Sunday, May 29, 2011

Flats and Handwashing Challenge - Final Thoughts and Wrap Up

Today is the last day for the Flats and Handwashing Challenge. I did miss a few days of updates, so I do want to go over what we experienced. Sorry, but I am just not a daily blogger. This challenge went really smoothly for us. I will say that since I knew I needed to wash the diapers, it made me utilize routine more than I normally would, and I did like the effects of that. My kids handled it a lot better knowing that we would go for a walk after Mommy finished her chores. I do have somewhat of a bad back, so bending over to agitate (plunge) in my camp-style washer did hurt my back. After the first day, I decided to put the washer in the sink to save my back, but this meant the dishes needed to be washed first. I did like the feeling of accomplishment of getting a lot done in the morning, and this challenge really brought that out since I normally only work on being a grump in the morning. Aside from my previous posts, there really isn't a whole lot to add on a daily basis except that my husband took the kids to a cookout on Saturday and didn't take flats. He claimed that there weren't any set out to grab (true, someone was sleeping when I folded the flats, and I forgot to take them in later), and he said he didn't know the "rules" so he improvised. He DID take cloth, though, and didn't go pick up disposables, so kudos to him for being awesome.

Some of the things that we really liked about the challenge:

1) Flats are workhorses. They really WORK. Well. There is something you should know about my husband. He HATES cloth diapering. He also hates to debate with me, apparently more so than he hates cloth diapers. I must be a great mom and wife because he cloth diapers because I ask him to do it, even though he would much rather use sposies. When I said I wanted to do this challenge, his response was a resounding "absolutely not." Cue annoying debate and endless justifications, a few promises that he would not have to wash a thing, and we were all signed up. So when I was polling him earlier today, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say that he was amazed at how easy and effective it was, especially for the nighttime diapering, and we actually agree on something cloth-diapering related. Easy peasy.

2) I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea that I am able to utilize the sun's energy to replace a task that I would use electricity to accomplish. I have big dreams of having an off-the-grid home someday with geothermal heat, solar and wind power, solar hot water heater, energy efficient insulation and windows and the whole 9 yards. Using electricity (for me, anyway) means my local utility is using oil. Oil is expensive. It keeps us dependent on an unstable Middle East. It creates pollution. I love the green factor of using the sun instead.

3) I learned that it is possible to cloth diaper a child for the cost of 1 month's worth of disposable diapers. It might not be the most convenient washing schedule or the latest prints in the cloth diapering scene, but it can be done if needed.

4) Should some unforeseen crisis strike our area (like the ice storm we had in 1998) and we had to go days or weeks without power, we would have a plan that we know will work for diapering our child. I would highly recommend parents add some flats and covers to an emergncy preparedness kit.

5) I love the space that flats have freed up for us at the changing table. Usually I wash diapers, then sort diapers, then stuff diapers, then stack diapers by type. It takes up a small table near the changing table (by the way, the kids just LOVE to throw the diapers on the floor so they can crawl across the table to get to the cabinet that is built into the wall next to it). Flats are 1 pile of pre-stuffed covers and 1 pile of extra flats. Only folding to do when they are dry, and the kidlets have plenty of room to climb on the table (like they are not supposed to do), so my diapers stay on the table. Ah, sweet harmony.

6) Flats are trim. I had no idea. One flat works as well as any pocket diaper and is as trim as a disposable. Two flats work great for overnights and naps, and are about as bulky as a pocket diaper.


Things we didn't like about the challenge:

1) I didn't feel like putting in the elbow grease to handwash every day. Namely, Saturday. Saturday is usually the day I go on strike from most chores. Hubs took the kids to his mom's house for the day, and I just wanted to make progress on my never-ending list of things to do. I resented every plunge on Saturday. Really, though, I didn't mind the other days at all. As I am unemployed currently, the time factor was not really an issue. However, if I were working, I would probably really loathe the time out of my schedule spent washing diapers.

2) The limit of 5 covers made me nervous. I completely understand and support why it was part of the challenge, but I feel much more secure having at least 2 days' worth of diapering on hand. Some days are just crazy, after all. Can it be done with 5 covers? Absolutely!

Full Disclosure:

Okay, so I loved the challenge, it went really well for us, blah blah blah, but here are my confessions of what you should know that may have made it a lot easier for us.  My son only poops about once every 3-5 days. When he poops, they are quite solid and plop-able, much to his cloth-diapering parents' delight. We did choose to use diaper liners for the challenge. The day before the challenge officially started, I got a poop in a flat (I started early). Used the liner, and it was a very easy clean up. Mr. Chubberton did not poop again until a few days later, and he actually told me he had to poop, so I set him on the potty - he ended up pooping on the floor instead of in the potty, but that is a long story that I will not amuse you with at this time. Next poo was at my mother-in-law's house at the cookout in the regular cloth diaper hubby took with him. So - I only had the one flat that had been pooped on the day before the challenge, but that I handwashed on the first official day. Let's be honest, runny or messy poo could certainly change one's opinion of the entire challenge. Also, no way would I handwash poopy diapers if I had to touch them. Camp-style washer is awesome! conclusions! We will definitely keep using flats. We will probably also use our other cloth diapers as well. I have to admit that I am very curious to see how much this would affect my utility bill, so I may continue for another month or two to get an idea. We pay for water and sewer, and the handwashing uses MUCH less water than our machine does. Regardless of the washing, I will continue to line-dry as much as possible. I did struggle to find enough places to hang flats inside, so rainy days I will probably use the clothes dryer. However, now that we only have 1 child in diapers, we have a big enough stash that if my laundry  gets rained on, I have plenty of backup diapers just in case. I may even hang our clothes out to dry if there is room on the line.

I definitely think it is possible to cloth diaper for a reasonable investment (the cost of 1 month of dispoables) regardless of income and even if you do not have a washer and dryer available. I would not cart dirty diapers to a laundromat, but I would absolutely be willing to do this rather than use disposables. I would, however, want more than 5 covers, so I would probably use part of the money I wasn't spending on disposables to get a few extras.

Thanks for following along, and if you have any questions or comments for me, please be sure to let me know!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Flats and Handwashing Challenge - Days 2-4

With my flats prepped and ready to go, I stuffed all my other diapers (and extra covers) into our 2 wetbags and tucked them away...just to avoid temptation, in case flats turned out to not be my thing. Since I would be washing in a camp-style washer (5-gallon bucket rigged with a toilet plunger for agitation), I decided it would be easiest to put the dirty diapers directly into the bucket for storage rather than use a wet bag that would also need to be washed by hand. The top of the bucket is not airtight, as there is a small gap where the plunger handle comes out, but thankfully, this has not caused any odor issues - likely since I am washing every day. I had considered that this might be an issue and was prepared to use a spare bucket lid for storage if necessary.

I have to admit that I was quite surprised to find that a mere 27" x 27" flat performed just as effectively as any pocket or all-in-one or other fancy diaper in my stash. For naps and overnights, 2 flats have gotten the job done WITHOUT ONE SINGLE LEAK.  I was sure that they couldn't possibly perform that well, since they are SO TRIM. I would say that the cover with 2 flats is about equivalent in size to the average pocket diaper we would normally use. Using a single flat with the cover is about equivalent in size to using a disposable diaper (no, I am not joking).

So, the washing must be terrible, right? Well....not so much. The first day that I washed in my camp-style washer, I had used about 1/2 tablespoon of Charlie's Soap in the cold rinse and another 1/2 tablespoon of Charlie's in the hot wash, each with 5 minutes of agitation. I did find that there were a lot of suds, and I ended up doing a few extra rinses to get the suds out. After the first day, I started using soap nuts instead, and the suds issue has resolved. The worst/hardest part by far is the muscle involved. I set my timer and do 5 minutes of agitation in the cold rinse, another 5 minutes of agitation in the hot wash, then 2 minutes of agitation in the cold rinse. It is a decent workout. The very first day I kept stopping to check the timer, as I was certain that at least 20 minutes must have elapsed since I started agitating. It has gotten progressively easier each day, though. Don't get me wrong, it's not torture, but I will say that I clearly am not used to 12 continuous minutes of upper body activity. We'll see how that is at the end of the challenge.

Flats and Handwashing Challenge - Getting Ready

Time now for a few days' worth of updates. Blogger wasn't working for me when I was able to log in, so I am updating now for 3 days. First though, as promised, I have some prepping activities to talk about. Here are my flats boiling on the stove:

I also wanted to demonstrate the difference between prepped and unprepped flats, so I have 2 videos here. They both show me pouring 1 cup of water on an unbleached flat. In the first video, the flat is unprepped - exactly the way I brought it home from the store.  The second video shows the same amount of water being poured onto an unbleached flat that has been boiled on the stove.

You can see how the water beads up on the flat and takes time to absorb into the fabric. The boiling removes the natural oils (be sure to do a hot rinse while still hot or some of those oils can redeposit back into the fabric as the water cools.

After prepping:

I would expect that the flats will continue to become more absorbent for the next few washes, but I actually used them just like this, and we have not experienced any leaks, so they are certainly adequate after boiling once. 

If you have leaks and suspect that your diapers might be repelling, you can always try a kitchen experiment like this to find out how well the diapers are soaking up liquid.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Flats and Handwashing Challenge - Day 1

So, I have decided to go ahead and take the Flats and Handwashing Challenge this week. You can follow the link to read more about it, but it is basically a challenge to use the cheapest cloth diapering method (flats with a minimal number of covers) and to handwash and air dry them (mimicking a scenario of not having a washing machine and clothes dryer available). I will be honest.  The main reason that I decided to start cloth diapering was that money was tight, and the cost savings was very appealing to me.  Money was so tight that we could not afford the initial set up to get started in cloth diapering (or so I thought - more on that later). When GroVia was rebranding from GroBaby and offered up the last of the GroBaby diapers on, my mom helped us get started by loaning us the money for our initial stash. I had 2 children in diapers, and we were easily spending $100 per month on disposable diapers. We got the maximum that the site allows customers to buy (3 of each item), and they were being sold in sets of 4 - setting me up with 12 diapers to start. When the site was not sold out the next day, I bought another pack of 4, for a total of 16 shells, inserts and doublers. My daughter was 2.5, and my son was 6 months, so this gave us just about enough diapers for one day, and we could always use disposables as a back up if we were waiting on the laundry to finish. Once we got started and didn't have to buy disposables anymore, I used part of that money to build our stash, buy cloth-diaper-friendly laundry detergent and flushable poo liners. What I never considered (because I didn't realize it was an option) was to get flats and covers and pay a LOT less to get started. I still could have used the savings to buy the fancier diapers if I chose to do so.

Here is a breakdown of what I spent to get started for the Flats and Handwashing Challenge:
8 birdseye flats - $1.25 each from Central Street Farmhouse
10 flats - 2 packages of 5 flour sack towels from Wal-Mart - $4.87 each
5 EconoBum one-size covers (previously purchased from their B1G1 free sale which included 2 covers and 2 prefolds for $9.95), but let's err on the conservative side and use the $8.95 each retail price.

This gave me 18 flats and 5 covers for just about $65.

Now, the challenge requires handwashing and air drying of the diapers. It does allow for a camp-style washer, and this is how I have chosen to wash my diapers. You can find a great video at Dirty Diaper Laundry with instructions on how to do this here and a video of how to use it to wash your diapers here. I purchased a 5-gallon bucket for $2.88 and a toilet plunger for under $5. I drilled a 1" hole in the bucket lid to fit the plunger handle and several 3/8" holes on the sides and top of the plunger to reduce water resistance to make my washing job easier.

Because I am using a camp-style washer, I find it easiest to just use the washer to hold the diapers until I am ready to wash them rather than using a wet bag as I normally would.

A few months ago, EconoBum diapers were on sale - buy one, get one free for a cover with prefold - normally $9.95 each, you could get 2 covers and 2 prefolds for just under $10. I bought a few to try, and was quite surprised to find them just as effective and shockingly easy to use - no velcro tabs for hubby to forget to fold over, no pocket for him to forget to unstuff - all he had to do was take it off our son and drop it in the pail. Given this previous experience, it didn't come as that big of a surprise when I tried these flats and found that they perform just as well. They appear to be even a bit more trim without any issues yet with leaking or absorbency (I did start a few days early with the flats to make sure they were prepped okay - I just boiled them once - and things have been fine so far).  I even have videos to upload later showing the difference between an unprepped birdseye flat and one that has been boiled.

So, before I am even very far down this journey, I have already come to the conclusion that I didn't need to spend so much to get started initially. I think there is a general perception that flats are somehow inferior to pockets, all-in-ones and all-in twos, but I think the flats are simpler and easier. You can use regular detergents if you wish, and they don't get the stink issues that are common with fancier diaper types.

In hindsight, I could have gotten started with 3 packages of flour sack towels and 5 covers for about $60. I initially bought a wet bag for about $16 online, but I found it to have a casing that sticks, and the stitching began to unravel shortly after I bought it. Not only did I mend it, but I sewed my next wet bag myself just the way I wanted it. It is a drawstring pail liner that fits most 13 gallon trash bins. It has an elastic drawstring so I can set it to hug the pail snugly and also empty into the washer easily without adjustment. I sell them here.

I also want to say that I am curious to see how I will deal with the handwashing and air drying. I love the idea of using less water and electricity. We have public water and sewer and who doesn't like lower utility bills? I do suspect that since I only have 1 child in diapers now and my stash is more than sufficient, I may line dry diapers in the future when the weather cooperates.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Must-read Article: Diapering in Tough Economic Times

Here is some food for thought. This article brings up some interesting challenges facing families with children in diapers. I highly recommend reading it and sharing it if you have children in diapers or know someone who does, especially so if you or someone you know struggles to afford the costs of diapering.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Household tip for saving gasoline

Here's a tip that could save you big bucks. Make sure that the person in your household with the longest commute is driving the most fuel efficient vehicle. If it saves you a buck a day in gas, that's $250 a year. A difference of 5 miles per gallon efficiency with a 20-mile commute each way saves $7.20 a week ($360/year) assuming gas costs $3.60 per gallon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How ELSE Do We Use Oil?

Think gas and oil prices are too high? Did you know that it takes 1 cup of crude oil to produce the plastic in one disposable diaper? Or that 12 million barrels of oil are used each year to produce plastic shopping bags? The higher the demand for crude oil, the higher prices OPEC sets. Consider using cloth diapers and reuseable shopping bags. It's better for the environment and reduces our dependency on fuel from an unstable Middle East. You might even save some money, too!

A $300 investment in cloth diapers, when used from birth to potty training, can prevent approximately $3000 in disposable diaper purchases AND it keeps the diapers out of our landfills.

Reuseable shopping bags typically cost the consumer money.  The "free" plastic bag that your purchase is put in at the checkout counter costs the retailer money. By not requiring plastic bags for your purchases, you are reducing the need for the crude to make the bag, the resources used to transport the bag to the store, and keeping costs down for the retailer (because let's face it - they can't stay in business if they don't pass their costs along to their customers), not to mention the reduced cost of disposal once these bags enter the waste stream. Some retailers even give you a discount when you bring your own reuseable bag. Target discounts 5 cents off your purchase for each reuseable bag you use when making a purchase.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A New Direction for MoreGreen4ME

I have stepped away from this blog for quite a while, and I have been considering lately what, if anything, I want to accomplish with it. While I think that the money savings aspect is useful, I think there are plenty of resources out there that get into this area in a lot more detail than I am able or willing. The topics that interest me most are more thought provoking and are more related to sustainable living, environmental issues, conservation and also household money savings. The thing is that I believe all these topics are very much related. Now that I have that out, here is what you can expect from this blog in the future:  Posts that promote breastfeeding and cloth diapering, and why they are important not only for kids but also for the environment (and perhaps the economy); tips on how to save gas and energy; kid-friendly activities; the occasional crafty project (sewing can be VERY economical on the household budget); a yummy recipe here and there; promotion of green products; review of products that are ecofriendly/time saving/money saving, and occasionally a giveaway here and there.  You can expect to read about my personal efforts to become part of a more sustainable, ecofriendly and budget-conscious household, what obstacles I encounter along the way and how I manage to engineer a solution, adapt my behavior or select a different solution to my projects along the way. I will not make daily posts. I do expect to post at least once a week, perhaps more. I hope that you will find this blog to be useful and thought inspiring, and please share us with your friends.

Thursday, January 20, 2011