Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner, published under the title "Diaper event promotes changing our world".
When you enter politics, you never know what will be asked of you. As Green Party candidate, I’ve been invited to all kinds of rallies for worthy causes, like the recent “Bubbles of Love” where my family and I blew bubbles to raise awareness of parental alienation. I also happily accept invitations to help various charitable events, so this will be my 3rd year volunteering alongside other community “celebrities” for Camp Day at a local Timmy’s.
But last month, for Earth Day, I had the strangest request yet – to witness dozens of baby bums get changed! With my own 2 daughters past that age, I thought my diapering era was over. But when organizer Jen Varty explained it was to raise awareness of cloth diapering, I couldn’t say no. A huge amount of landfill is created by disposable plastic diapers, more than 4 million thrown out in Canada every day! And since they take centuries to break down, alternatives (cloth or composting) are important to develop and promote.
Hence “The Great Cloth Diaper Change of 2011” which raised awareness by setting the Guinness World Record for the most cloth diapers changed at once. Rather than trundle babies from far and wide to one massive venue, communities across North America and around the world hosted local events where parents brought their little ones. Barrie’s was at Holly United, and featured 30 young participants. Official numbers are still being compiled, but the total record count is well over 6,000, with almost a thousand of those representing wee Canadian bums.
But as I say, with my own kids past diapering, why was I there? You probably know Guinness officials oversee each record-breaking attempt, whether pogo-stick hops or stuffing a phone booth or whatever. But with a many-location attempt, they recruit local community figures as proxy witnesses, and that task fell to me. My very serious responsibility was to ensure that organizers confirmed all babies were the right size (under 39 inches), all diapers were commercially-available standard cloth models, and all participants were counted and verified with signed documentation.
Some stats: the cost of disposable diapers is around 20 cents each, while cloth diapers (per use) cost only 12 cents. Seemingly a small difference, multiply it by an average of 6000 changes per baby, and you can save almost $500 per kid. And today’s cloth diapers are nothing like what grandma used – Velcro or snaps in place of pokey pins, super-absorbent inserts, (mostly) leak-proof covers, and great designer looks for the fashion-conscious baby! (Watch this column for a future story on some great local options.)
The best part of the event? Not a single person made the old “why are politicians like diapers” joke!
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.