Jerica Itterly

From Mission to Mothering

Ethical Trade Stories: Jerica I.

I’ve tried to be more intentional in both my purchasing habits and reducing the amount of waste I was creating.

My interest in living a more sustainable lifestyle began ten years ago, when I spent a year living at an all-girls orphanage in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The funny thing is that the girls, and the Catholic sisters who ran the orphanage, wouldn’t have described their lifestyle as “sustainable.” It was just their way of life.

Handwoven totes made of recycled plastic bags were used for the weekly groceries. Cloth napkins with everyone’s name on them were kept in the dining room and washed once per week. Bread was baked on the premises. Milk came from the farm next door, which is also where all our kitchen scraps went to be fed to the pigs or turned into compost. Symbiotic relationships abounded in the small dairy town. Anything that could be saved and turned into something else was. All new purchases were made with extreme intent and consideration. Where did it come from? Could it be purchased locally instead of at the large market in the city? What was the best quality we could afford so we didn’t have to replace it sooner than necessary? The list went on and on.

My Ethical Journey

In the years since then, I’ve tried to be more intentional in both my purchasing habits and reducing the amount of waste I was creating. It started with always bringing my reusable bags to the grocery store; then I eliminated all paper towels and paper napkins from my apartment, opting for microfiber cloths for cleaning and cloth napkins for mealtimes instead. At times I’ve dabbled in composting or making my own yogurt. Little by little I’ve gotten better about investing in quality, ethically made products instead of cheaper, less ethical versions. But by far, the largest leap of sustainable living I’ve made is deciding to use cloth diapers on my newborn last year.

My Top Three Reasons For Cloth Diapers

There were many reasons why cloth diapers appealed to me and my husband, but these were the top 3:

  1. Overall cost savings.
  2. Being able to reduce what we contribute to the landfill.
  3.  They are really cute!

Once we decided that we were going to take the plunge and commit to a few days’ supply, I wanted to make sure that we were purchasing high quality diapers from an ethical company. Yes, this did mean that each individual diaper cost more (a lot more) than some of the other options, but the benefits far outweighed the cost. The diapers are manufactured in the US. The company’s employees are paid living wages and can bring their babies to work (!). Last, most of the material is synthetic, which has a significantly lower social and environmental footprint than conventional cotton. Plus, we expect to be able to use them all through her diapering years, and for any future kiddos as well. That’s literally thousands of disposable diapers that we won’t be throwing away. At the end of the (more-diaper-changes-than-I-want-to-count) day, I couldn’t be happier with our decision. I’m encouraged to see where else we can eliminate waste and make more responsible purchases as she grows!

Jerica is a staff member at CRS.