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How parents are ruining the environment (and what we can do about it)

how parents are ruining the environment

Please note that this episode’s show notes are *very* conversational, in that I most improvised today’s show and then got it transcribed. I’ve patched up a little bit of grammar, but the rest I’ll leave for fun. Enjoy! xx Andrea

Hello! This is a little letter that I wrote to parents several months ago. I think it was around Earth Day, around when we do Go Diaper Free Week every year.

And it started off as a bit of a rant, but it turned into this sort of productive thing:

What can we do about the fact that we parents are one of the largest groups of people who are ruining the environment?

Not that it's entirely our fault - because we were raised in a diapering culture, and this is all we know.

But when we know better, hopefully by the end of today's episode, we can make some changes. I'm going to give you some challenges at the end, so stick around for that.

The Letter: Dear Parents, you're ruining the environment.

Parents, you are destroying the Earth.

Parents, we need to stop it right now.

At the end of this letter, I'm going to give you 3 things you can do today to save the planet so our babies' babies have a home when they grow up.

The answer, and the solution, to the way we're ruining the environment lies in limiting diaper use and, luckily, Mother Nature and baby biology has our back.

Here is our predicament.

We landfill 27.4 billion diapers per year, full of chemicals, plastic, and human waste. None of them have ever biodegraded.

If we divide that up, we can see how many we use per child and how much landfill space each of our children is taking up, essentially.

This is a permanent footprint.

These diapers will be around, buried in the ground, full of waste, for at least 500 years - and that's just an estimate. It could be longer.

But why?

Why do we need each of our babies to leave such a permanent, massively destructive footprint?

Have you ever stopped to ask why we use so many diapers per child, and use the kind that don't ever decompose?

Yeah: it's because of money.

The diaper companies make billions of dollars, and ever since they introduced their “ages and stages” product lines in the late '90s, they have gotten us to, essentially, more than double our potty training age in the course of two generations.

In 1957, 92% of babies were out of diapers by 18 months.

Now, it's 3 years old, as an average. 36 to 38 months, depending on boys or girls.
So, it's all about the money. Isn't it always?

When diapers first came out...well, I have a mentor here in Asheville who used to work for Pampers for 25 or 35 years. He has patents for the newborn diapers and everything.

And I wanted to ask him some questions, so I asked him a few years ago. He said, "Nobody wanted to buy disposable diapers and put paper on their babies when disposable diapers came out."

So, they did a “study” by T. Berry Brazelton, and if you read that study, it's extremely unscientific - which reminds me of a lot of stuff going on these days, very unscientific “science.”

Basically, this doctor suggested that parents “wait for readiness.” And this single study in the '60s single-handedly changed doctors' and moms' minds. Now it is ingrained in our culture.

So, like I said, in the '50s, everybody was done by 18 months. In half the world today, kids are independently going potty by one year old. But in the US, the average age is 3 years old

That's a lot of diapers per kid, and a lot of your money.

Multiply that by how many new babies we have per year and you've got a major problem

And didn't I mention that they never biodegrade - ever? Probably never. I mean, 500 years plus. I'm not going to be around.

cloth vs disposable diapers

All to make these diaper mega-corporations mega-cash. They have changed the way we parent. And, as a result, they have enabled us - like an enabler of a bad thing - to ruin the environment through our children.

If we lower that average age from 3 years old to 2 years old, it is estimated that the diaper companies will lose about $2 billion per year, and I think it's more than that.

And. the environment would be spared 1/3 of that 27.4 billion diapers per year. (And by the way, 27.4 billion is only in the US. So, multiply that out by all the other countries.)

The big winners, besides the environment being spared billions of diapers per year...the big winners are our babies, y’all.

Did you ask for consent when you put that first diaper on your baby? I didn't. I don't know if you did, but I didn't.

And no, we did not give our babies a choice. Now, I knew about EC so I did give my baby a choice, but you didn't know any better.

Maybe you also knew about EC, but those of you who didn't and you just are now hearing about it, awesome! Better late than never, right? I'm so glad that you're here.

But our culture has set us up as parents to not give our children a choice or a chance to express consent for us putting that diaper on them and forcing them to use it as a toilet for several years. And yes, I'm using strong language because I want to illustrate this is a really important problem.

It's a problem. Babies are mammals born with instincts to not soil themselves or their beds or you.

Do you need to pee when you wake up? Do you like to poop your pants?
I didn’t think so!

Now that we're on the same page because we're all mammals and we all have the same hormones (whether we're grown-ups or babies), I want to share a couple of things that you can do today because you are the victim of growing up in a diapering culture.

You have been led to believe that you have to wait until 3 or 4 years old to start potty training. We have all been duped into buying into this lifestyle and this parenting style that is not respectful of our babies’ dignity.

So, here are the things. (I'm a quadruple Virgo. I like to know what I can DO about things.)

All right, to stop ruining the environment today, here are three things you can do.

1. Start getting your child out of diapers today. Read a book. Start elimination communication (EC) or potty training today by reading. Take them when they wake up. Spot a poop face and just gently say, "Wait," and have them go in the correct place at any age, from birth up. Zero to 18 months old, use the four easy catches. They're all over on my podcast. I'll link to them in the show notes.

Potty training, if you're at 16, 18 months and up - potty train now. It only takes an average of seven days to get over the main hump, using my method.

That's number one. Start getting your child out of diapers. Every little bit helps. And it's not with pressure. Remember, baby's natural instinct is to NOT want to do this. So, you're doing your child a favor and giving them the biggest gift possible.

2. Switch to compostable diapers or cloth diapers today. Begin to use the diaper as a backup, not a full-time toilet .

Until you are equipped with enough education to be able to do something different, or while you're doing part-time EC, start using compostable diapers like Dyper. It's a delivery subscription service of these awesome diapers that compost in 75 days - they're amazing. I've used them with Twyla.

Or switch to cloth diapers. You can learn how to use cloth really easily with my book. And begin to change your mind. Paradigm shift from “this as a full-time toilet” to “this is just a backup for when we're learning.”

3. Tell all your friends about Elimination Communication and early potty training. You can honor your baby. You can influence earlier mobility and communication. You can instill confidence. You can help to protect your baby's dignity.

And, you can stop changing poopy diapers, which is the biggest benefit. Most babies around the world are poop trained by six months. My kids were a couple of weeks old when they were poop trained, from as early as birth. It's super cool.

Parents, I'm sorry to say it, but if you're not doing EC, you're currently ruining the environment. Please stop it right now. I've got your back. We've got your back. There are three things you can do today to stop using so many diapers - so that our babies' babies have a place to live when they are older.

And by the way, I used to use Seventh Generation diapers - they aren't biodegradable at all. They're just like the other ones. And I loved them, but here's a good takeaway from Seventh Gen: they are all about the Native American perspective. (I'm part Cherokee so I can relate to this.) They’re all about making decisions with regard to their impact on the next seven generations.

Beyond using their diapers, which ironically negatively impact the next seven gens, the things you do today with EC, potty training, and the backup you're using DO matter that far down the road.

Also, a potty trained, potty-independent child is way more pleasant and less fussy. It's just way more pleasant to be around a diaper-free baby than changing endless poopy diapers. Trust me on that one.

It will change your reality to do any part of these 3 things today. With this, let's stop ruining the environment - right now!

Now for a question.

Now that I've made you feel extremely guilty 😆just kidding...hopefully, I didn't make you feel guilty at all. Hopefully, it's just a dose of truth. What I want to know is:

What are you going to do today to stop ruining the environment?

Because we were led to overdiaper, and now we can make an actual choice to purposefully do the opposite.

What little, tiny thing are you going to do today?

Please leave a comment below!

xx Andrea

PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 12 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)


  1. Avatar Liesl on March 2, 2021 at 9:33 am

    I plan to keep sharing EC with new parent friends, friends growing families, etc. I’m so thankful for EC even though we only did part time and I was way too strung out about it. I’m thankful we did cloth diapers. If I ever have another it will be even more EC (and more chill mama :) ).

  2. Avatar Savana on March 2, 2021 at 10:14 am

    Going to do cloth diapers again with my second baby and learn about the 4 easy catches. Then implement them with signaling.

  3. Avatar Rebecca on March 2, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    As far as what we do in this house that’s ruining the environment, it’s probably using products that come in plastic containers. Detergent, cleansers, groceries. Now what we do to help is actually a handful of things. I ECd my daughter who is three, going to be doing EC with the one due in April, I use family cloth on my daughter and I, (hubby ain’t about it) and then to limit paper towel use I have TONS of kitchen and cleaning cloths. Oh and we have done cloth diapers almost 100% of the time. Only while traveling or during a plumbing emergency did we use disposable.

  4. Avatar Neewa on March 2, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    I am doing EC with my 1st baby now at 3mo. I am so glad we did it. We save money, we save the environment, and most importantly, my baby sleeps much better with all her needs met before going to bed. We use cloth diapers and cloth wipes if needed. I am planning to share this knowledge with every mama I can get it to

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 3, 2021 at 2:37 am

      So wonderful to read your post 😍!!!

      Thank you for spreading the word! 💕

  5. Avatar Emily on March 2, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    I’ve done cloth diapers/wipes with all three of my boys and saved A TON of money – much of my supply is still going strong. I’ve probably bought 4 packs of disposable diapers ever, and I try to get biodegradable ones. I say all this to let people know that cloth diapering is totally doable and worthwhile! I learned about EC when it was time to potty train my first, and my mind was BLOWN with all the misinformation out there around diapers and waiting for readiness. (And I’m a pediatric OT – how had I not been aware of this before?? Thank you, Andrea!) I did/am doing part time EC with my other two. Even if you can’t commit fully to EC, I highly recommend cloth diapering and early potty training (it only gets harder once they are older, and cloth diapering is a good motivator to potty train early because laundering solid food poopy diapers is not fun). After reading this I am newly motivated to work harder on poop training my 5 month old and saving the need to launder poopy diapers at all, especially once he starts solid foods! To this day I feel like a magician when my baby pees on command into the potty :). Oh and the picture of that massive pile of disposable diapers that floats around the internet gets me every time :*(

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 3, 2021 at 3:22 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience and inspiring others to EC! 😍

      I completely hear you about those internet photos of piles of diapers unimaginably high. Hopefully in the future with awareness, that will change. 🤞

  6. Avatar Julia Nakhleh on March 2, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    How can we get information about EC out to low-income families who could really save a lot of money doing EC? Is there a way we could have information like a flyer at food banks or any place that distributes diapers? Can we get cloth diapers to food banks/other charities that help families? Can we get information to the maternity units at hospitals? The more people who know about EC the more we will help the environment. And I think also letting people know it’s not all or nothing, and to emphasize how flexible EC can be would really help.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 3, 2021 at 3:27 am

      Yes, there are SO many people that need to know about EC! I do my best to spread the word, but can always use the help. Our coaches are also individually trying to spread the word, and trying to work with low income families about EC. Breaking into the systems are not always easy, but hopefully in time we can make that happen and make more people aware of EC, and all the benefits. 😊💕

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