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New reason to potty train

You're already separating cans and plastics from regular trash. Your light bulbs are CFL or LED. Each of your showerheads have been replaced with low-flow models. There's a hybrid car in the driveway. What more can you do to help improve the environment?

If you're a parent to a toddler, encouraging him or her to potty train a little earlier can be a considerable help to the planet, particularly if you're currently relying on disposable diapers.

According to statistics posted by the Real Diaper Association, 27.4 billion diapers are consumed in the U.S. each year. Around 90 percent of single-use diapering products go directly to landfills. While there is no real way to determine how long it takes a disposable diaper to decompose, estimates suggest it can take between 250 to 500 years.

While disposable diapers have environmental implications in their disposal, they also affect the environment in their manufacture. Bleached diapers contain traces of dioxin, a toxic byproduct of the bleaching process. There are also other chemicals used to increase absorbency. Chlorine, water, petroleum and other substances are also used in abundance to produce disposable diapers.

Many families now realize that cutting out diapers from their lives is a way to reduce the amount of trash considerably. With four or more disposable diapers used per day for the average toddler, around 840 diapers per child would be spared from landfills each month. How can you eliminate diaper use apart from switching to cloth varieties? Potty training.

There is no magic formula in determining when your child is ready to potty train. But if you've been putting it off because it inconveniences you but your child seems interested in the idea, it could be worth a shot.

Many experts say that a child will show readiness clues that can indicate he or she is able to try training. These include being about to get to the potty independently, being able to communicate somehow (either verbally or gesturing) that he or she has to relieve him- or herself, and the ability to pull pants up and down. Being curious about the potty and wanting to sit on it are other signs.

Many children are ready to start training at age 2. Keep in mind it can take several months, even up to a year for the child to be completely trained. This means dry and using the potty for solid and liquid waste both day and night. Most girls are diaper free in the U.S. by 36 months and most boys in the U.S. by 39 months.

If you are considering potty training, keep these pointers in mind.

* Don't try it during a stressful time, such as during a move or when you are vacationing. Wait until you have an uninterrupted stretch of time.

* Consult with friends and family about the methods they tried. Then use their opinions to develop your own plan.

* Cold turkey is often the best way to approach potty training. Once diapers are taken away, don't return to them, even if it is tempting to do so.

* Stores sell thick, absorbent underwear that can be worn with a plastic cover during the training process to protect against leaks and damage to car seats and furniture.

* Involve your child in the process. Let him choose his potty seat and underwear styles.

* Don't get discouraged too easily. It can take several months for the concept of training to really set in.

* Keep a potty nearby so that the child doesn't have to run long distances to make it to the seat.

Eliminating diapers via potty training is another way to help the environment.