Monday, May 10, 2010

Cloth diaper advocacy... you can do it too!

–noun, plural -cies.
the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending; active espousal: He was known for his advocacy of states' rights.

There is currently a campaign underway to get cloth diapers onto The Ellen Degeneres Show, a daytime talkshow featuring comedian Ellen Degeneres. The goal of Operation Fluffy is to expose the idea of cloth diapering to a wide audience. While I can appreciate the sentiment behind Operation Fluffy, I don't think the campaign itself has a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding. Why not, you ask? Quite simply, as nice as Ellen may seem, her daytime show is simply a vehicle for advertising.

Like anything on television, The Ellen Show is designed to fill the space between commercials. Watch any daytime TV show aimed at women, specifically mothers with young children, and you will notice very specific types of commercials. Without knowing what show, or what channel you're watching, I can guarantee you two things:

  1. you will see at least one (likely more) disposable diaper commercial.

  2. you will see no cloth diaper commercial commercials (nada, zip, zero, zilch!).

Fact of the matter is that disposable diapers are big business, the corporations manufacturing disposable diapers have deep, if not bottomless, pockets. Kimberly-Clark just released their Q1 2010 quarterly report, indicating net sales of over 2 billion dollars in their Personal Care business segment, which includes the Huggies brand of disposable diapers. As you can imagine, the advertising budget that accompanies this kind of revenue is monstrous. As a result, a company like Kimberly-Clark carries a lot of clout with respect to product placement on shows like Ellen. Rumor has it that Kimberly-Clark managed to bounce a cloth diaper manufacturer from Ellen's Mother's Day show on May 7th, 'treating' (ick!) studio audience members to a six-month supply of Huggies diapers. The folks behind Operation Fluffy are going to give the campaign another go, however, I think a different approach is warranted. Rather relying on one woman, Ellen Degeneres, to get the word out about cloth diapers, I think a grassroots approach would be more successful, with cloth diaper users advocating for cloth diapers on an individual basis, converting parents one at a time.

I have built my business for the past eight years using this approach, rather than shelling out cash for flashy advertising, I have relied on word-of-mouth to build my customer base. It's thrilling for me when customers come into the store with expecting friends, it's great to see other people showing enthusiasm for cloth diapers. Sooo, if you're as passionate about cloth diapers as I am, and you'd like to help convert the masses (one at a time!) to cloth diapers, there are a few things you can do to lend yourself to the cause:

  • use cloth diapers when you're out & about. Other people will take notice and ask you about them. Grab a few business cards from your favourite cloth diaper retailer (hint, hint) and hand them out if someone asks about your cloth diapers.

  • are you attending a baby shower? Buy an easy-to-use cloth diaper as a gift. Maybe mom-to-be doesn't know how much cloth diapers have improved since the era of pins and rubber pants, getting one into her hands is half the battle.

  • talk to your children about the choices you make as a parent, including your choice to cloth diaper. I used cloth diapers with our first child because I can remember my mother using cloth diapers with my younger brothers. It will take a while to reap the rewards of this approach, but I certainly hope that by the time my own children are parents, people who use disposable diapers will be in the minority.

  • if someone challenges you about your decision to use cloth diapers, challenge them right back! A little healthy debate never hurt anyone, and as we all know, it's easy to make a case for choosing cloth diapers over disposable diapers.

  • contact your local Member of Parliament and suggest that cloth diaper purchases should be subsidized by your local government. A number of municipalities in Quebec already subsidize parents' cloth diaper purchases. It costs money to cart those nasty disposable diapers off to the landfill, they are the third largest single consumer item in landfills. Fact of the matter is that using cloth diapers saves the government money.

  • contact local media outlets and suggest that they run a story about cloth diapers. Your community newspaper or cable channel is always on the hunt for interesting stories.

When they are fully-informed about their choices, most parents will choose to use a diaper that is less expensive, better for their baby's skin, and kinder to the environment. For this reason, disposable diaper manufacturers do not want parents to know they have a choice. These companies simply cannot make an argument in favor of their product based on facts alone, this was clearly obvious when a representative from Kimberly-Clark referred to the results of a 1993 study in a recent article about cloth diapers. Cloth diapers have evolved significantly since 1993, there are several types that boast the same features of disposable diapers, minus the disposable part. Making a sweeping statement about today's cloth diapers based on information that is almost two decades old is intended to mislead consumers.

You don't have to be a cloth diaper manufacturer or a retailer to have a voice, all you have to do is speak up. Slowly but surely, together we can make a difference.

1 comment:

  1. Grassroots local cloth diaper advocacy - that's exactly what the Real Diaper Association is all about! To add to these fantastic tips, if you want to take your advocacy up a level, join RDA, grab a couple of local friends/moms/cloth diaperers and form a Real Diaper Circle. It's fun AND you get to talk about cloth diapers and teach lots of new parents about them!