Earth Day Sins Confessed

It’s official. Lately I’ve become an environmental slacker. Yes, I still compost, recycle, cloth diaper, and shop secondhand. Yes, I get a certain thrill out of using cloth grocery bags and buying in bulk. But lately I’ve committed some eco-transgressions that I feel I must acknowledge as Earth Day looms.  It isn’t quite like I’ve taken a match to the planet, (as the dramatic photo would suggest) but it doesn’t feel great to share my shortcomings.  Here goes…

My sin:
We remodeled our kitchen. In a way this seems like a good thing–but it also means that we ate lukewarm microwaved dinners off of paper plates for a few weeks. (Chinet, of course, because they’re 100% recycled!) We tried to salvage what we could of our old kitchen, but most of our built-in cabinets had to go to wood recycling. There are some heaps of stuff in the landfill that we recently added. (Ugh!)

My justification:
Our house is a thousand square feet, which is plenty of room most of the time, but we felt cramped in our old kitchen.  It hadn’t been remodeled since the house was built 51 years ago and it lacked counter space and a dishwasher. Our new kitchen is very neutral and we hope that it will last just as long. (Can you believe the average kitchen remodel happens every seven years?!) Now we have an energy star dishwasher and fridge, lots more functional space, and many more years of being able to leave a smaller carbon footprint because of the size of our home. Also, I LOVE cooking now!

My sin:
Our daughter has eaten lots of jarred baby food. We chose Earth’s Best Organic, but I really wanted to blend up homemade batches.

My justification:
My husband, who’s a stay-at-home Dad, is not overly excited about boiling and pureeing yams.  Also, during the kitchen remodel it was all we could do to get food in her mouth while washing our dishes in the tub. The good news is that now she’s eating table food and we’re done with purees!

My sin:
My children are both wearing disposable diapers at night. This is probably the most atrocious thing on my list, and it makes me feel sick that we haven’t figured out how to use cloth at night for both of them. We had some luck with Jovi in cloth, but then found she woke up more frequently.  We were too desperate for sleep to continue. Roscoe struggled with horrid yeast infections that kept recurring, so we gave up with him too.  In this picture he despairs that his mother hasn’t found an eco-friendly method of diapering him…

My justification:
My only hope is to night-train my son soon! He has been potty trained for over a year, but we have been so tired that we haven’t made a concerted effort to get him out of diapers at night. Please send me any and all advice! Maybe I’ll try cloth again with Jovi and see if she’ll sleep through the night in them. It would make me so happy to be free of disposables altogether!

Do you have transgressions to share?  Do tell!  It relieves all of us to know that we’re focused on progress instead of perfection.


  1. We too had the same issue with night time cloth – could not get either of our kids to sleep through until we switched to disposables. We tried loads of different combinations with wool, hemp, covers, liners… even trying (ha, ha) to limit liquids before bed.

    We also still use a disposable or two a day on our almost 2 year old. He’s working on potty training (much earlier than his big brother, probably because he has him to look up to) but he poops on schedule and it’s less of a pain for my stay-at-home hubby if he can catch the poop in a disposable or pull up. He’s cloth diapered with little complaint for the last 3 + years… so he gets a gold star from me.

    Now our almost 4 year old is about 80% night time trained (still wets the bed once or maybe twice a week) and I wish I could offer advice on that, but he did it 100% on his own. He just said he didn’t need a pull up at night anymore – he wanted undies… so we braved it and after a couple weeks he’s done well. He was already waking up early and going to the potty most of the time on his own. We’d put a pull up on him and stuck his little potty in his room near his bed (not ideal but it seemed to help). Have you tried pull-ups (7th Gen makes some) or even Kushies makes a fairly water tight training pant (our fav for early night time training) so Roscoe can take more responsibility for himself? It is a lOT more laundry for a few weeks… but lots of hype (marketing) and excitement misht work.

    To admit our transgressions – I LOVE the cloth grocery bags – use them for all kinds of things… but am horrible at getting them back into the car so we can actually use them again for the grocery shopping. 🙁 Something I need to vow to work on. Now that we have 2 kitties, we do need some plastic bags for the litter box scooping (for which we found awesome non-clay litter – Wheat Sand – the best, after trying almost every eco-friendly litter we could find), so at least we’re re-using them once… still I feel kinda evil.

    I also want to get a stash of cloth napkins so we can further decrease our used of paper towels – so yes, we still buy and use paper towels – gasp – I know… I’m thinking about trying one of the restaurant supply places in town to see if I can get 50 white napkins for $9.99, I’ll let you know. 😉

    This past year I have embraced shopping 2nd hand for all my kids clothes, vegetable gardening with a passion, expanding my collection of canning jars so we can make jam and can our vegetables, and making homemade play-doh. I’m sure there’s other stuff… but I’m too tired to think of it.

  2. Pockets, stuffed to high heaven (up to four inserts) are the only thing that worked for us at night. The fleece keeps them dry and you can adjust the absorbency.
    My sins center around not investing in greener solutions for our rentals, particularly as it relates to gardening. I also occasionally (or semi regularly) feed my son junk.

  3. The paper towels. Oh the paper towels. I wish I could rid myself of them, but like a bad habit, they are always *needed*.

  4. I had two questions re the above.
    1) Is it ok to make homemade yams and sweet potato? I know that carrots have different nitrate levels around the country so our doctor recommended store bought organic babyfood carrots over homemade, but is the same true for all root vegetables?
    2) If you use disposables which is the most eco friendly brand? We are using Nature Babycare – 60% biodegradable, no bad toxins or bleach, but does contain the absorbent gel.

    Weak Justification – I did just find an eco friendly diaper service in NYC but have been debating. it would be about 4x as expensive even though we use expensive diapers. It is more eco friendly than me washing cloth at home because is done in bulk with special industrial low-water machines. But, in experimenting with cloth I find we have to change Neko about every two hours which is exhausting but also perhaps less eco friendly considering water use than the disposables which we use about 4-5 of a day. Also my husband is adamantly against dealing with poops in cloth.

  5. Alexandra,

    1. That’s a good question about nitrate levels in sweet potatoes. I have not heard about that being a problem, but now I’m wondering why. It’s interesting that your Dr. recommended jarred carrot baby food over homemade. Are organic jarred carrots monitored for nitrate levels?

    2. We go over this in great detail in our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. Nature Babycare does claim to be “60% biodegradable,” but what is the point of that unless you are tearing each diaper apart and actually composting the biodegradable elements? If you want a gel-free diaper, try Tushies. All other brands do contain the gel, which they say is not toxic or bad for the environment. However, it is NOT biodegradable. On the plus side, the use of gels means they use less tree pulp in each diaper.

  6. That’s a good point about the biodegradability. Supposedly jarred baby carrots are sourced from areas of the country with fewer nitrates in the soil.

  7. Eileen says:

    Joy, I have heard that a modern refrigerator is so much more energy effcient than an old one that the new purchase is justified.

    Good luck on the night “training”. I don’t think you can actually do that, waking up dry is a physiological development, not an emotional one. And there is a genetic component to it, so if you had bedwetters in your or your husband’s families, your kids are likely to as well. When my little guy was 3, I looked at the cloth nighttime toddler pants and decided I would need at least 3 or 4 at 30 bucks a pop. Money was SO tight then and I was just SURE that he was going to start waking up dry. So, 3 years later, and I don’t know how many boxes of pull-ups later… Anyway, I share your guilt!

  8. All kids are different and what works for one may not work for another but here is what we did about night training.
    Each night at a certain time, usually at least an hour before bedtime, we stopped giving liquids. Then right before lights out was the last trip to the potty. If at that time they had to have a drink (no suffering is required here) we allowed a small drink of water. No drinks were ever left in the room over night in any form.
    For the first week or two (depending on the child) one of us, usually me as the stay-at-home parent, would get up once in the middle of the night and take the child to the potty. When they stopped needing to go a those times we stopped waking them up. After a couple of weeks we were not waking them up to go to the potty at night and they were waking up in the morning dry. They each experienced the occassional bedwetting after that but it was rare and usually had to do with too much to drink too close to bedtime.
    Anyway, that is how we did it with our 3 kids.
    Good luck!

  9. My daughter had constant yeast infections as a cloth-diapered baby. An older lady who lived next door suggested that I start adding white vinegar to the rinse cycle after I washed the diapers, and that did the trick. No more yeast infections!

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