Behind the Ratings: Diapers

If you’re in search of the best diapers for your baby, look no further because GoodGuide now rates diapers. According to our diaper expert, there are four things to look for when picking out diapers.

1. Type

There are two main options when it comes to diapers: disposable or reusable (either cloth or cover/insert kits). There are a lot of claims and counter-claims regarding which type is better for the environment. GoodGuide reviewed numerous peer-reviewed scientific life-cycle studies that looked at the details, and concluded that for the average person, there is not much environmental difference between reusable diapers and disposable diapers. What does emerge from the literature is that how you wash and care for the reusables is a big factor in its environmental impact. Washing in cold water and/or line drying makes reusable diapers environmentally preferred, though many consumers don’t consistently wash diapers that way. In addition, some reusable diapers have the option of a flushable, biodegradable insert. Based on the limited research available, our science team concluded this was an easy, effective, and environmentally sound method for diaper disposal.

2. Processing

Nearly all diapers (regardless of type) are made with materials that require some kind of processing. Products made using chlorine-free (TCF) processing are better for the environment than products made using elemental chlorine free methods (ECF). As a result, TCF products score higher on GoodGuide than products using ECF or products that didn’t disclose information about materials processing.

3. Packaging

Product packaging contributes to the solid waste stream and is therefore important to consider when making any purchase. Diaper products come in all types of packaging, from organic cotton bags to plastic film. Considering the wide variety of packaging options, your preferences should fall in the following order: no packaging, reusable packaging, packaging with recycled content and packaging without recycled content.

4. Certifications

Diapers can carry certifications that signify environmental stewardship including Cradle-to-Cradle, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Oeko-Tex, and USDA organic cotton. After reviewing the standards required to achieve each designation, we found that Cradle-to-Cradle was the most comprehensive, followed by GOTS, Oeko-Tex, and USDA organic. GoodGuide ratings reflect when products carry stronger certifications.

The Bottom Line

To wrap up, we’d like to acknowledge that lifestyle and convenience can play a big part in your diaper decision, and that’s ok. Visit GoodGuide’s diaper page to see how your diaper rates, and perhaps to make some switches – try another type or change your washing habits. Finally, keep in mind that our diaper ratings only touch upon the social and environmental impacts of products (check out the methodology page for all the science-y details).

About Sheila Viswanathan

Sheila Viswanathan focuses on educating individuals on how to make healthier dietary choices. She received her doctoral degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Teachers College, Columbia University and is certified as a registered dietitian.
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2 Responses to Behind the Ratings: Diapers

  1. Amy says:

    Thanks. I am just hearing about the diapers with disposable inserts. Maybe on the next baby. Thanks.

  2. Mary Jo says:

    I teach free cloth diaper classes in my community in order to drum up cloth diaper awareness. I’ve already shared the Good Guide’s rating website with local Mom’s using my local business facebook page. Thank you for your hard work and user friendly presentation of your research details. I do hope that more companies respond to the need for a greener world. Healthy environments yield healthy people! I look forward to seeing your website become a household name. Thank you.

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