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Cloth diapers help save the environment

By Diane Toroian Keaggy St. Louis Post-Dispatch ST. LOUIS| Rebekah Sciaroni did not aspire to save the Earth when she switched to cloth diapers. She simply wanted to speed up the torment parents call potty training. After all, disposable diapers are so absorbent some tots ignore that stinky, sagging mess. So Rebekah started to research disposable diapers. She found studies that suggest disposable diapers trigger asthma-like symptoms and perhaps lead to male fertility problems. Other studies refute those findings. Still Sciaroni didn't want to take a chance with her babies' bottoms. ``I was completely unaware of the chemicals involved with disposable diapers,'' Rebekah said. ``A lot of what is in diapers is made from petroleum-based products, and I'm really uninterested in putting that on my kids' bodies.'' THE CHALLENGE Like organic milk and natural wood toys, cloth diapers are a must-have for many green families. But Rebekah was unsure where to turn for information. ``I had this picture in my mind of those rectangles of cloth and those sweaty plastic pants and those big pins,'' said Rebekah, who used disposables for her first child. And she worried about convenience. Who wants to take cloth diapers on vacation? And would baby-sitters and relatives avoid the changing table? But Rebekah found cloth diapers come in many varieties, from simple swaths of cotton to super-absorbent diapers that fit just like a disposable with Velcro tabs, a waterproof outer layer and cheery colors. THE SOLUTION Rebekah purchased her diapers from Cotton Babies, ( in St. Louis. She now helps the company with its charitable work. She also found and offered detailed product reviews and tips. The diapers aren't cheap -- $17.95 for the bumGenius 3.0 all-in-one diaper by Cotton Babies. Rebekah figures she has spent a total of $400 on diapers for her four youngest children. Compare that to the $2,000 many parents spend to keep one toddler outfitted in disposable diapers for three years. The process works like this: A liner placed over the diaper traps solid waste while allowing urine to pass through. Rebekah flushes the poopy liner into the toilet and throws the wet cloth into the diaper pail. Every two to three days she rinses the diapers and her cloth diaper wipes in cold water and then washes the diapers in hot water with detergent and a little bleach. Never use fabric softener; it hinders the diaper's ability to absorb moisture. ``I have five kids so I'm already doing a lot of laundry,'' Rebekah said. THE RESULT In the end, Rebekah has changed the world, at least a little. Her family is not adding to the 3.5 million tons of diapers dumped in American landfills each year. ``What I found is that things that are good for the environment are better for your health and budget,'' Rebekah said But did Rebekah see results where it counts -- in the potty? ``Definitely,'' she saidi. ``My daughter was potty trained at 26 months and my son at 28 months. That has made believers out of my friends. No one is scoffing now.''