These parents and babies were part of a group of more than 40 who converged in Mt. Airy last Saturday to participate in an international effort to beat last year's world record for simultaneous cloth diaper changing. (Photo by Pamela Rogow)

by Pamela Rogow

Last Saturday, April 21, 40 official contestants and their babies (39 inches long or less) converged in Mt. Airy as co-participants in an international effort to beat last year’s world record for simultaneous cloth diaper changing. They came from as far away as Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and Secane, Pennsylvania to share the precise moment, 12:30 pm EST, when thousands of competitors, registered at 305 sites in 16 countries, performed their largely pinless cloth enfoldments.

This was not a race but an official moment in time. No brands were favored, but towels were verboten. Results will not be announced for at least a week, as Guinness headquarters confirms and analyzes the data. Still, we sleep better, confident that last year’s total of 5,046 changes (at 127 locations in five countries) will be bested, and the world will be a better place for that.

Saturday was also the day before Earth Day, now rightfully claimed for the World Cloth Diaper Change competition, helping to save the planet, one diaper at a time. The babies ranged from two weeks to three years. The Guinness event grew out of the desire of Judy Aagard to organize a family event for Earth Day, in Campbell, California.

Five years ago, Guinness World Records created a competition for cloth diaper changing. Believe it or not (oh wait, that’s Ripley’s phrase), Guinness took this seriously. And given how young parents are generally happy to have each other’s company, proud of their dexterity, alarmed at the impact of disposable diapers and impressed with numerous cloth diaper options, Guinness mobilized an annual event that works from the bottom up.

This year was the first time that Philadelphia officially entered, hosted by baby and kids’ gear company, The Nesting House. The Mt. Airy shop set the competition at nearby Summit Church, where the gym floor was scrubbed to proper nursery levels. The Nesting House, home of more than 50 diaper lines (hemp, Velcro tabs, snaps, wool, cotton, rice paper liners, pre-fold with pins, etc.), is a recognized center for non-disposable diapers. It carefully followed rules for judging, witnessing, competing and documentation. Guinness is strict. In fact, last year, 76 host locations were disqualified for not fulfilling all the rules.

Competing was free to participants, being on time was a must, and no siblings could be on site except with another care-giver. An impartial judge ran the event. A photographer documented it. A diaper salute preceded the actual change. “This is not your grandmother’s diaper,” The Nesting House’s co-owner, Meredith Jacoby, said. “People buy cloth diapers for three reasons: To save money, because they are concerned about the environment or for health/allergy reasons such as avoiding exposure to bleach and gels on sensitive baby skins. This event promotes cloth diaper use for ecological reasons especially.”

Indeed, at an average rate of six diapers a day, from birth to about age three, one child will use around 5,000 diapers. Disposables create about 2,200 pounds of solid, very slow-to-degrade waste, enough to fill a 100-square-foot bedroom, top to bottom. Disposables are the third largest consumer item in landfills. And the carbon footprint for manufacturing the diapers is high, also.

In Philadelphia, the doors opened at 11:30 am. At the same time around the world, ignoring different time zones, it was a go. In several countries, parents arose in the middle of the night to compete. Weneededaminimumof25peopleforGuinnesstocountus,saidMeredith.,andtwoofficialwitnesses.We put numbers on the grid we painted on the floor, for each parent. There was a loud signal to indicate when the competition started.”

Following are comments from some of the participants at the Mt. Airy site:

•Kristi Conover, mother of Micah, 3, drove in from York, Pennsylvania: “We’ve gotten into the whole G thing — genuine, good, green.”

•Amber Guery of Hainesport, NJ, mother of Joshua, 5 months: “I was in Brazil last year and didn’t get to do this. So I’m here today!”

•Amy Guinden of East Norriton, mother of Hunter, 6 months: “I need to check it off my bucket list. Now it’s done!”

•Samera Gray of Bensalem, 10-month-old Logan’s mom: “To hang out with other cloth diaper people.”

•Chris Bujack of Mt. Airy, father of Harry, 17 months: “We like cloth diapers. We think disposables are not as good as you can get with modern cloth.”

Following the competition, Mt. Airy musician Chana Rothman led a children’s music concert, and platters of healthy food were served, including bananas for the toothless, desserts and coffee from the High Point Café, Weavers Way Co-op and Food For All (gluten free). The Big Blue Marble Bookstore and GSByMe custom embroidery provided raffle prizes.

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