Environmentally Friendly Disposable Diapers

My Son Wearing a Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Diaper

Diaper Rashes and Landfills

We started looking for alternative diapering for two reasons: diaper rashes and landfills. We tried everything we could purchase locally, and almost everything we could buy online. We did hours of research, all with the purpose of saving my son some trouble now, and some bigger troubles later.

These are the natural, biodegradable, or chlorine-free diapers that we tried out:

  • gDiapers
  • Seventh Generation
  • TenderCare
  • Earth's Best (made by TenderCare)
  • Nature Babycare
  • Nature Boy & Girl
  • Nurtured by Nature (previously known as Natural Choice)
  • Whole Foods 365
  • Huggies Pure & Natural

The Big Names v. The 'Naturals'

Natural and Eco-Friendly diapers have a couple of major advantages over the most popular national brand diapers, such as Huggies, Pampers, and Luvs. One major advantage is their composition: Most eco-friendly diapers are composed of less plastic and gel, and more cotton and corn starch. This composition is more gentle on both your baby's bottom and on Mother Earth. All of the listed eco-friendly diapers (except Huggies Pure and Natural) are also chlorine-free. This is helpful for two reasons: 1) Chlorine can cause irritation on sensitive baby bums; 2) Chlorine is difficult to dispose of and environmentally harmful.

On the other hand, Huggies and Pampers are much more tried and tested than any upstart eco-diaper, meaning that they are more universally well-fitting, and usually contain leaks better than almost anything else. The containing leaks thing is important, because when leaks aren't contained, not only is it messy-- it also costs you money in clothing.

Another disadvantage of buying natural is price. Huggies and Pampers have gotten their pricing down to a science, and stores frequently offer sales on these brands; combined with manufacturer's coupons. You end up spending significantly more on natural brand disposable diapers than you would on the usual suspects.

Natural, Not Biodegradable

One unfortunate misunderstanding that many people have is the thought that these natural diapers are biodegradable. At least in the US, there are no 100% biodegradable, 100% disposable diapers. The products that come closest are:

  • Nature Babycare disposable diapers: These are made without absorbent gel, and use corn-based products for most of the construction. The entire back sheet of the diaper (or outer shell) is biodegradable, meaning that you could, if you were motivated to do so, deconstruct the diaper and compost the back sheet.
  • gDiapers hybrid diapers: These are a cloth and disposable hybrid with a reusable cloth outer shell and a disposable and flushable interior. For more information about these, refer to: GDiapers and GCloth: The Good, the Bad, and the Flushable.

It is also of note that there are some brands throughout the world that claim to be at least partially biodegradable, including Wiona (67% biodegradable), and Moltex. These brands are sold in Europe and the UK.

A Comparison Chart of Eco Diapers v. Other Popular Diaper Brands

Chart Explanation

The chart above is a comparison based on my own experiences with the included brands. The red line on the chart divides the eco-friendly diapers from the regular name brands. Note that I ultimately placed the Huggies Pure and Natural diapers below the red line. This is because Huggies is not a natural brand, and the Pure and Natural diapers are truly not very different from their standard diapers, except that they use less dye and more cotton.

The Eco Rating is based on a few factors, including the environmental footprint of the product, whether or not it is chlorine-free, the amount of plastic versus corn-based materials, and how much of the product is biodegradable or recyclable. That portion of the chart is an estimate, based on reading about each brand.

Convenience basically means whether or not I had to touch disgusting things while my son was wearing each brand of diaper. If the diapers had a tendency toward leakage, or were disposable only through wrapping in plastic bags or tearing apart to flush (as in gDiapers), or if the diapers had inconvenient closure systems (as in Nature Babycare, which has tabs that only stick to the front velcro strip & each other, not to the body of the diaper), they would lose points in convenience.

Leakage Protection speaks to the size of the leg holes, as well as the fit of the back. If my sons, who are generally long and thin, leaked out of the diaper, it would have low marks in this category.

Comfort not only means the softness inside, but also the softness outside. If the diaper left chafe marks on my baby, or if it was as stiff as cardboard and needed to be bent back and forth before putting on the baby, it would have lower marks in comfort.

Fit and Flexibility would get low marks if 1) the diaper runs small, as in Seventh Generation and Nature Babycare; or 2) the diaper does not have very stretchable tabs, as in Earth's Best or 365.

Quality Construction: The diapers would get low marks in Quality Construction if they fell apart during use, or if the tabs detached from the diapers either while putting on or in packaging. This was common, for example, with Huggies Pure and Natural diapers.

Prevents Diaper Rash: If my son(s) had a diaper rash while exclusively using this type of diaper, the diaper would get low marks in this category.

The Winners' Circle

The top-scoring environmentally friendly diapers, according to my system of measurement, were:

  1. gDiapers (hybrid diaper system)
  2. Nurtured by Nature (previously known as Natural Choice)
  3. Seventh Generation
  4. TenderCare

Honorable mention goes to Nature Babycare, which despite its issues of running small and being tricky to wrap up for disposal, are nevertheless the best fully disposable option that is also biodegradable (even if it's only part).

What Did We Choose?

We ultimately chose to buy the gDiapers system, including both the flushable inserts and the washable cloth inserts. We also use disposable diapers, and can be found purchasing "whatever's on sale" for nighttime and daycare use. For fully disposable diapers, we prefer Nurtured by Nature (previously known as Natural Choice) which can be found at our local supermarket, at prices comparable to Luv's. Despite their higher price, we also like Seventh Generation and Nature Babycare.

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Comments 3 comments

BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

Wow! - you have done a remarkable job here of research and testing. This is certainly worth bookmarking and sharing with everyone. While my children are grown there are now grandchildren.

Back in my day there was no such thing as disposable. We used cloth diapers and even had a diaper service come to the door to get soiled diapers. A big help but then what were they being washed in. This is over 40 years ago - and back then my mother told me I had to keep the diaper off as much as possible so there would be some fresh air on the baby's skin.

Enter the modern women who doesn't have 10 minutes to raise her babies (and certainly no paid maternity benefits) - it is work, baby, back to work, day care, and therefore disposable diapers. But why not something responsible - like the ones you listed. It makes sense. No baby should suffer with rashes first of all and then eco-friendly should be required of manufacturers - of course it's not.

So we effect change with our dollars.

Oh I could just write on and on - I love what you have done here.

Rated way up and thanks a million! Yay!


Renee Pendergrass 6 years ago

Thanks for the info. Very helpful!


Kotori profile image

Kotori 5 years ago from Chicagoland Author

Thanks, everyone! Yes, BkCreative, if by "research," you mean buying every brand of diaper ever made in hopes of finding the perfect inexpensive, yet environmentally conscious choice!

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