If you're like most parents you probably know that eco-friendly, or "green" disposable diapers are on average more expensive than, let's say Pampers or Huggies, and you're wondering if they're really worth the additional cost. Do you sacrifice performance for a clearer conscious? Which type performs better?
- Do traditional diapers, with their freedom to use more synthetic materials, have a performance advantage over green diapers when it comes to absorbency and other metrics?
BabyGearLab took this critical issue head on, using the data from our comprehensive testing and review of 24 top disposable diapers, because frankly, there's no way any mom would have time to do the extensive tests herself. And what we found really shocked us (no, really, it did).
You may also be interested in reading our related article titled, Cloth Diapers vs. Disposables: How and what to choose?
What Makes a Green Diaper Green?
We divided up the 24 diapers we tested into two groups: 11 green and 13 traditional. So what makes a diaper green? The key characteristic common to the green diapers was a preference for environmentally friendlier and/or healthier materials such as:
- (partially) biodegradable
Absorbency Performance Comparison
What do you really want from a diaper? To keep your baby dry, healthy and happy, right? So, we thoroughly tested the green diapers versus traditional diapers on absorbency (to learn more about our methods, you can read our article, "How We Tested Disposable Diapers"). After all our testing was complete (whew) we had learned that on average, green disposable diapers were more absorbent than traditional disposable diapers. Yes, you read that right! Whats more, they beat the pants off the traditional diapers by almost 30%!
This really surprised us, because we expected the more synthetic diapers to have a performance advantage for absorbency. But, what we found was the opposite.
The two top absorbing diapers were both green, BAMBO Nature and Nature Babycare Eco-Friendly Diapers, which scored a 9 and 10 out of 10 respectfully. In contrast, Pampers Swaddlers and Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive were the top two traditional diapers in absorbency, coming in at fourth place they both scored an 8.
On average and individually, green diapers outperformed traditional diapers on absorbency.
Leakage and Fit Tests
But, there is more to a diaper than absorbency; like leaking and fit. You want your baby's diaper to not only absorb the pee, but make sure that it fits well enough to keep the poo in there too. So, how do green diapers stack up for leakage and fit? Again, the answer surprised us. Well, truth be told, this is our second year doing this review, so we weren't totally surprised.
On average, green diapers scored higher than traditional diapers on leak and fit, by almost 20%. In fact, the #1 and #2 best-performing diapers in our leak tests, were two green diapers: Earth's Best Tender Care and Broody Chick, which scored a 9 and 8 out of 10. In comparison,the top performing traditional diapers, Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive and Pure 'n Gentle Ultra both scored a 6 of 10.
The green diapers were on average, and individually, better at controlling leaks.
Comfort Test Comparison
Comfort is a key factor in diaper performance, and we frankly didn't have an intuition as to whether green or traditional diapers would have the upper hand here. In some sense, the marketing of green diapers such as Huggies Pure & Natural, emphasizing "organic cotton" left us expecting higher comfort, and indeed green diapers, on average, earned higher scores on comfort. However, in all fairness, out of all the metrics this one really didn't have a clear favorite green or traditional. Representatives from each were scattered throughout the top 10.
Last year our review indicated green diapers as a clear winner. This year the results weren't so cut and dry.
The top 3 diapers for comfort included 2 green and 1 traditional diaper. Babyganics and Andy Pandy secured the top spots with a 9 and 8 out of 10 respectfully and Walmart's White Cloud rounded out the top 2 tying with Andy Pandy and recieving an 8. The next 3 highest ranking diapers for comfort included 1 traditional and 2 green again. Huggies Little Snugglers, Babmbo Nature, and Pure & Natural (though we feel this diaper is only pseudo-green) scored 7, 8, and 6 respectfully; sprinkling the top 6 with a mix of both diaper types. And, with the green diapers scoring an overall average of 5.3 compared to traditional diapers' overall 4.7, also seem to support a slight favor to the green but not an overwhelming win.
On average and individually, green diapers appeared more comfortable than traditional diapers.
Looking at retail prices we calculated the average price of a green diaper (on a per diaper basis) at $0.35, while a traditional diaper averaged at $0.22, which makes the green diapers on average 16% more expensive than traditional diapers. While that is a significant difference, and something to consider, it is less of a difference than last year. Depending on your budget, many green diapers are reasonably priced.
Green Diaper Prices Vary Considerably
But there is a great range here, too. The difference between the most expensive green diaper and the least expensive green diaper is considerable, ranging from $0.32 to $0.65.
The difference between the most expensive traditional diaper and the least expensive is about the same, ranging from $0.14 to $0.33.
Is 2 Cents More Too Much to Pay?
Herein lies the good news: one of the top performing green diapers, which is also one of BabyGearLab's Best Value award winners(Earth's Best Tender Care) is only a few cents more expensive per diaper than the #1 traditional diaper (Pamper's Swaddlers). Our feeling is that a few cents, which works out to less than $5/month. Add to the price a better performance and reduced risk of health issues and we think a little extra per diaper will be worth it for most people.
Our Conclusion: Go Green
Based on all the information provided above (and in companion articles), we believe it's much better to go green. Green disposable diapers outperformed disposable diapers on just about every metric except price.
However, even on price the Earth's Best Tender Care are very similarly priced to Pampers Swaddlers, and offered significantly better performance overall. Our recommendations:
- If you are currently using (or are planning to use) Pampers or Huggies varieties, and that's working within your budget, switch to (or use) Earth's Best Tender Care.
- If you are currently using (or planning to use) a green diaper and cost is not an issue for you, please do us all a favor and switch to (or use) BAMBO Nature or Attitude because both are top performers, and offer increased biodegradability.
- If you are currently using (or are planning to use) any other traditional diaper because of its lower price, switch to Cuties which offers a good performing diaper for a good price.
Click here for a side-by-side comparison chart: