Diaper dilemmas

Earth-friendly baby product hits a Chico home page—and homes

DAPPER DRAWERS <br>Chico mom and businesswoman Cyndi Pereira sells reusable Fuzzi Bunz diapers on her Web site and at two local stores, including Baby’s Boutique. Her son Joseph and little friend Nadine are big fans of the product.

Chico mom and businesswoman Cyndi Pereira sells reusable Fuzzi Bunz diapers on her Web site and at two local stores, including Baby’s Boutique. Her son Joseph and little friend Nadine are big fans of the product.

Photo By Brittni Zacher

In many ways, Cyndi Pereira already made an incalculable difference before her decision to help change the world.

Pereira and her husband, Frank, spent a year as the foster parents of two girls beginning in 2001. Then they welcomed two boys into their home for a year. During another year-long stint as foster parents of two more girls, Pereira became pregnant with her first biological child.

Joseph was born last year, and after having difficulty getting her newborn son to breastfeed, Pereira scoured Chico for free resources and advice.

“I knew there were resources that cost money, but after having Joseph on a Friday, I waited all the way until Monday to get help,” she said. “I didn’t know there were other options, and I didn’t want to pay for help.”

After painstakingly tracking down all the local resources a new mother would need and want, she thought it should all be in one spot.

So in February, the 30-year-old Pereira did just that, launching her own Web site (www.babiesinchico.com) and aligning herself with a company called Fuzzi Bunz. Founded in 1999 by a mother looking to ease her 4-month-old son’s chronic diaper rash, the company is now the leader in the burgeoning cloth diaper market.

A Fuzzi Bunz diaper consists of a waterproof outer shell that houses a soft micro-fleece layer, which sucks away moisture to keep baby dry. A removable, micro-terry insert slides into a pocket-style opening, and mini gussets along the seam hold huge messes and—except in extreme cases—prevent blowouts.

The pocket opening enables parents to customize the diaper’s absorbency. The terry insert absorbs exceptionally well, and ultra-absorbent hemp inserts are available for heavy wetters.

“I honestly think they’re easier than disposables,” Pereira said. “You don’t have the blowouts. You never have to throw away your poopy diaper. You just take it home and wash it.”

Sizes range from extra small (4-12 pounds) to extra large (45-plus pounds). Two flaps and 14 snaps ensure the proper fit. From chemical-free cloth wipes to tote bags, Fuzzi Bunz can accessorize, too. Everything is washable and available individually and in package deals.

“Once you have the cloth diapers, you might as well do cloth wipes, so no more chemicals are touching your kid, and no more throwing stuff away and no more cost,” Pereira said.

I’M A MODEL<br>Carter Murphy’s colorful Fuzzi Bunz diaper is green in more ways than one. The 9-month-old’s mommy and daddy have been using the earth-friendly product most of his life.

Photo By Sean Murphy

These days, Pereira sells Fuzzi Bunz through her Web site, which she operates when her son is sleeping. She also sells them at Baby’s Boutique in Chico and Babytopia Boutique in Paradise.

Amy Evans, owner of Baby’s Boutique and a mother of two, has seen Fuzzi Bunz fly off the shelves. They’ve gained popularity, she said, thanks to the power of word of mouth of like-minded parents and “mommy groups,” such as nursing, mommy-and-me and similar support groups.

The convenience of disposables is inarguable, but it’s no secret that our landfills are under extreme stress when it comes to them. In fact, the statistics are staggering.

In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that more than 3.4 million tons of disposable diapers end up in U.S. landfills every year. This is a significant number, given diapers are worn by a limited population.

Research conducted in 1990 estimated that more than 18 billion disposable diapers got tossed into the trash each year. That figure still rings true—50 million disposables are used every day and get dumped into U.S. landfills, where they’ll sit for up to 500 years due to conditions that inhibit the biodegrading process.

“In my opinion, 500 years of anything in a landfill is too much,” Evans said.

Reusable brands also can reduce financial waste. According to Theresa Rodriguez Farrisi’s Diaper Changes: The Complete Diapering Book and Resource Guide, parents can spend anywhere from $3.50 to $9.60 a week laundering cloth diapers themselves or splurge $12 to $15 for a diaper service. In contrast, a week’s worth of disposable diapers can cost $17; that’s a difference of more than $1,000 over the course of three years.

When it comes to Fuzzi Bunz, the diapers sell individually for about $18. Evans estimates parents who use them spend about $500 per child, between birth and potty training (not including reusable accessories such as liners and wipes). Comparatively, she says parents who use disposables will spend about $3,000 over the same timeframe. Factoring in the yearly cost to launder the reusable diapers (about $500), that’s still a substantial savings.

The responsibility of existing on a fragile planet has swayed thousands to cloth and reusables. Evans says her top reason for offering Fuzzi Bunz—and other cloth diapers— at Baby’s Boutique is to promote responsible parenting.

“I think it’s a benefit to our kids; it’s something that we’re teaching them, even just by diapering them, like, ‘Look, this is how I did it,’ “ she said.

Pereira’s personal approach (she regularly does consultations) has helped bolster her business. Her loaner program—in which she lets parents test out six diapers—is extremely popular. She’s also quick and accessible with answers and suggestions by e-mail and the phone.

The overall feedback to her service has been very positive, she says: “Of the thousands I’ve sold since February, I haven’t had an issue I couldn’t help [parents] solve.”

Pereira is not alone in her decision to tread lightly on this earth: Reusable diapers are big business and growing. At Baby’s Boutique, Evans has seen the gamut of non-disposable diapers, from cloth to flushable.

“Moms who want to go that eco-route, and even use disposables part-time, they feel much better about themselves and their parenting,” she said.