Got the Pampers blues

Michelle Haynie Madison

April 19, 1991|By Michelle Haynie Madison

AS A YOUNG working mother in her early 30s, I came face-to-face with the facts about disposable diapers and what they are doing to the Earth.

I must admit that at first, I shrugged off the thought that my little baby's use of disposables was contributing to Mother Earth's demise. And besides, I thought, if I switch to cloth diapers, what difference would it really make? The disposable industry appeared to be thriving. In fact, I found it was easier to obtain disposable diapers than cloth in some establishments. Every body uses disposables. They are convenient. These are the '90s. Nobody uses cloth anymore, except for burping, cleaning up spills or washing cars.

When I learned that it takes more than 400 years for disposable diapers to disintegrate in landfills, I began to think seriously about the price my children's and grandchildren's generations would have to pay for my convenience. I thought about the fact that disposable diapers are really very unsanitary, especially the way most people use them. Just roll it up in a ball, throw it away and forget about it. Let someone else deal with my baby's mess. Every time I used a disposable, I imagined that one diaper in a heaping landfill. I began to think, "Is this what I am leaving my children and grandchildren to deal with?"

I remember a conversation with my own mother about how she, with four kids, had to dunk and wash (even without a modern washing machine and certainly without a dryer). Today, when it's so easy to dispose of everything from dinnerware to diaperwear, we forget about the price that we will pay inevitably.

So after using disposables with my daughter, I decided to switch to cloth when my son was born. I survived and am doing just fine. Not only am I saving dollars; I feel that in a small way, I am also saving Mother Earth.

I must admit, however, that I still have a long way to go with the recycling movement. After a long and tiring day, I often come home to "disposable" dinnerware. Some habits are hard to break.

Michelle Haynie Madison writes from Baltimore.

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