In the study, both diapering systems were traced all the way back to resource extraction. They took into account the obtaining of resources, manufacturing energy, manufacturing waste, packaging waste and manufacturing, distribution to retailers, energy use from retailer to home, energy use from home to landfill, etc. For cloth diapers, they also included washing water use, washing machine use based on average energy efficiency, and dryer use, also based on average energy efficiency.
What they concluded was this: Choosing cloth diapers can greatly reduce one's carbon footprint, but that energy savings is highly dependent on how the consumer treats the cloth diapers after purchase. Here are the steps necessary to save energy:
- only run full loads of laundry
- wash diapers on cold
- always line dry
- use diapers on more than one child
We are still going to go with cloth and now that I know how much difference the dryer makes, we will definitely line dry. We also are using cloth wipes. I use soft, small baby washcloths. I keep them in a wipe warmer (yes, it is plugged in or they are freezing cold) with water and a little bit of olive oil for her skin. I throw them in with the rest of my laundry every time I do a load.
Thanks for the question, Ad!