I tend to read Google news either first thing in the morning while I’m in bed waking up or last thing at night while I’m in bed. One of my custom news groupings are for articles about diapers. Frequently, I see articles about non-profits and charitable organizations giving diapers. Giving diapers is pretty crucial, particularly in some depressed areas. People don’t have access to big box or warehouse stores where diapers can be purchased more cheaply. They end up struggling to buy much more expensive diapers at their local corner store, which is significantly more costly. (It’s the same issue that contributes to urban “food deserts.”)
Those areas are areas that are in need of free or affordable diapers. The non-profits that are giving diapers in those areas are doing a great service. They are easing those families’ financial burdens.
Here’s the catch, though: while they are giving diapers, they are primarily giving disposable diapers.
It’s wonderful that this is happening. They are absolutely, truthfully fulfilling a need. Unfortunately, it is a need that does not end for years. It’s a need that contributes to landfills. It’s a need that is not sustainable. Really, I liken it to giving a man a fish instead of teaching a man to fish.
This is also why diaper lending groups like Cloth for a Cause are crucial. While some of the families that are in dire need of diapers are not going to be candidates for using cloth diapers due to lack of washing facilities, some families are. Getting these families educated about the use, sustainability, and cost reduction of using cloth diapers instead of disposable is critical. Instead of these families having to swallow pride or struggle with buying food or buying diapers over and over again, a single cloth diaper loan is a one time event that will help them until their child is out of diapers altogether.
Or, to look at it another way: Let’s pretend that an organization has 50 cases of diapers to give out each month. That means that organization can theoretically keep 50 children in diapers per month. That’s fantastic! But while they’re giving diapers for 50 children, those 50 children will need diapers again next month. The cost of 50 cases of diapers is roughly $35 at a warehouse store. That’s $1,750 spent on giving diapers that can only be used once. However, that same $1,750 could purchase approximately 87 premium brand pocket cloth diapers at retail price. That would be able to help roughly 6 children. In the immediate, that’s not so awesome. But those 6 children will not need diapers donated the next month, and possibly not ever until those children are potty trained.
Here’s where the sustainability factor comes into play: In 8 months, the same amount of children would be wearing donated diapers for the same amount. However, the next month, it would be 6 different families who had not received donated diapers at all. And when all of those families are done using their donated cloth diapers, they could return them to the organization so that they could refurbished and sent on to other families.
The biggest stumbling blocks to giving diapers of the reusable source are:
There are still far too many people who don’t realize that cloth diapers are even an option. If they knew about the availability of cloth diapers or the ease of use, there would be many more people out to use them. Plus, there’s the benefit of these families not needing to ask for aid again. (It’s so much nicer to not be in constant need of help!) There’s also the side benefits of reduction of diaper rash and reduction of landfills.
Some families that seek the help of organiziations that specialize in giving diapers do not have easy access to washing facilities. It is, obviously, far more difficult to use modern cloth diapers without the aid of a washing machine. However, getting more of those families that do have access to washing facilities into cloth will also free up the orgs that focus on giving diapers to those who are not able to use cloth.
How can we combat that? If you’re a cloth diaper evangelist, you can always be sure to talk to everyone you know about using cloth diapers. (And really, the chances are pretty good that you already do.) If you work with families in need, you can always discuss the option of cloth diapers and point them to organizations like Cloth for a Cause that can help.
Are you doing anything to spread the word?