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Most parents who want to minimize the impact of a baby's diaper routine on the environment look first at their diaper choices. Even a few cloth diapers a day can reduce the number of disposables you put in landfills, and flushable or compostable diapers can combine convenience with less waste. But diapers aren't the only factor in the environmental impact of your baby's elimination needs. Many baby wipes are made from plastic, are not reusable or recyclable, and contain toxic chemicals that may be dangerous to your baby as well as the environment. Choosing baby wipes that are more eco-friendly is another way you can reduce your baby's environmental footprint.
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Commercially Available Green Baby Wipes
Various brands of commercially available baby wipes are advertised as green, eco-friendly choices, but not all of them are as good for the environment as they claim to be. If you choose to buy green baby wipes, read and research all the ingredients. For example, Seventh Generation baby wipes are marketed as green and are chlorine-free, but because they contain polyester, they are not biodegradable. Some "eco" wipes include toxic ingredients, such as Eco Soft Baby Wipes, which include benzyl alcohol, a toxic petrochemical. Most commercially available compostable baby wipes are chemical-free, but if your baby has sensitive skin or allergies, then even the natural ingredients in green baby wipes could cause a reaction for your baby. For example, Bumboosa Baby Wipes are made from bamboo and are biodegradable, but they contain orange essential oil, which can irritate the skin of sensitive babies. If you choose to buy green baby wipes, look for wipes that are flushable, compostable and biodegradable and that have all natural, non-toxic ingredients. Elements Natural baby wipes are certified as biobased by the USDA, which means they are made from renewable ingredients. Avalon Organics baby wipes are flushable and biodegradable, and they contain only plant-based ingredients.
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Make Your Own Biodegradable Wipes
If buying green baby wipes seems prohibitively expensive, consider making your own. Medical gauze pads are soft, strong, inexpensive and made of biodegradable cotton. They're also the perfect size for a baby wipe. If you're concerned about the environmental impact of cotton farming, choose pads that are made from organic cotton. Paper towels are another inexpensive wipes replacement; choose recycled paper towels, and fold once or twice before use to prevent them from breaking. You don't need any crafting or sewing skills to use either of these simple wipes alternatives; simply moisten with a homemade wipes solution or with plain, warm water before use.
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Cloth wipes are the cheapest and the most environmentally friendly choice for baby wipes. Unlike cloth diapers, washable cloth wipes won't add much to your laundry load, and just one set of wipes will last you through multiple babies. Most stores that sell cloth diapers also sell cloth wipes, but you only need minimal sewing skills to make your own. Cut a piece of soft cotton flannel into squares and stitch hems on all four sides. You can also use baby wash cloths as cloth wipes.
You should wash your cloth wipes in hot water to make sure they are fully disinfected. You can also add a few drops of antibacterial essential oil, such as tea tree oil, to the wash. If you want to minimize your baby's environmental impact even more, hang your cloth wipes in the sun to dry.
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Homemade Wipes Solution
Plain water is an effective cleaner, and it's the most gentle choice for sensitive skin. But if you want something with a little more cleaning power for your homemade wipes, make your own wipes solution. Most homemade wipes solutions include water with a little oil to soften and moisturize skin, some soap to help clean, and essential oils to disinfect and add a pleasant scent. One simple recipe is to mix one cup water with one tablespoon baby oil, one tablespoon castille soap, two drops lavender oil, and one drop tea tree oil. Keep your wipes solution in a spray bottle on your changing table, and spray your wipes immediately before use.
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Avalon Organics Baby Wipes, http://www.directionsforme.org/index.php/directions/product/BABY/00654749371268.%20
Bloch, Michael. "Greening Baby Wipes." http://www.krqe.com/dpp/living_green/sustainability/green_living_greening_baby_wipes_20090413.%20
Cloth Wipe Solution Recipes, http://www.zany-zebra.com/cloth-wipe-solution.shtml.%20
Elements Naturals, http://www.elementsnaturals.com/be_the_change.html.%20
Gabriel, Julie. "My Quest for Non-Toxic Baby Wipes", http://greentot.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/baby-wipes/.%20
Malik Chua, Jasmin. "Elements Natural Baby Wipes are Natural, Biodegradable, but Do They Work?" http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/07/elements-naturals-baby-wipes.php.%20
Oooh Baby Green Living. "Best Green Baby Wipes", http://oooh-baby-baby.blogspot.com/2010/01/best-green-baby-wipes.html.%20
Seventh Generation Baby Wipes, http://www.seventhgeneration.com/Baby-Wipes.%20