My husband is a bag piper. Sometimes on a weekend night, he and a few other pipers will play at local celtic-themed bars. Saturday was just such a night, and had a most interesting conversation with the other piper sometime around midnight. Did you wonder what those tough guys in kilts do when they walk out of the bars? They talk about cloth diapers. This is how my guy does cloth diaper advocacy.
A friend of mine (who has just re-entered the role of fatherhood in his 40s) was telling me about his first few days back in world of babies. Aside from the usual demands of a newborn, he seemed to be suffering from the sticker shock of having already used 80 disposable diapers before the end of the first week. His family budget is tight, and as we sat and talked in his car he was calculating out loud his monthly diaper costs. Even using the cheapest, generic brand he figured he would be spending at least $40 a month on diapers, and for two more years. This may have been the first time he had the space to do that math since the birth of his daughter, and he seemed quite alarmed.
I was gently reassuring.
“You know you only need to spend a fraction of that money, right?” He looked confused.
“How is that?”
I told him that we had never used throwaway diapers for our children, that I had done 4 years’ worth of diaper laundering, and that it was really easy. Clearly, the idea that he could use real, cloth diapers had never occurred to him, but as the thought sank in, I could see the appeal growing before my eyes.
“There is a little upfront cost,” I told him, “but once you have 2 or 3 dozen flat diapers and a few covers, the only cost to you is a couple of extra loads of wash per week.”
Then I swooped in for the attack.
“You already drive a hybrid car – why not go with cloth diapers, too?” (He loves his Prius more than anything, and I knew that would strike a chord!)
Finally, I told him about the very active local group of RDA members and all the resources that could help him get started.
I left him mulling over an improved short-term financial future and a better long-term health future for his new baby and his environment.
Posted on 16 May '11 by Lori, under Advocacy. 4 Comments.
Not physically, but as represented by Jill Chuckas of Crafty Baby, Kate Glynn of A Child’s Garden and Impish, and Randy Hertzler of euroToyShop of the Handmade Toy Alliance board. I’m so excited by what they do that I sometime worry that I’ll look like a stalker. I promise I’m not. I’m just astonished and relieved at how well HTA has unraveled the knot of CPSIA (the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a law that has far-reaching effects on anyone in the children’s products industry). I don’t doubt that my reaction builds from the emotional situation created from knowing my business is on the line.
When it all shakes out, I am enormously proud of the work of the Handmade Toy Alliance. I’m moved by the testimony of Jill Chuckas today at the Senate Commerce Sub-Committee oversight hearing regarding the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
I know how hard they have worked over the past two years to become the excellent citizens they are, learning how the sausage of legislation and regulation is made and determining the best way to influence that process. I try to support them in what they do because I’ve been in a similar situation, and I know how disheartening it can be when you do your best to reach an ambitious goal and the people you are working for are still frustrated. Oh, yes, I’m still frustrated, but I’m not frustrated with HTA. They are doing a fine job of harnessing the energy of frustration (& worry & anger & despair) in ways that work positively toward the desired end: laws and regulations with which we have any chance at all of complying.
HTA is at the table. HTA has helped all of us who make and sell handmade products to understand how we can have our concerns heard. We aren’t running in circles*. We are focused on real fixes to CPSIA that will help everyone arrive at the shared goals of safe products for children and compliant micro businesses.
Handmade Toy Alliance seeks 5 possible solutions to CPSIA:
- Component-based testing.
- Exemptions from testing for materials known by science not to pose a lead or phthalate contamination hazard.
- Harmonization with European Standards.
- Exempt permanent batch labeling of products for hand crafted and micro businesses that have small batch runs.
- Revisit the retroactivity of the CPSIA based on a risk-based approach.
American Apparel & Footwear Association recommends 8 ways to fix CPSIA
- Ensure that all product safety decisions are based on risk and supported by data
- Give the CPSC more flexibility to interpret CPSIA
- Ensure that new regulations do not contradict existing ones.
- Ensure prospective application of all rules
- Establish deadlines that permit and encourage compliance.
- Publicize all pending regulatory developments
- Avoid “One Size Fits All Approaches”
- There is more to the CPSC than CPSIA
And, always remember:
*When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.
Posted on 2 December '10 by Lori, under Legal. 1 Comment.
Color by COLOURlovers
I walked by my spools and spools of colorful thread and thought, “Thread, I love you. You make my work a pleasure. Thank you!” Do you ever just stop to see what you have surrounded yourself with and find yourself thankful?
Color by COLOURlovers
Then, I ran and made palettes for them all.
Color by COLOURlovers
Posted on 30 November '10 by Lori, under Color. No Comments.
The price of cotton has doubled over where it was 12 months ago, from 73¢/lb to over 156¢/lb. Prices of commodities like cotton fluctuate over time, but these are the highest prices seen since tracking began in the 19th century due to issues in each of the top four cotton-producing countries.
I’ve been talking about the cost of cotton for months, but this week I heard two stories about it on the news. The stories are rising into general consciousness, and they will probably continue to rise.
Even aside from the true cost of cotton in the sense of disgusting social justice issues in cotton production in many parts of the world or the alarming environmental and social impact of conventional cotton farming and the economic impact of the subsidies that support it, awareness of the rising cost of cotton has touched the general public. It becomes a mainstream issue when the cost of T-shirts and jeans rise or clothes get very small and lightweight for a season, and why not?
For those of us who use cotton as one of the basic materials of our production, we’ve seen the shock of low supply and higher prices coming for a while. I’ve been poking other manufacturers in the cloth diaper trade association to figure out what we can do and say for most of the year.
First, yarn was more difficult to get. So, manufacturers found that supplies of fabrics were lower than usual. Then, stories began showing up in business publications. In about the time it takes for apparel to go from the planning and production to the shelf, it seems we’ve hit the mainstream. Local news shows are running stories on cotton across the country as retailers are stocking shelves for the holiday season and customers wonder why they are seeing changes. And, now, the public alarm is feeding commodity speculation as well as shopping speculation.
In an industry that depends so much on cotton, as the cloth diaper industry does, you could see the results in demand or cost of cotton diapers.
I most certainly love hemp as a diaper fabric, but it has drawbacks that lead us away from hemp blends many years ago. Don’t get me started on the extruded goo that becomes bamboo viscose. Now and for at least a century, reusable cloth diapers have meant cotton diapers. A colleague of mine who is slightly older than I am but has been part of her family diaper service since she was a young child always says “cotton diapers” rather than “cloth diapers.” For her, cotton = diapers.
Despite a boatload (actually, many, many foreign-made boatloads) of petro-chemical-based reusable diapers, I don’t buy into the idea of reusable polyesters, laminates, and other plastics as sustainable diapering solutions. No one has yet successfully made a cloth diaper line using bio-polymers, and there are plenty of people questioning whether there can ever be a so-called sustainable bio-polymer given the nasty processing required to convert any material into a polymer, I don’t see that as a viable option. Using finite resources like oil and gas to create products for which there are perfectly good, functional, amazing, and wonderful renewable fiber materials available is just nonsensical.
But what about now? Cotton will recover—probably. In the meantime, will manufacturers pass on the costs of cotton as it continues to rise? Will consumers buy cotton products as the prices of jeans and T-shirts go up? Will there be jeans and T-shirts to buy?
Closer to home, will there be cotton diapers to buy? I have heard from colleagues that stocks of cotton diapers are lower than they have been for a long time.
For Fuzbaby and our sister site Firefly Diapers, we use only organic cotton, which flows through a surprisingly separate stream from the conventional cotton referred to above. This has, though, been a more difficult year than usual to get enough cotton. I’ve been pushing and pulling to keep diapers in stock. Though I’ve succeeded most of the time, the periods when I can’t get the cotton I need have been longer and longer—longer than I’ve experienced before in 11 years. As conventional cotton supply falls short of demand, there will undoubtedly be more pressure pushing organic prices up as well.
For now, we’re OK. For now, we have beautiful organic cotton that we’ve dyed and hand-painted. For now, we have in stock our beautiful, Made in USA, made with 100% organic cotton elemental diapers. Keep your eyes on cotton prices, though, since this could send a big ripple through the cloth diaper industry.
Image © Phartisan | Dreamstime.com
Posted on 19 November '10 by Lori, under Fibers. No Comments.
You may have heard within the past couple of years about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). While much of the law is already in effect, we are still in a period when enforcement of 3rd-party testing for lead has been stayed. That stay of enforcement ends February 10, 2011.
I still have concerns about the impact of CPSIA on small businesses like mine. I no longer have to prove that organic cotton and organic wool is lead free, since these materials have been exempted both dyed and undyed. But, without amendments to the law that either allow component testing or provide an exemption for the smallest business, the effect will still be devastating come February. Component testing would mean that we could test a batch of snaps, for example, rather than testing one of every product that is made from that batch of snaps. When you create one-of-a-kind products, destroying one of every lot in order to test it is obviously ridiculous. I guess I could create two of everything then pay $50-100 per lot to have it tested. That kind of math would kill that business model soon enough, though. Or, I could create Fuzbaby products with no closures. How would a Snappi look on an appliquéd wool cover? It might happen.
The goal of the law was safe products for children. I like that goal. I share that goal. I question, though, whether the way that law is set to be implemented by the Consumer Product Safety Commission is the best way to reach that goal because it puts compliance out of reach of businesses like mine while granting favors to the largest children’s product manufacturers.
Because I see what can and probably will happen, I am a big supporter of the work of the Handmade Toy Alliance. I’m a proud member because I benefit from the good work of small business owners like me who have learned how the system of laws, regulations, and media relations works, and they have been pouring themselves into the work for the past two years.
If you want to support handmade children’s products, please consider either making a donation to the Handmade Toy Alliance or pledging to buy handmade toys, clothes, and other children’s products this year.
Posted on 7 November '10 by Lori, under Legal. No Comments.