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[GreenYes] NYT-Saturday Interview re Reusable Diapers


January 12, 2008

Saturday Interview


Breaking the Habit of Disposable Diapers


By CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/claudia_h_deut
sch/index.html?inline=nyt-per>

TERESON DUPUY thinks reusable diapers are having their back-to-the-future
moment.

Sure, she knows that lots of parents (indeed, most of them) would rather
toss dirty nappies than wash them. But she says that the convergence of four
disparate elements - Internet chat rooms for new mothers, easy ways to sell
on the Web, the green movement and the development of better polyesters - is
spurring many parents to rethink their attachment to disposables.

There are signs she may be right. In 1999, Ms. Dupuy, 37, started Mother of
Eden, a company that sells reusable polyester diapers called Fuzzi Bunz. She
does not advertise and does not have a sales staff. Yet her company topped
$3 million in sales in 2007, and she expects to sell double that amount this
year.

"The Internet and environmental concerns have been a bonus," Ms. Dupuy said.
"But even without them, reusable diapers would be meeting a real need."

In a recent conversation, Ms. Dupuy elaborated on why cloth diapers may be a
product whose time has come - again. Excerpts from the interview follow:

Q. Have cloth diapers really evolved much from the bulky, leaky things with
pins that many of us remember as so unpleasant?

A. There've been lots of small changes, but the key difference is the
textiles. Cotton is very absorbent, but it's hard to wash, it stains and it
can take forever to dry. Many of today's reusable diapers use polyester
fleece, which lasts longer, absorbs better and dries in 10 minutes. And they
are thin enough to fit under normal baby clothes. That's no small thing -
clothes today are made to fit over a disposable diaper, not a bulky,
multilayered cotton one.

Q. Disposables still seem more convenient. Why would anyone go back to
cloth?

A. Lots of reasons. I used disposables with my first child, and we were only
getting garbage pickups once a week. They literally stank. And my second
child had severe eczema, and no matter what cream I tried, or how often I
changed the diaper, his bottom was raw and bleeding.

Q. I've never heard of a reusable diaper curing eczema. Did that really
help?

A. I switched to cotton diapers, and it got better, but he still got rashes
from the wetness near his skin. That's when I had my light bulb moment: I
bought a square of fleece, the kind that Patagonia uses in jackets and
underwear. I stuck that in my son's diaper, and his skin stayed dry. So I
decided to sell fleece diapers with pockets for inserts. I named the company
Mother of Eden because my son's name is Eden, and I am, after all, his
mother.

Q. Patagonia uses fleece made from recycled plastics, which are, of course,
petrochemicals. Should people feel comfortable putting chemicals so close to
a baby?

A. Not everyone does, I know. Some people will only use diapers made of
organic cotton. But those diapers are awfully expensive, and they have the
same problems as conventional cotton. I trust Patagonia - they wouldn't use
it in underwear if it weren't safe.

Q. It takes a lot of energy to make polyester, and it uses a lot of water to
wash diapers. And if people use diaper services, you have to factor in the
fuel used by their trucks. Aren't you running counter to the "green" trend?

A. Quite the contrary. If you ask people what "cloth diaper" brings to mind,
they mention bleach, soaking, washing, lots of hard work. But use the term
"reusable diaper," and the first thing they say is "good for the
environment."

Now, it is definitely better for the environment to produce organic cotton
than polyester, I can't argue with that. But polyester diapers last five
times longer, so you don't have to replace them as often. If you check the
chat rooms on the Internet, most of the cloth-using moms are washing them at
home. If you have a baby in the house, you're doing a lot of laundry anyway.
And a lot of trees probably get cut down to make disposables.

Q. Still, polyester isn't biodegradable. Doesn't that pose an environmental
disposal problem after the baby is toilet-trained?

A. We're trying to find a supplier who can recycle our fibers. We'll take
diapers back from people, and donate them to orphanages, primarily overseas.
We are also using our manufacturing scraps to make cloth baby wipes, breast
pads for nursing moms and menstrual pads. They represent only 2 or 3 percent
of our sales - but they use up all our waste.

Q. How can reusable diapers compete with marketing titans like Procter
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/procter_and_gamble/in
dex.html?inline=nyt-org> & Gamble or Kimberly-Clark
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/kimberly_clark_corpor
ation/index.html?inline=nyt-org> , which lead the disposable diaper market?

A. Products like ours wouldn't exist without the Internet. People do Google
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/google_inc/index.html
?inline=nyt-org> searches to find cloth diapers. We distribute mainly
through a network of 300 or so stay-at-home moms who found us on the Web,
and who sell on the Web. We have 150 more on the waiting list; we just don't
have enough product to supply them yet. Hopefully, this year we will.

And the Internet has enabled lots of working moms - people like me - to work
from home. That means they are there to change the baby's diaper. A mom - or
even a dad - is more willing to wash out dirty diapers than your typical day
care worker.





Kendall Christiansen

Gaia Strategies

151 Maple Street

Brooklyn, NY 11225

o: 718.941.9535; cell: 917.359.0725







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