Friday, December 14, 2012
I really wanted to do cloth diapering with 2Flowers, but we don't have a washer (or dryer) and our apartment complex does not have hookups. I couldn't figure out how to manage a week's worth of soiled diapers between launderings in our small 965 sq. foot apartment. And an extra load to carry down (and up) the stairs each week just adds to the enormity of doing laundry. (Yes, I have considered that another baby will add AT LEAST one more load and I've already freaked out about it a few times.)
I just assumed that alternative (more sustainable) diapers would not be an option for Baby O, either.
But in the diapering thread I was reading, someone mentioned hybrid diapers, "like Flip diapers or gDiapers." Someone else mentioned bum genius and described them as "kinda in between cloth and disposable." I've been wondering if there was such a thing as disposable inserts that would let me be a little more sustainable, save a little money, and still not have to tackle the laundry problem (current solutions include: buying a portable washer that drains through the sink, this type of washer handles very small loads and is not in our budget; or moving). I was excited to discover that disposable inserts do indeed exist!
But, since Lost Boy and I lean toward the academic, I needed to compare the cost of using disposables to the cost of switching to a hybrid system. So I created a spreadsheet and estimated how much we've spent on diapers over 2Flower's lifetime. Compiling the data was more complicated than it might seem at first. I haven't kept receipts from every time I ever bought diapers, but I have been using Amazon.com's Subscribe & Save option to buy Huggies for the past year. So I entered all of my orders for the past year, which includes different diaper sizes, a different number of diapers per box depending on the size, and a different price per box depending on the size and number. I had to estimate our diaper expenditures for 2Flower's first year based on current prices listed online and an estimated 5-10 diaper changes per day (depending on her age).
Here is what I got:
|Total number of diapers in 2 years:||5624|
|Cost over 2 years:||$1127.00|
|Cost per diaper:||$0.14 - $0.27|
So then I calculated how much it would cost to use gDiapers. That was even more complicated than calculating how much two years of Huggies cost! There is an up-front investment to buy the diaper covers, pouches, and a few cloth inserts for extra absorption, and every time your baby grows out of a size you have to invest in the next size up. Fortunately, gDiapers has only three sizes and they are adjustable as your baby grows. I skipped the newborn size and just figured on buying their small and medium sizes (which, if Baby O grows like 2Flowers, should be fine ... if he grows like some of his cousins - well ....).
The start-up cost for two sizes of gDiapers could cost about $350. But I figured that disposable inserts should be less expensive than disposable diapers and would make up for the start-up cost over the course of the two years. But it was REALLY hard to figure out how many inserts came in each case and how much each case cost. When I finally figured it out this is what I found:
|Total number of diapers in 2 years:||5600|
|Cost over 2 years:||$2080.00*|
|Cost per diaper:||$0.33 - $0.41|
|*inserts only, not including start-up cost|
... wait a minute ...
Here it is again:
|Total number of diapers in 2 years:||5624||5600|
|Cost over 2 years:||$1127.00||$2080.00*|
|Cost per diaper:||$0.14 - $0.27||$0.33 - $0.41|
|*inserts only, not including start-up cost|
Two years of disposable inserts will cost almost twice as much as two years of disposable diapers?! What? Why?
I had to ask why. Lost Boy put it very simply, "Economy of scale." Disposable diapers are made in larger quantities than disposable inserts and therefore the companies that make disposable diapers can take advantage of economies of scale (making things in bulk and minimizing cost). As I thought about it, I realized that companies that make disposable inserts offer them as a convenient, but rarely used product. Most people who use the diaper companies selling disposable inserts are mainly using cloth diapers.
What this boils down to is the fact that I can't opt for the sustainable option (cloth), and I can't opt for the middle ground (disposable inserts). I'm really frustrated by this.
But don't look at my word choice of "can't" and think that I've given up. I'm still hoping for that portable washer (I saw one on Craigslist for $300). And I looked at the wholesale options for Flip diapers (another brand that sells disposable inserts). Maybe, if there was enough interest in the 'middle ground,' I could organize a diaper collective based on disposable inserts? Or sell the inserts online? But right now Cottonbabies, the company that makes Flip Diapers, bumGenious, and others is only accepting new wholesale accounts from businesses that either have a physical location or are established online retailers already selling other baby items. And I'm not. So ... maybe a window will open somewhere?
Meanwhile, we'll be adding another $1127.00+ to the landfills.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
So we started The Wild Christmas Tree Hunt. Last year we cut down a tree in the Plumas National Forest. We had to make two trips because the first day we went we got stuck in a little valley because of icy roads and the priority became getting out instead of finding a tree. We learned a lot last year (take a truck with 4-wheel drive, or double check that the right size chains are in the car/truck you are borrowing, and remember that even 4-wheel drive should avoid certain conditions!) and were all geared up to go again this year.
There are a few national forests within our driving range, so this year we picked a different forest. We went to Tahoe National Forest. You can mail order a Christmas Tree Cutting Permit for the Plumas Nat'l Forest, but not for the Tahoe Nat'l Forest - you have to go to the ranger's station in person to get a Tahoe Permit. So we drove down to South Lake Tahoe and found the ranger's station. It was the biggest and nicest ranger's station I have ever seen! (It is Lake Tahoe though...)
Unfortunately, things were a little iffy about whether we could buy a Christmas Tree Cutting Permit. They were almost out of permits! We debated whether we should drive up to Plumas, but we were running out of daylight because we left the house late. We decided that if they didn't have any more permits we would stop at a tree farm on the way home, but they DID have a permit! So we bought it and looked at the map that shows where you can and can't cut Christmas Trees. (Lesson: Call the ranger station to find out if they are sold out of permits BEFORE you start driving, especially for popular areas like Tahoe!)
When we went to the Plumas Nat'l Forest there were miles and miles of forest and not very many people. We were about five miles from a tiny town that closed down by six pm when we got stuck last year. And there was no residential areas, it was all sparsely distributed cabins. This year, we drove for maybe 20 minutes and pulled off onto a little side road marked on the map. There were cars parked near the side road, and we saw several other cars and people. We went down one switchback, went over some ice, saw more ice, and turned back. "We learned our lesson last year," said Lost Boy. So we parked by the highway and walked down the side road a little ways.
|Going down the hill to look for trees.|
|Me sitting on a rock at the top of the hill.|
Last year, Lost Boy handed me the saw and I got to help cut down the tree. Not that I made much difference, I don't think I made it through a centimeter of the trunk! This year I sat on a rock while Lost Boy started to cut down our tree. Eventually he had me lean on it so that the cut would stay open and allow him to make better progress. At first I was a little worried that I, with my weight and balance off-center, would go down with the tree when it fell. But I didn't, and it was kind of neat to feel the tree leaning more and more, and then to feel it leave my hand and tumble the rest of the way down. There was no shout of "Timber!" or huge crash, just a gentle tumble.
|Cutting at ground level to prevent trip hazards.|
|Loading the tree into the truck.|
The tree started out about twelve feet tall, but Lost Boy took several inches off the bottom before he put it in the truck. He took off several more inches when he brought it into the house. Now the tree is just tall enough to brush the ceiling. The lovely thing about cutting down your own tree is that a five foot tree costs just the same as an eight or twelve foot tree. The permit is $10 and you can cut down any tree that has a trunk circumference of less than six inches. So instead of paying $30 or $40 at a lot or farm, we payed $10 and had money for some hot chocolate and chicken soup on our way back through town. Lost Boy pointed out that the gas money for the round trip was about $40, so there is no savings there. But I think that the memories, the stories, and the time to be together and actually have a conversation is worth it.