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Plastic Free Baby #7: Bali Beach Bums

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Forgive me Gaia, I must come clean – I used 2 diapers on the plane ride to Bali.

Not seventh generation, not chlorine-free, eco-friendly, shade-grown diapers, but straight up pampers. My intention was to go G-diaper all the way, and show that yes, even on the road, traveling with your little one, cloth is doable. But when the stewardess at Air China greeted us with a sympathetic smile and a little gift bag of baby food, a bib, and pampers, I caved. Facing 30 hours of travel with an infant is daunting enough.

At least we only needed two! We’re still doing “elimination communication” with little Avani, even in the impossibly tight airplane bathrooms. I took secret delight in telling Marcus it was his turn at the airport. “You mean, like in the mens room?” I imagined him in the bathroom echo chamber, surrounded by dudes, cooing in his gentle, high pitched baby voice, “Avani, make a poo poo in the potty?” The look on his face coming out told me that’s exactly what happened.

30 hours and a layover in Tai Pei later, were in Bali. And took our first beach walk this morning, starting in Seminyak and making our way down the endless, manicured coastline towards tourist-catering Kuta. Not 10 minutes in, I spotted two bloated, disintegrating plastic diapers in the surf – Bali’s less welcome “beach bums”. As if the garbage kharma gods were wagging a finger at me for my travel transgressions. I wonder how many others well see during our stay here…


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We’ve heard much from everyone who has been to Bali of its beauty, juxtaposed with horrific waste. This stretch of beach, a revenue-generator for the hotels lining the entire strip, appears relatively clean – but it’s a façade. Every morning at daybreak, an army of locals descend on the beach with rakes and bags to make the trash disappear for tourists. And every day, it washes back up.

I’ve asked a few people here about diapers. In some of the villages, people still use cloth, but in the urban centers, disposables have become the norm. And without a good waste management plan, these soiled synthetics end up in rivers and watersheds, washing out to sea, and often beyond the reach of the waste pickers to wind up on the beach.

Avani will do her part to not contribute, thanks to an awesome care package from gdiapers. Well use the cloth inserts when were holed up for a few days with access to washing, and the biodegradable inserts when were on the go. Granted, these wont make it to any compost bins in Bali, and I’m not hardcore enough to bring them home, so it’s a bit of a wash, so to speak.. at least at home, I can compost these.

All biases aside, this is a way cuter beach bum!


8 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Oh that picture makes me so sad. Not the one of your adorable little one, of course. But the diapers. I have heard that from friends who live in Bali and it’s just tragic. I love the biodegradable gDiaper inserts and p.s. you can put them INSIDE a plastic diaper if you have to, it will make that diaper last 4x longer and act kind of like a cloth diaper. Have fun on your trip!! :-)

  2. [...] by a third party independent testing facility.   Anna’s post was originally published on the 5 Gyres blog and is re-printed here with her kind permission. 5 Gyres is a tiny organization hell-bent on [...]

  3. My wife just posted a blog article on our experiences trying to convert to cloth diapers for our youngest. We have been using cloth diapers for several months now. There are a lot of great options for cloth diapers. There are all-in-ones, one size fits all and cloth diaper covers. She explains the benefits and drawbacks of the options we’ve tried. It’s on my blog @ Thanks to all those at 5Gyres for your important message.

  4. Katie says:

    Hi! Just found your site and I am very excited to follow the plastic free parenting posts. I am pregnant with my 2nd child and am aspiring to be a plastic “lite” parent ( I was not with kid 1, who is now 7).


  5. Elle says:

    I think it’s great that you used cloth while traveling, but I have a bit of a problem with gdiapers biodegradable liners. They contain SAP, which is plastic gel, and I think it is incredibly irresponsible of them to advocate flushing that. It seems to work directly against the 5 gyres mission, no? I think the “biodegradable” inserts are just as bad as a disposable diaper except that they might make parents feel falsely that they’re using a better product. You are either using reusable diapers or you aren’t. There’s no middle ground here. On a website that is anti-plastic, I would expect to see a cloth diapering blog post about using wool, not using pampers and bio-soakers! If even the 5 gyres people are using disposables when traveling, I think that sends the message to the public that using cloth 100% of the time is not possible, which is absolutely untrue.

    • Stiv Wilson says:

      Hey Elle:

      A lot is changing at gDiapers and because of that, we’re working with them. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that we can’t publicly disclose, but understand that we have brought the same issues to them– what we like about gDiapers is that they’re innovating– constantly trying to refine their products and we have an open discussion with Beth Terry from who wrote about gDiapers in her book. Bottom line, gDiapers creates 95% less waste than something like ‘pampers’ so it’s a huge help. But we definitely hear where you’re coming from!

  6. Peter Smith says:

    Hi Anna en Marcus,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Our son Benjamin (11 months) is also wrapped in washable-diapers. Once your used to it, its no hustle at all, it only makes me grateful everytime I don’t have to dispose anything.
    Hope to see you again sometime, and maybe Avani and Benjamin can play together :)

    Klean greetz,

  7. Erin Mills says:

    We do cloth but I have never tried gDiapers and they are soooo cute! I wish I could try them but already have a good stash and definitely don’t need more.

    Love that you are doing EC too. We tried but I got lazy. (hangs head in shame). Lol. :) Big props to you for doing that! Awesome!

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