How Green Is Your Family's Household?
Written by Tracy Brennan
Much Ado About Doo-Doo
While we're on the topic of waste... ahem ... let's talk about some of the other poop-producers in the house: Baby and Bowser. For starters, each of our little bundles of joy (we're talking about Baby now) will literally produce one ton or more of dirty diapers before our unflagging attempts at potty training kick in.
The disposable vs. cloth debate will continue to rage on, given both options are not exactly poster children candidates for sustainability — conventional disposables fester forever in landfills and cloth diapers waste water (to wash) and energy (to dry). The mind — and olfactory sense — boggle in consideration of the fact that 20 billion diapers are added to U.S. landfills each year. So, what is a caring and guilt-ridden parent to do?
If it helps, there really is no moral high ground to claim when it comes to the great diaper debate... At the end of the day, you'll discover what works best for your family and lifestyle. Do your research, ask other parents for advice, and plan to do your own testing with Junior.
Best Tips for Families:
Earth- and fanny-friendly diapers. For many parents, bleached, gel-filled disposable diapers are unconscionable. Local to the Northwest, gDiapers entered the market a few years ago with a flushable/biodegradable diaper designed to deliver the convenience of disposable without the nasty and lasting landfill legacy. And really, wouldn't you want your child's personal legacy to outlive that of his diapers, which take 500 years to biodegrade?
Plastic pangs. Of course, there are also a number of other eco-conscious diaper brands that replace all the nasty-plasty ingredients with constituent absorbers like wood pulp and cornstarch. Again, do your research, test a few brands out, and see if you find the perfect fit.
Elimination communication. Around the world, plenty of parents raise their children without the convenience of nappies. For moms and dads who can learn to read their child's potty cues — and no doubt sustain a certain amount of messy lapses — this au natural approach could work. Think you have what it takes? Check out DiaperFreeBaby.com to see if a diaper-less life is for you.
Best Green Pet Tips for Families:
Fido & Fancy. Cleaning up the poop of our beloved family pets feels about as green a chore as taking a nine-hour-long, scalding hot shower. What can you do to ... uh... lighten the environmental load?
Never flush Fancy's feces. Even if your kitty litter of choice purports to be flushable, please never ship your cat's mess down the toilet, especially if you live in a coastal area! Many domestic cats carry Toxoplasmosis Gondii (TG), which can infiltrate the water supply and harm marine life. Grist.org reports that because TG is resistant to standard sewage treatment, it is believed to be directly responsible for 20% of all sea lion deaths.
Litter rip! Luckily there are plenty of great eco-friendly and clay-free cat litter options, including products made from recycled paper, corn, wheat, and even tea leaves! You can also go extreme green and plan to compost your catbox contents — you'll need to get a dedicated bin with holes in the bottom and allow the soiled litter to compost for more than a year. Cat litter compost, once properly seasoned, will work fine for augmenting soil in your ornamental beds, but do not use it on edible-plant beds; also remember that if you are pregnant, you must not handle your cat's litter box contents at all — exposure to possible TG parasites must be avoided!
Old dog, new poop. Packaging up your pampered pooch's poo-poo in plastic is ... pretty poopy! How can you lessen your plastic-dependent impact? Start by having friends stockpile their newspaper and plastic grocery bags for the purpose — at least then you aren't purchasing additional plastic bags to handle the mess and create more. Of course, there are also flushable/biodegradable options on the market (like Flush Puppies), which could appeal. For the extreme greener, there is always the option of composting Fido's droppings: you'll need to dig a hole — a deep, deep hole — away from all water sources, add a septic starter, and plan to leave the doo covered for a long time. (And we're talking people years, not dog years here.) Learn more on CompostingInstructions.com, and good luck with that...