In my last post I showed the environmental reasons why we're happy to use cloth diapers: keeping waste out of landfills and groundwater, avoiding chemicals, saving transportation costs, saving the water, chemicals, and petroleum used to make disposables.
That's great and all, you say. That's a nice thing to do if you can afford it, but isn't it really more expensive? What about all the energy and water for washing? Well, as I noted yesterday, making disposables also uses resources. Meanwhile, laundry is a surprisingly small part of household energy and water use.
As far as our household energy use and diaper costs, instead of some hypothetical your-child-uses-twelve-billion-diapers-in-two-years scenario, let's run our real numbers.
As far as energy and water, I would say our bills have gone up about $10 a month. Of course, since adding a child we are also doing more dishes, cooking more foods, washing more hands more often, plugging in more gadgets, and heating another room overnight. And we have a new high-efficiency front-load washing machine (best baby homecoming gift ever?!), so laundry alone isn't all that much of the increase. Remember, laundering cloth diapers uses about the same amount of water as a person uses flushing the toilet--so whether we're washing or she's flushing, adding a child has already added water use to our house.
Cost of the diapers and supplies we've purchased? Around $350. Add energy and call it $400 if you want. We got going in October, so we've had about 6 months of use. That's $400 ÷ 6 = $67 per month (at this point--obviously the longer they're used, more the cost per month figure drops).
Cost for disposables over that time? Diapers here run about $.20 each. Anna is using 6 or 7 diapers a day (now--younger babies use more). That's about $1.20 to $1.40 per day of diapers, plus the cost of disposable wipes (I use cloth wipes with cloth dipes, mostly). Let's call it 200 diapers, $40/month. Plus wipes, call it $45. By that conservative estimate, we'd have spent $270 over the 6 months we've been using cloth.
I don't even know how much all that Diaper Genie business costs, nor am I factoring in that newborns need a lot more changes and diapers get more expensive as your child grows (bigger diapers, less in box for same price). I am sure we spent more than $45/month when Anna first joined us and realistically would have spent way more on average over time, but we'll stick with $45 for the sake of argument.
Okay, by that conservative math we haven't broken even yet--but we will in just two more months. By the summer we will be enjoying TOTALLY FREE DIAPERING. For the approximately 12 more months before potty training, we will be enjoying TOTALLY FREE DIAPERING (a savings of $540+) . It already feels like we are now, since I don't have to squeeze diaper costs out of the grocery money; I haven't purchased diapers since October even though we still use disposables from time to time when traveling, etc. But the super duper fantastically greatest thing about this is that should we happen to have another baby in the future, through the wonder of hand-me-downs that child will enjoy . . . TOTALLY FREE DIAPERING! Yep, our cloth diapers cost us $350 for one child; that's $175 each if we have two kids; $116 for three; $87 for four; and we'll just keep on having kids until we're making money. Or something like that. (I'm kidding, Mom. Put the toy catalog down.)
Yeah, you have to lay out some money up front to get into cloth. But to me it hurts a heck of a lot less than dropping $20 on a big box of paper products and every time we use one thinking I just threw away a quarter.
Now if only they could find a way to get that kind of savings out of formula!