It was 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, April 23, in Baltimore when 42 parents changed 42 babies’ cloth diapers at Hoppin’ Tots Children’s Gym on Falls Road as part of the global Great Cloth Diaper Change (GCDC) of 2011.
In California, it was 9:30 a.m. when a group of parents did the same thing with Judy Aagard, the GCDC's originator, who had no idea that her tiny way of celebrating Earth Day was going to grow into a Guinness Book record-setting event.
But the word had spread as cloth diaper enthusiasts and environmentalists took to the Internet and talked up the idea. In fact, the word spread globally. Parents heard about it in Iceland, Russia, Brazil and Tanzania, and came together to host their own cloth diaper promotions and help set a world record.
In Indonesia, it was 11:30 p.m., and getting late.
In Australia, it was 2:30 a.m., right in the middle of the night, and technically already the morning of Easter Sunday.
But it was the exact same moment when around the world, more than 10,000 parents simultaneously changed close to 10,000 babies’ cloth diapers in 24 countries, and the world record was set.
Anna Wong organized the Baltimore area’s contribution to the new world record.
Anna and Chris Wong of Lutherville use cloth diapers on their 18-month-old son, Colin, and are committed environmentalists. Anna Wong operates Baltimore’s only cloth diaper service and hopes to see more parents choose cloth diapers over disposables. Every year, billions and billions of disposable diapers in the U.S. alone are taken to landfills. The Baltimore County landfill is expected to be at full capacity by the year 2039. Those babies we’re diapering now are going to inherit a heck of a problem.
Wong was delighted at the chance to spread awareness about cloth diapers, and to set a world record at the same time. She joined Bayla Berkowitz, who owns a cloth diaper shop in Hampden, to host the Baltimore location of this worldwide cloth diaper change.
“There are some really hard-core enthusiasts out there,” Wong chuckled of the late-night hours the Australian diaper-changers had to keep to participate in the GCDC. The Baltimoreans were lucky with their noon time slot.
Still, Wong would have jumped at the chance to spread awareness of cloth diapers at any hour. “We do our best to do conservation and reduce our waste, and it felt like cloth diapers would fit in nicely there,” said Wong. “We try to be mindful.”
Wong’s cloth diaper service is new—she launched Green Spring Diapers just a few months ago, and she’s delighted to collect new customers who are as committed to cloth diapers as she is. "All diapers have an impact on the environment, but using cloth diapers is probably the most significant choice a parent can make,” she said.
Chris Wong did Colin’s diapering during the precise moment when it counted toward the world record, while Anna Wong minded the clock.
“Fifteen seconds now!” called out Wong to the 41 other families who gathered at Hoppin’ Tots gym to change their babies’ cloth diapers.
Wong counted down from five to one during the last seconds, and issued the command, “Change those diapers!”
That exact command was given all over the globe in an unknown number of languages at the same precise moment, and a world record was set.
To qualify for a Guinness Book world record, quite a few conditions had to be met. The diapers had to be changed in an open, public setting, with witnesses keeping watch and verifying headcounts. Babies and toddlers had to be smaller than 39 inches, and all cloth diapers had to be commercially available—not homemade. Each parent could only change one baby, and the change had to occur at 12:30 p.m. EDT sharp.
Some Canadian organizers were scrambling in Victoria, British Columbia, on the morning of the event. According to a Facebook post by Mischa Simpson on the GCDC’s page, their location suffered a break-in that very morning.
“They still managed at the last second to change the venue and change around 30 bums,” wrote Simpson.
The numbers aren’t in yet, so the world record is not verified until the official count and documentation is reviewed.
What we do know is there were thousands more clean baby bottoms by 12:31 p.m. EDT than there had been one minute before. And none of those diapers went to a landfill.