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Advocates for Cloth Diapering
By Lori Taylor
February 2005

The Real Diaper Association opened last August. After years of dreaming this, it is hard to believe that we finally have available an organization to advocate for cloth diapering.

I have seen a lot of positive energy in the Diaper Underground, a lot of potential to share with others what diaper users and small business owners have learned over years of experience and detailed discussion. These women are experts. They really understand cloth diapers. They have a strong presence online, but they don't begin to reach the numbers of people they should. I wanted to create a solid structure to support and inspire them in local activities. I wanted to help these talented women teach others in their own communities.

As long as I've been in the Diaper Underground, people have been saying, "Someone should create an organization..." I kept saying, "Yea, I would join." But no one did create an organization, so I just kept slowly moving along. I gathered people with good ideas and energy, and together we created something that amazes us all.

I am a social and cultural historian by training. I became involved in the diapering community when I was pregnant with my second child, as relief from the work of my doctoral dissertation. It didn't take long until I started applying what I know of American history and of the way communities work to what I saw before me in this dynamic community and to the history of cloth diapers in general. What happened? I wondered. Where did the diapering knowledge go? Why are so many looking for answers so far from home?

In the last half century, parents have looked for support from experts, from books, from the internet. Sources closer to home have been neglected. Parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors have been bypassed. Knowledge of how to use cloth diapers has been lost to many people.

In the last two decades, there has been a slow revival of cloth diapering, particularly since the advent of the internet. At the Real Diaper Association, we think those sources closer to home still have the best support to offer. We want to see people face-to-face, talking about what works for them and why. We want to revive cloth diapers by encouraging experienced parents and small diapering business owners to be the local diapering experts.

These local diapering experts will show others that cloth diapers are real diapers. In our mission statement, we emphasize that we need to make cloth diapers both accessible--by sharing ways to buy, make or find diapers--and acceptable. There are some prejudices to overcome. We need to shift the cultural understanding of diapers. Parents will learn that cloth diapers are real diapers.
The Real Diaper Association philosophy emphasizes local solutions, supported by the central organization.

First, we need to train local organizers to be leaders in their own communities. We have begun this work, with dozens of RDA members in training to lead local Real Diaper Circles. Now, local leaders will tell us what they need in order to build their Circles and reach out to diaper users and others who have the power to make sustainable diapering choices. RDA is creating for them educational and publicity materials. We will follow with national campaigns, and even national gatherings to keep the inspiration high. Meanwhile, the Real Diaper Association will engage media, government and industry in a conversation about cloth diapers. All of this moves toward a goal of putting more U.S. babies in cloth diapers.

Our statistical analyses lead us to believe that about 10% of U.S. babies in diapers are currently using cloth diapers at least part of the time; that is about 820,000 babies. We need reliable data to confirm this number. We need current life cycle analysis of diapers, cradle to grave. We need an analysis of the environmental footprint of all diapers. We need broad-based scientific research of various kinds to show the environmental, health, and social costs of diapers. In order to make informed choices, parents need reliable information. We will help those parents by compiling and sponsoring research. We will approach local governments to talk about their solid waste disposal. We will make alliances with environmental organizations to help them see why cloth diapers should be on their agenda.

Since we opened, women have been sending us stories both inspiring and wrenching. To hear how the new Real Diaper Circle Leaders envision their local Diaper Circles makes me want to go to every meeting. When I read the testimonials members have submitted on "Why We Choose Cloth," I see the range of choices people made and also the common elements of those choices. These testimonials can be found at our website. Beyond that, to have so many women say, "I've been waiting for you. I knew you would come," inspires me. The Real Diaper Association is not just my dream anymore, it belongs to all of our members.

Adapted from an interview for the Diaper Hyena, August 2004.

Real Diaper Association is the dreamchild of Lori Taylor. She is RDA Chairperson and owner of Fuzbaby and Firefly Diapers.

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