Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Saving 3000 diapers from the landfill...a gDiaper success story

A few weeks ago, I posted the picture above on my instagram feed and said: From compost to garden in 2 yrs -- saved over 3k diapers from landfill thanks to 

Well, Jason, one of the founders of gDiapers contacted me and asked me to share our story with him and so I decided to blog about it here.

I first heard of gDiapers back in 2008, before I was pregnant with my son who is about to turn three.  I believe I saw them in a Gaiam catalog at my mother-in-law's house and I immediately was taken by how great they were, since they provided a happy medium between cloth and disposables.

Fast forward to the end of 2008 when I was pregnant with my son, and after a lot of research, I decided that we would go the gDiaper route.  My son was born on 07-08-09 and I was petrified to use the diapers at first because it just seemed like the logistics were beyond my capabilities.  But we pulled off the proverbial bandaid when he was just 9 days old because his umbilical cord fell off.  The first day of use was so easy; I couldn't believe I had ever been even remotely concerned about it (though I should mention that I realized quickly that everyone involved needed to be VERY aware of how to flush a diaper since my husband came home and just plopped one in the toilet upstairs and flushed -- which may or may not have resulted in an overflowing toilet and water raining down through the pot lights in my kitchen below.  Oops.)  But aside from that small misstep, the gDiapers were super easy to use.  However, what I was still concerned about in the back of my head was composting...again, I couldn't wrap my mind around it, so I just avoided it.

After a couple of months of flushing EVERY diaper (which, with a newborn is A LOT of flushes) we realized that our water bill had gone up significantly.  So, we decided to start composting.  It was fall, and not the idea time to start a compost pile, but we figured it was worth a shot so we just went for it.  Our town provides a basic compost bin at a minimal cost, but we knew we wanted the bins to be where the sun could hit them which meant being very close to our driveway and street, based on how our property is set up, so we opted for something a bit more attractive.  From that moment on, we composted everything:  kitchen scraps, garden waste, lawn clippings, leaves and gDiapers (the wet ones only, of course) -- if it was compostable, we did everything we could to get it in the bin.  

Because we started in the fall, the compost never really had a chance to get to the right temperature before it got covered with snow.  It quickly filled up, but surprisingly, every time we thought there was no way we could ever fit anything in the composter again, we would open it up and it would have compacted.  Over the winter, we just cleared the top of it of snow (so we could fill it) and went from there...there were a LOT of diapers in there.  I will be completely honest -- we didn't compost every pee diaper -- if I was out and about, I didn't save them to bring home.   But we did flush every poopy diaper.

In the spring, we started to clear out our gardens and added a lot more yard waste which brought the green vs. brown levels back to a more normal level.  We just kept doing what we were doing and the compost kept compacting and we kept adding to it and every once in a while my husband would turn it by taking a shovel and moving it over a spot.  

(turning the compost)

(first attempt at using the compost, the compost was pretty new...so it wasn't 'gold' yet - here's the layer we put down under the compost from the nursery)

The first time we actually used all of the compost was in the late spring of 2010 - it had not all turned to 'gold', but we were able to use it as the base for our new raised vegetable bed and then we added compost from a local nursery to the top of it.  That year, we had a HUGE crop of vegetables.

Over the next year, my son started daycare and unfortunately, though they allowed us to use the gDiapers, they did not save them to compost, so I know that those ended up in the landfill.  Since they decompose much faster than paper diapers, I was at least pleased to know that we were doing the best we could.  

Our son stopped using gDiapers in the Fall of 2011 because he was potty training and his daycare required pull-ups.  At home, he was in underwear.  But our daughter was born on October 27, 2011 and so we started the cycle all over again.  This spring, we opened up the compost bin and spread out the dirt in our vegetable garden for the second time.  We had bought a second compost bin and allowed the original one to sit for an entire year.  When we opened up the bin to spread it, it was beautiful, perfect dirt...nothing short of amazing!!  And really, totally easy.  I know I have waxed on and on about this now for a bazillion words, but really, the effort is minimal and the impact is amazing.

 (second compost pile that sat for a year turned into perfect dirt!!)

Our son wore gDiapers for 2.5 years.  Averaging around 1900 diapers the first year and then around 1000 for the second year (since he was in daycare two days a week) - that's almost 3000 diapers saved from the landfill by either composting or flushing (the poopy ones).  Even with the lack of cooperation from his daycare program, that's still a big impact!!


  1. what kind of composting bins do you use?

  2. WOW! We compost already (though no diapers in the house yet!) and I had no idea you could compost gdiapers! I will definitely be looking into this for us! Great post!

  3. We use the Miracle Gro Organic Choice BioStack which is apparently no longer available.  However, there's a great post about it here: http://gardencomposter.blogspot.com/2009/08/biostack-composter-another-garden.html

    Along with some other purchase options.

  4. How awesome! I'm so nervous to do compost at all! Love the gRefills tho! We are exclusively cloth although we used exclusively gRefills for the first 2.5 months of my daughter's life! 

  5. I love my little G's though we've been doing the cloth inserts most of the time. Our son is in the process of potty training now as well, and I couldn't bear the idea of pull ups. I found Blueberry training pants to work very well. They're cloth but have a water resistant liner sewn inside. They're great. I recommend them when your daughter is old enough.
    You've inspired me to look into composting though. Tons of kitchen waste yhat I hate ending up in landfills.

  6. Excellent!  I will have to check them out.

  7. Thank you so much for this post. We are expecting in May and I really want to try composting the gdiapers, but it's our first and I am afraid it will be a huge fiasco and everyone will laugh at the silly first time mom who thought she could actually compost diapers. Just this evening I made my husband go with me to pick up a HUGE Mantis twin composter that was offered for free on Craigslist and I think he thinks I am slightly mad. But tonight I am going to sleep with some peace because of your post and knowing this is possible and that someone else out there did it. Thank you!