Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dear City of Ottawa,

I would like a little clarification about the new 'diaper service' that is going to be implemented with the city's plans to move to a bi-weekly garbage pick-up (which I applaud). As a person who has chosen to use cloth diapers with all four of our children, I certainly hope that I am not going to end up covering the cost of special treatment for those families who make the decision to use disposable diapers. If they are going to gripe and moan about the mess they create, they had better be ready to pay for it! Are they paying extra fees to have their waste picked up?

I have contacted the city on *numerous* occassions to suggest a cloth diaper subsidy for families who make use cloth diapers. This kind of subsidy is commonplace in the UK, and it has been instituted in many municipalities across Quebec (most recently in Montreal). The city of Ottawa pays approximately $94/tonne to haul trash to the dump; When parents make the decision to cloth diaper a child, they are diverting approximately one ton of waste from our landfills. Furthermore, they can reuse the same set of cloth diapers with future children, diverting even more waste from our landfills. It stands to reason that if people are saving the city money with their responsible decision to use cloth diapers, the city should compensate them for their efforts.

If people use cloth diapers, they do not have to worry about the stink of having diapers sit in the trash for two weeks (and quite frankly, the contents of disposable diapers are supposed to be emptied into the toilet before they are tossed into the trash anyhow, I don't even see how 'stink' should be a concern if ppl are using disposable diapers in the correct manner). If you want to encourage positive change, why not consider implementing a cloth diaper subsidy that will help parents with the startup costs of cloth diapers? There are many (many!) businesses in Ottawa that sell cloth diapers, accessibility is not a concern, but ppl are often intimidated by the upfront costs, and fear of the unknown.

We are hosting an event on April 23rd that will see 35+ parents changing their babies cloth diapers at once, the "Great Diaper Change" is happening throughout the world at 12pm EST in an effort to establish a new Guinness World Record. I would love for any Ottawa city councillors who are concerned about disposable diapers and bi-weekly pickup to come out and join us, you can talk to families who use cloth diapers, and you can learn about what's involved in using cloth diapers (aside from the fact they are washable, they are just as easy to use as disposable diapers).

I certainly hope someone takes the time to get back to me about this. I have been rather disappointed in the limited responses I have ever received when I've tried to contact Ottawa councillors about this matter. Perhaps now that it's election time again, you'll have my attention. I know I won't be the only parent annoyed that I have to pay for other parents who don't consider the environmental effect of single-use diapers.

best regards,

Susie Pearson


  1. I love it!!!

  2. Have you tried reaching out to David Chernushenko? I am a member of his ward (and a supporter of your shop!). First and foremost David is a sustainability advocate who has produced 2 films about living lightly. Check out his website: http://davidc.ca/Home.html

    Here is how to contact him at City Hall: http://www.capitalward.ca/1/Contact.html

    Good luck!

  3. I support cloth diapering, baby wearing, breastfeeding etc, but your posts (not just this one) leave me with a negative feeling about all of these things. I'm not sure why you feel the need to be so self righteous about all of your parenting decisions. Calling people lazy or stupid for not cloth diapering probably isn't going to sway anyone to take it up. Likewise, criticizing successful women for using nannies, pointing out the 'cruelty' of strollers and overstating the case for breastfeeding don't do a lot to promote anything, they just make people who are already doing these things feel self congratulatory, and isolate people who for many reasons do not share your choices.

    I'm sure there are many people who like the tone of your posts, and I'm sure they will keep coming back to your store. Honestly, I I'll be taking my business elsewhere from now on.

  4. "Special services"... hmm. Interesting choice of words. As someone who does not have kids I don't get a choice about whether I pay into school taxes while I don't use those services. I also don't get a choice about paying into health care.. and have to pay for others health care. We live in a community, where the group shares for everyones needs not simply for our own or the ones we agree with. Personally I am for the collective and feel scared about Canadians move to the individual. It doesn't work very well to the South of us.

  5. Why should I pay for your subsidy???

  6. No cloth diaper subsidy? Then educate Ottawa families about their *choices* (and using disposable diapers is certainly a choice ppl make), then charge them to pick them up (if the city must appease this particular group of ppl). It's not too hard to affect change using education and levies -- look at plastic bags as an example:


    I am quite happy to contribute money towards things I may not personally use for the greater good (public transportation, for example). Disposable diapers are not a 'need', and they certainly shouldn't be treated as such!

  7. Awesome post, Suzie
    as a parent of four cloth diapered/Ec'd children, I agree.

    If parents put the poop from disposable diapers in the toilet it wouldn't be an issue.

    Ottawa is protective of it's garbage habit's. People still complain about separating their recycling, and it took 10+ years to bring in the green bin even though the pilot was a success. People don't like to look, touch or think about their waste. Folks are freaked out about smelling anything.

    The garbage all has to go somewhere, people!

  8. WOW. I was shocked to read this post on a friends FB page. this is just plain mean! I was a cloth diapering mom for a long time and recently gave it up as it didn't work for me for reasons you need not know and I am now using the good ole disposables. I bought many cloth diapers, wraps, and other supplies at your store and am now feeling bad for supporting someone who is critical and judgemental of other peoples decisions. I took this opportunity to go back and read some other blog posts and will no longer shop at your store or recommend it. I will take my business somewhere where I am not judged for the parenting decisions I make.

  9. I have been in your store many times; however, I am now considering going elsewhere (and my husband does NOT want me to go back into your store) because of this post. Your tone tends to be self-righteous and that what you do is best - in all aspects of parenting. I am very disappointed and will no longer refer my friends to your store - I know you have received a few clients from my word of month.

  10. I am hardly criticizing ppl's choice to use disposable diapers, I am criticizing the city's decision to give special consideration to a product that generates needless waste. I operate a store that sells cloth diapers, and I firmly believe that cloth diapers are every bit as 'convenient' as disposable diapers. My position on the issue shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. I happen to think it's an important issue. No one wants the city to expand our existing landfills, with no magic solution for dealing with garbage, ppl simply need to change their habits. I'm sorry I've offended anyone with my 'tone', however, I'm not going to apologize for having an opinion on the subject.

  11. Hi Susie:

    I loved your letter and firmly beleive that if the city is going to offer an extra service of picking up families garbage who choose to use disposable diapers that a subsidy should be given to those using cloth diapers.

    There is also nothing wrong with being proud of diverting one tonne of garbage to the landfill. It is an environmental choice to celebrate.

    I will continue to shop at your store and refer my friends to your store.

  12. here we go again, every time susie posts an opinion about...well, anything...the "anonymous" folks come out to attack. i don't recall reading that anyone was stupid or lazy for using disposables. maybe i need new glasses. and as for boycotting her shop, too bad for you, it's a great store to browse around in and get some awesome advice from mom's who actually know what they're selling. i have many times taken my hospital birthed, stroller riding, disposable wearing, sugar eating, tv watching (did i cover them all:P)children to the shoppe (for 7 years now) and have never once been treated poorly.
    but then again, i'm not the type that insists on becoming offended at the slightest of slights (or those imaginary).

    i have learned quite a bit from susie and her shoppe and wish i could get over there more often...keep up the great work, susie!

  13. Susie, great letter.

    By the way, I love your tone. I don't think you're being self-righteous when you talk about breastfeeding, baby wearing and cloth diapering. You're being proud. Let's be honest, it's not always easy to do these things, so we're proud when we pull it off. That's ok. It's ok to be proud.

    Keep up the great work Susie.

  14. I find it interesting that the post no longer calls parents lazy for using disposables. It sure did when I read this last night. I was offended by it then and I'm not surprised that the offense that was taken by readers prompted an edit to the post. You should at least have the courage to own up to the fact that you did make an edit and apologize for the things that were said.

    Attack the city all you want, but your attacks on parents are inappropriate and as a result, you've absolutely lost my business.

    I have no problem with your views if they were expressed respectfully. But you went on a tirade and then chose to edit this post without noting it. It's deceptive and I can't respect that at all.

  15. I actually did own up to it on Facebook, and apologize, and remove the word. As I stated on Facebook, it was a sentence I had debated, and I decided to change the wording. When writing the post, I debated calling the decision to use cloth diapers 'easy' or 'convenient', but to do so would imply using cloth diapers is 'hard' or 'inconvenient'. But yeah, check the thread on Facebook. Owned up to it *and* apologized.

  16. Wow! It seems that some people posting here have chosen to be driven by their defensiveness regarding their own use of cloth diapers rather than the issue of the harm, including the monetary and environmental costs, caused to the community of Ottawa by disposable diapers.

    Recognizing that there are significant and real reasons why some people need disposable diapers, the vast majority of the community who currently uses disposable diapers does so without thought, or perhaps is underinformed regarding the options available and the impacts of their choices. The fact that the city is planning to provide specific garbage pick-up service to enable or ease the use of disposible diapers is simply disappointing. The city needs to be directing those resources towards informing its inhabitants of the true cost of garbage and providing realistic strategies to assist in reducing waste.

    The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe is a local business, providing quality products and services. This shop works hard to support the community around it and that's a rare quality worthy of support.

  17. Thank you for removing the word “lazy” from your original post. Honestly though, if it was your first choice, it must be your gut feeling. And (although I agree with you on the issue of cloth diapers), I would rather comment on your choice of wording.
    I want to remind you that as a children’s store, your clients are young, new mommies who (like 20% of new moms are) may be going through some rough times adjusting to momhood.
    A post like this does not make a young mom want to switch to cloth diapers to save the environment. This post offends and makes moms feel defensive in their choice to use disposables. Or, if a mom is in a very fragile state – might just make her feel like crap and a horrible mom. Are you trying to “guilt” everybody into cloth? If you are – please stop. There is enough guilt already in a young mom– we don’t need yours as well.
    It is hard in this day and age to measure up to all the “perfect” and “natural” parents out there. We are bombarded from every corner with reasons why we should parent our children in certain ways, and if we DON’T - we are “lazy” and “uninformed”.
    If you really want people to change to cloth - then stop being judgmental.

  18. First, let me say I agree with the commenter above that your original choice of words is telling.

    Second, maybe you should do as most bloggers do and put a note in the actual piece when you make changes. I don't now, nor will I ever, follow you of Facebook. You've done this in the comments which is something, but not putting it in the piece I akin to rewriting history.

    Third, you have left out completely that this service is also for people who use diapers for incontinence. Are *they* on your hit list too?

  19. Disposable diapers that have had the solids shaken out and flushed, as is required with human waste, do not smell that bad -- even when stored for pick-up for two weeks. I know this firsthand from when I used disposables and was on vacation in NS. Garbage pick-up where I was only happened in 2wk intervals. It was the middle of summer, so they could have been pretty gross had I not bee removing and flushing the solid waste from the diapers as required by law and suggested on the packaging.

    Adult, toddler, or baby -- the shaking and flushing of human waste from single-use diapers should be enforced for the safety of our city workers and the health of our water supply. Our municipal garbage handlers are not meant to be handling human waste. Poop that is flushed is being treated the way it should be treated.

  20. I don't think anyone wants to deny you your opinion. You raise some good points, and rewarding parents for diverting large amounts of waste from landfills is a good idea worth considering. I also think you have a great platform as a local business owner to promote cloth diapering to a greater number of people through the services you provide. There are many approaches to promoting a cause; you can rant or you can sell the benefits of what you're doing. The latter approach will appeal to a larger number of people, whereas a rant will just make you and the people who already agree with you feel better.

    Katherine Kelly, Ottawa ON

    PS. The environmental footprint of cloth diapers is not clearly better than disposables (http://www.grist.org/article/the-great-diaper-debate/)

  21. When you post entries like these on your store blog (as opposed to a personal blog, where you are free to have any opinion you like!), you do alienate parents that don't agree with you or parents (like myself) who refuse to partake in the "mommy wars". I don't pretend for a second that I can understand what another parent is going through, and decisions parents make are made in the context of their lives. I have shopped at your store for years, and have always found the staff incredibly helpful, friendly, and not at all judgmental. Reading posts like this on your blog and on facebook have caused me to pause and re-think supporting a store that seems to divide mothers more than it unites us. PLEASE, let's all stop judging each other and start supporting each other to be the best parents we can. Not all parents are as fortunate to have the same resources (financial, time, mental health, education, etc) and the reasons for the decisions they make may not be as simple as you think they are.

  22. Great blog with great information and resources city of ottawa info is good. simply awesome. Ottawa it support

  23. Every blog talks about diapering in relation to babies but no one has commented on the end of life use of incontinence products for the disabled or those adults that also require use of adult diapers. Every senior's or long term care facility in Ottawa or elsewhere produce multiple bags of incontinence products that go into the garbage. It would be illogical for cloth products to be used. Also, do women want to go back to using/reusing linen wraps for times of menstruation? Or when they also need liners for incontinence? If anyone can suggest an alternative I'm sure many would be for it.
    Christine October 18, 2016