When my daughter was a baby, we happily used cloth diapers, using a diaper service at first, and later washing them on our own. But when she started daycare, I went out and bought disposables. I didn’t even bother asking the daycare if they would consider cloth diapers. I figured it was not an option.
One Montreal environment group figures differently. From September to November 2010, the SODER (Société de développement environnementale de Rosemont, which runs the Éco-Quartier program for the Rosemont–Petite Patrie borough) ran a pilot project in four daycares, where educators used cloth diapers for 30 babies and toddlers.
The program was a success. Now, SODER is preparing an offer of service to make the program available to all of the borough’s daycares on a regular basis.
“The educators were reticent at first,” recalls Charlotte Reydel, executive assistant at SODER. “They were thinking of the kinds of cloth diapers our parents used to use.” However, she says, once project organizers showed them some of the models available on today’s market (highly absorbent and attaching with Velcro or snaps), educators agreed to give them a try. At the end of the project, 90 percent of educators hoped the program would continue.
Making it easy
For the pilot project, organizers kept things simple: children still arrived at the daycare in disposable diapers and left in disposables at the end of the day. However, with the new offer of service, parents will have the option of using the washable diapers at home as well.
The key to success, said Reydel, is to offer a ready-to-go, hassle-free package. SODER collects the diapers and sends them to a laundry facility used by hospitals. “Some daycares may have tried cloth diapers before, but if they have to wash them themselves, it’s too much extra work.” She notes that the laundry facility uses peroxide, not chlorine, and ensures that there is no bacteria residue.
As far as Reydel knows, the service SODER is preparing to offer — designed specifically for daycares — will be the first of its kind. In addition to researching the different models of washable diapers on the market, project organizers visited the daycares to adapt the offer of service to their needs, and to make appropriate modifications to their diaper changing stations, for example.
The washable diaper pilot project was made possible with funding from the Caisse Desjardins De Lorimier, the Fonds Ecomunicipalité IGA – Jour de la Terre, and the Regroupement des centres de la petite enfance de l’île de Montréal. It is just one of several projects under SODER’s Sustainable Communities initiative.
The SODER has also just released a guide on how to become an ecologically responsible daycare. The Guide du CPE éco-responsable du Québec, developed in collaboration with several daycares, is available online at www.cpedurable.org.
A FEW DIAPER FACTS*
- The average baby uses between 5,000 and 6,500 disposable diapers before becoming toilet trained
- Disposable diapers make up the third largest source of garbage in our landfills, and take hundreds of years to decompose
- In Quebec alone, we dispose of 600 million diapers per year
- Some studies have shown that disposables increase scrotal temperatures in baby boys
- Single-use diapers have been shown to consume greater quantities of energy and raw materials, and to generate more potentially toxic pollutants on a per-diaper-change basis
- Washable diapers can be reused 200 times, and take just a few months to decompose; flat cloth diapers also enjoy a second life as lint-free rags
- It takes 3.5 times less energy and 2.3 times less water to manufacture a cloth diaper
- Washing cloth diapers at home uses about the same amount of water as a toilet-trained child or adult flushing the toilet; because of economies of scale, a diaper service generally uses less water and energy per diaper
- With cloth diapers, you can be sure that no harsh chemicals come into contact with baby’s skin
SODER: Couches lavables