Cloth diaper service
Consider it trickle-down economics at its most literal.
One of the undignified chores of new parents is the changing of diapers. Decades ago, cloth diapers were the only option. Then came the rise of disposable diapers such as Pampers and Huggies. Now, post-recession, cloth diapers and diaper services are making a comeback.
In June 2008, the Real Diaper Industry Association commissioned a survey to research the growth of the cloth diapering industry. The takeaway: More Americans were choosing to use cloth diapers, and there had "been a strong upward trend in overall sales" as part of the $7 billion-a-year diaper marketplace.
Among the reasons are cost and environmental concerns. The industry estimates that as much as 3% of all landfill waste comes from disposable diapers.
"Given where the economy is at, people are definitely looking for ways to save money," says Judy Aagard of Tiny Tots Diaper Service & Baby Boutique
, based near San Francisco. "It is kind of a win-win situation for them. They can save money and they can help the environment. There is really not a downside. It is definitely a big comeback."
Family-run since 1966, Tiny Tots has laundered an estimated 675 million diapers.
"We've seen the tide shift a few times," Aagard says.
"I try not to call them disposables, because they really aren't," she says of her plastic-based competition. "They really are single-use, and the resources come from all over the world for just a few hours of use -- and then they need to be disposed of."
Cloth-diaper fans are fond of citing -- often without attribution -- a factoid that plastic-based diapers take anywhere from 250 to 500 years to break down. However long it takes, "they don't just go away. We have to deal with them and we'll be living with them for hundreds of years," Aagard says. "There's that real cost the consumer has and the cost to society, which ultimately also trickles back down to the consumer."
"It is not just diaper services, but also home laundry in general that is having come back," Aagard adds. "There are probably more domestic manufacturers of cloth diaper products than there has ever been in the history of the U.S. There are just all kinds of opportunities."