Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The irrational consumer

New moms are easy targets. They will go to any length to buy the best things for their babies. I thought by doing everything I could to be environmental and healthy, I wouldn't be the typical wanton consumer of a mom. Well...

I started out saying "I'll never buy stupid disposable diapers! They're terrible for the environment. The evil people that market disposable diapers can't fool me!"

So we didn't buy any disposable diapers. And then we brought The Lorax to daycare on Day #6. And the girls there were like "what is this rag on him?" And then we were in an airport with a yucky, poopy cloth in our carry-on. And I quickly forgot the charm of cloth diapers. Then when the young Bois got a peri-anal abscess (probably from all the moisture of the cloth diapers overnight), the reasons to switch to disposable were overwhelming.

And, honestly, when I get my period would I ever force myself to use cloths instead of tampons or maxipads? You can probably guess the answer to that.

So now we've got like 50 unused cloth diapers I received as gifts. We do still use cloth diapers at home during the day through a diaper service (they do the wash), but disposable diapers are our mainstay. Thus we didn't end up coming out on top environmentally or monetarily.

So, since I am going to give in and buy disposable diapers, I feel the need to buy the ones that are "Chlorine Free" and claim to release less dioxin into the environment in their production.

So I use the brown, environmental diapers and rest on the easy chair of my laurels. But are they really worth twice as much? I did some research into dioxin. Turns out it has never been proven to be carcinogenic or cause birth defects in humans, as it suggests on the package and says all over the web. I'm not trying to suggest that dioxin is a benign chemical. It is carcinogenic and teratogenic in rats at high enough concentrations. But it is a byproduct of all bleached paper products. And the levels that it is at now have not been definitively linked to any health problem. Furthermore, the amount of dioxin released from 1987 to 2000 decreased by 90% due to stricter environmental regulations. So does buying chlorine-free diapers make any difference if all diaper companies have to meet the strict regulations? Besides that, there are even stricter regulations for waste incineration...

As an aside, if you would really like to spare yourself and your baby from dioxins, don't eat meat.
This table shows our exposure to TEQ, a dioxin equivalent.

Although, in another study it was found that the benefits of fish consumption due to omega-3 exposure were notably higher than the potential dioxin cancer risk.
(Leino O. Tainio M. Tuomisto JT. Comparative risk analysis of dioxins in fish and fine particles from heavy-duty vehicles. [Journal Article. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] Risk Analysis. 28(1):127-40, 2008 Feb. )

And then there's baby food.

SR came home the other night from Wal-Mart (or, as we call it, The Temple) with some baby food. It was some vanilla apple concoction in plastic containers with like 25 ingredients in it. I freaked out and told him we couldn't give The Lorax THAT. The Lorax has subsequently eaten it and has not grown an extra arm or anything, but I've now made the rule that we either make our own baby food or buy organic food in glass containers. But am I being a bit unreasonable about it? Is there any evidence that processed Wal-Mart baby food is in any way a health threat? I don't know of any.

Finally is, of course, baby bottles. I went to great lengths to tell everyone who was coming to my baby shower that I wanted GLASS bottles (obviously that in itself is annoying). Of course, I didn't get any, because you just can't find them anywhere. So I went to even greater lengths to find the 5 glass bottles that existed in our state. And, in the end, the only effect of having glass will probably be that someone gets injured by the heavy bottle. But despite the FDA saying plastic bottles, even with Bisphenol A, are safe, I can't get myself to take any sort of "chances."

One thing I am very glad we have not done is buy new clothing. Get it used any way you can! The clothes will only fit for 3 months. And when there's a little "backwash" it won't be such a big deal.

What is the moral here? There is none. I just wanted to share the experience of a perhaps pointlessly idealistic mom.

Anyone have any running songs to suggest?


Abbie said...

Ok. I could not stop laughing during your post. I don't know if you were trying to be funny but your descriptions are so visual that I felt like I was almost there with you. Running song of the day? --Chris Brown: Forever. LOVE IT! I don't think you're irrational... maybe a little too cautious but I think you're admirable for doing what you can to protect the environment and (depending on which studies you look at) the Bois. My husband and I just moved to a new town and I decided that I wanted to start recycling so I feel pretty good about myself. As for baby food. I agree... probably nothing wrong with the stuff you buy at the store but it's so cheap to make it yourself and then at least you know what is going into it. Is it bad that I'm almost always the first to post? I have google reader so that helps... :)

Danni said...

Funny post. I love it.

For running music I highly recommend Mr. Quintron & Miss Pussycat -- Are you Ready for an Organ Solo is a great album with lots of great running music, and whichever album has "Swamp Buggy Badass" -- that's good.

Do you like Sleater Kinney? I think they've broken up but lots of Sleater Kinney is good for running.

H said...


We are using cloth (the BumGenius ones that are pretty much just like disposables minus the disposable part... I couldn't do prefolds.) and I insisted upon BPA-free bottles.

But I figured if that's as far as I went into the consumerist trap, I'm okay.

However, I will say I'm surprised how much some of the "extras" help.
Boppy pillows, I laughed at.
My Boppy is my most used baby-gift. It's magic.

Kate said...

flexibility = essential skill of parenting. so, way to go with the flow, mama. would be a good place to sell your cloth if you've got more than you need so that you can get your $$ back. that said, I'm kind of cloth obsessed and love it, so I'd encourage you to give it another go! pockets like bum genius (like heather mentioned) are pretty easy and also keep the bambino dry pretty much like a 'sposie does.

funny about the glass-- I think it's catching on a bit! I just found some at babies r us and gave it as a shower gift. none of ours have broken in a year, even with
4' falls on to tile floor, so I'm sold on it.

like you said, the food probably isn't doing any "harm"....but I tend to agree with you that between some organic jarred basics and some do-it-yourself stuff at home, you can save $ and feel good about what he's eating. he'll be eating 'real people food' before you know it, anyway.

Lisa said...

Oh, Goodness, I laughed too. Not "AT" you, but, you know..."WITH YOU". You do the best you can and try to make the best choices you can considering time, effort, money and your environmental impact. I'm telling you, he'll be okay, even if he eats a ho ho someday, or some doritos. LOL! I think you are taking many steps to healthier, safer options and you certainly do your homework.

Lisa said...

Running song:

"It's Tricky" Run D.M.C.

Laughing Anne said...

I'm so glad you wrote this! I'm at that point (35 weeks pregnant) where I am shopping for all of this stuff and am still in the theoretical idealistic stage and wondering how all if this will play out in reality. I'm of the anti-consumerism, all-natural, environmentally-friendly mindset and of course there are a million products marketed toward such new moms like this, but on the other hand I am wanting to be realistic and practical as well. So, it is great to hear your perspective!

Laughing Anne said...

one more thought on diapers ... have you tried gdiapers? ( They look to be both environmentally friendly and convenient! In theory, should be perfect. :) ??

sea legs girl said...

Thanks for the great comments! And song suggestions!

Yes, Heather. A Boppy is essential!

Kate, thanks for the link.

a, I just ordered some of the gdiapers. They are basically exactly what I'm looking for, except I feel a bit unenvironmental about ORDERING diapers that need to be delivered from a factory somewhere. I'll let you know how they work for us!

SteveQ said...

Best running song this week? Michael Franti and Spearhead - "Say Hey (I Love You.)" Best of all time? "Road Runner" by the Modern Lovers.

Kate said...

hi! not trying to hijack, but thought I'd reply to the comment re: gDiapers. I think they'd be a good alternative for someone not ready to take the plunge into cloth. I've only used them in instances where I didn't want to hurt my other diapers with rash cream that wasn't safe for cloth diapers. They do work! For me, though, it's just as easy (and possibly less messy?) to wash dipes as to put a gDiaper in a cover, and then have to tear it up or flush it afterwards. Also cheaper over the long run. But again, a good alternative for folks looking to be environmentally friendly, but just not into the cloth.

Unknown said...

Did you ever look at research on how much potable water is used in washing cloth diapers through a diaper service? It's kind of a catch 21 situation, you're going to be using up resources or damaging the environment either way. Do what's best for you and you baby and do your best to protect the environment where it counts.

Abbie said...

FYI, I just bought BPA free bottles today. After I read that article I emailed you, I decided it wasn't worth the risk. Thanks for being so informative!

sea legs girl said...

jlk6532, Man there is a heated debate out there about cloth vs. disposable diapers and their environmental impact. My question is, if disposable diapers are really more environmentally friendly, should we all start wearing disposable clothing?

If anyone has a study (and not an editorial) that shows disposable to be superior, please post it! Until then, as far as environmental impact is concerned, I don't think it's much of a catch 21 or a catch 22 (but that's my editorial). As stated before, mothers should do what they're comfortable with.

abbie, that's cool that you switched your bottles.