A Cloth Diaper Program Saves Money and Landfill

BY JANET MANDELSTAM

The young mothers at Bloomington’s First United Church realized that “we have quite a few families at the church whose kids use cloth diapers,” says Rev. Caela Simmons Wood. “We love the fact that we never have to buy diapers again.”

If they were so pleased with reusable cloth rather than disposable diapers, they reasoned, there must be many other families who would like to make the same choice but “didn’t have the start-up costs in their bank accounts,” Wood recalls. “How could we help them get started?”

Their answer was to create Heiny Helpers, a nonprofit organization that provides cloth diapers to qualifying Monroe County families with infants and toddlers and, not incidentally, keeps mounds of disposables out of the county landfill.

Heiny Helpers cofounders—Wood, Sara Mobley, and Rachael Frush Holt—began taking applications in January from women who are eligible for assistance from the federal Women, Infants, and Children program.

By mid-March, Wood says, “We had put ten babies in cloth diapers and had appointments to interview another thirteen families.”

Each family receives a set of cloth diapers and a “wet bag” in which to keep the soiled ones, and they pledge to return the diapers for use by another family when they are no longer needed. “A set of diapers will last through two or three children,” Wood says. The value of the start-up package is at least $250—quite a savings from the $2,000 the average family will spend on disposables for a single child.

That child “will use between 5,000 and 7,000 disposable diapers, depending on when he or she is toilet trained,” Wood says. “Treating the earth well is important to people in our congregation.” And since estimates of the time it takes for disposables to decompose run up to 500 years, “We’re helping the environment by keeping them out of the landfill.”

Heiny Helpers has received “a few generous donations” of cloth diapers from companies that make them, Wood says, but with applications arriving faster than anticipated, the organization is seeking donations of cash or new or used diapers. Anyone who purchases diapers for Heiny Helpers at The Green Nursery or Bloomington Area Birth Services will receive a 10 percent discount. For more information, visit heinyhelpers.org. 

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