impressed. I have this skeptical little voice inside of me that is sure these "natural" brands won't work as well. We have used Costco's Kirkland brand (do I hear another gasp?) since the little man was born and we've never had an issue. We tried the odd Pampers, Huggies, etc, but always had the best success in terms of no leakage, etc with the Kirkland brand. Seventh Generation was facing some pretty tough competition. They actually stood up very well, I have to admit. Good absorption, good containment, good fit. The only fault we found with them was the little tabs were a little harder to open in a quick change situation than their Kirkland counterparts. Definitely something I would suck up in order to have diapers that were better for my baby and the environment.

There's just one catch. They retail for between $15.99 and $18.99 per pack of 35. That's approximately 50 cents per diaper. Costco diapers come in at around 20 cents per diaper. A baby will use somewhere in the neighbourhood of 8,000 diapers over his or her lifetime, so that cost difference equals about $2,400. That's pretty significant to go from one disposable to another. Given that the most diapers are used in that first year of your baby's life, and that for most Canadian moms they're on mat leave at 55% of their income already, it makes it hard to pay over 50% more for something you throw away.

Where do you draw the line at what's worth the extra cost and what's not? If we had masses of disposable income and money was never an issue, I would absolutely pay the extra and use Seventh Generation diapers. They work really well and my conscience would be clearer. Unfortunately we're not in that magical place, so I will have to live with a guilty conscience and cheaper diapers. For now.


  1. I just try to do my best with some things, but honestly, when it comes to diapers I only wanted to work with what DID NOT LEAK. And I wanted to do disposable, sadly.

  2. Good post! My husband and I have the same conversation all the time. We try to buy mostly organic for our son but forgo it ourselves, because it's just too costly.
    But my plan is once we start falling apart, I'll just lay a huge guilt trip about how we deprived ourselves for him so he'll have to take care of us;)
    btw, Thanks for your kind comments on my blog - I'm following you right back. Lots of great info here.

  3. In a lot of ways, organic isn't better. It's a marketing plow like anything else.
    And someone once brought up to me the amount of good you're doing if your organic produce is being shipped in from someplace far away. isn't it bette rto be buying local, using less resources to get your food to a place that's accessible by you, than it is to pay for organic food?
    Afterall, how can you certify something organic if the farm down the block is using pesticides and such?

    It's like having a peeing and non peeing section of the pool.

  4. by plow, of course... I mean ploy. :)

  5. I find the whole diaper debate to be totally confusing, and I've done it ALL. I think the problem is that everything has an impact, so it's never going to be a clear-cut choice.

    Probably the most enviro-choice would be to just let your kid pee wherever and then wipe it up with cloths. But who wants THAT? I certainly don't!