Spit That Out!

The Overly Informed Parent's Guide to Raising Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt by Paige Wolf

Blogging about green guilt, eco-anxiety, and finding practical, reasonable ways to keep our families safe and healthy.
April 22nd, 2014

CrossFit Festivus Games 2014 Wrap Up

Back in March I wrote about why I signed up to do the Crossfit Festivus Games as an Intermediate (i.e. the highest level you can compete). And now I have completed my goal of finishing dead last. So why don’t I feel better about it?

I came into this knowing that it would be some stiff competition. Basically, anyone who isn’t an Olympic Gold Medalist can qualify themselves as an Intermediate and no one is going to stop them. Sure, a good amount of the competitors were perfectly appropriate, Crossfitting for maybe a year or two. But for the most part these ladies came from a background of championship rowing or college rugby. They were almost all under 30. I am pretty sure none of them had children. And they most likely did not spend their childhoods sitting on a bench eating cake.

But let’s just dive right in to game day:

WOD #1: Two minutes of max wall balls (#14). (One Min Rest) Two minutes of max double unders. (One Min Rest) Two minutes of max burpees:

I was glad to get this one over with first because it was the one that could make or break me. The wall balls and burpees were probably going to be the same for most people across the board – it was all about the double unders. I have finally gotten fairly good at consecutive double unders, but they are always hit or miss. I have had great streaks of almost 30, and other days when I can barely string together two. This time I did about average for me – 40 in two minutes. My total was 91 and that put me at 35/39 competitors. I was pleased.

Faster than a speeding bullet.

Faster than a speeding bullet.

WOD #2&3: Row 1000 meters for time and then do max weight Clean:

I was completely unconcerned about the row because when I did Festivus in 2012 as a beginner I had to row 2K. It was a nightmare, but at 9:43 I placed in the middle of the pack. A 1K row under those circumstances could have potentially been 4:20. But it wasn’t. It was 4:38. Which I didn’t think sounded so bad, until I saw that it was among the lowest scores on a national level. 

On to the clean. So, this is where it really gets sticky for me. From the beginning I have only attended technical “CrossFit” classes about once per week. The rest of the time I am doing the “Intensity” program, which is cardio-heavy and includes most of the CrossFit movements but does not use barbells. So I hadn’t really had a ton of experience cleaning weight (which basically means bringing it from the ground to a racked position on the shoulders in one swift movement). So this is where I spent the majority of my practice for this event.

I remember about six months ago when I didn’t think I could clean 65 pounds and the head trainer yelled at me to just do it. And I did. But that was where I left off. So since learning of this event I had about two months to increase the weight significantly. And with a lot of help and practice I was able to reach 90 pounds before game day. That sounds like a lot – and believe me, it is. (If you are a dude reading this and you don’t lift weights regularly, I challenge you to go walk into a gym and try it. Not really though because you will definitely hurt your back without training). But the ladies here at Festivus were warming up with 135 pounds. I managed to make just barely make my 90 pound clean which stuck me, once again, at the bottom of the barrel (perspective, Paige, perspective).

WOD #4: 8 Minutes AMPAP (As Many Reps as Possible) 10 Kettlebell Swings/20 sit-ups/30 boxovers

This was my jam. Over the past few months I made 16KG kettlebell swings my bitch and sit-ups have always been my best friend. As for box overs, well, in my last post I described this made-up movement to the athletic equivalent of vacuuming. Let’s add to that being spun around in a circle 30 times and then vacuuming. Because really it is just an exercise in equilibrium, of which I have not much. But it was enough for me to place 35/39 again – and I am not entirely sure how anyone could go much faster without tripping over their own feet.


My bell is bigger than hers.

When I first signed up for this competition I wasn’t even sure I should be competing at the Intermediate level. I only even met three of the six general qualifying factors. So my goal was simply to finish with the full expectation of coming in dead last.

So I think it was the false hope of doing better than others in half of the workouts that made me really want the glory of “not being last.” Kind of like that scene in Silver Linings Playbook when they are stoked to get a 5.0 in the dance contest.



But there is a silver lining. I took a look at the national scores, and guess what? I’m not last! In fact, I am 919 out of 933. And five of those women actually showed up for all of the workouts!

I know, I know. None of that should matter. I am better, faster, and stronger than I ever imagined I would be when I started this craziness two and a half years ago. And I went through a pregnancy and childbirth. I should be really proud.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a warrior. I have birthed two children and now I can do a pull-up! But sometimes I also feel like this sad middle-aged woman the trainers take pity on. I don’t want to feel like “Rudy” finally allowed to score a touchdown (or whatever, I never actually saw that movie). I am too Type-A for my own good and want to be the best at everything. (Except for driving. I am entirely at peace with being a really bad driver).

I’m not sure what it will take to make me feel “good enough” in the fitness world. We monitor the “likes” on our gym selfies and feel quietly superior in a world of couch sitters. But we also know, to steal a phrase from another blogger, fitness has become the new mid-life crises. Marathons are the new 5Ks. Triathlons are the new marathons. Why do one pull-up when you could do 100? What is your excuse?

Articles are being written toting childbirth as the new “performance enhancement drug.” So clearly I should be at my peak!

But the only thing I can do is keep plugging ahead, day after day. Bigger. Better. Faster. Stronger. And back for Festivus again in 2015.

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April 17th, 2014

How Stonyfield Greek Fuels My Marathon of Life

My husband is an actual marathon runner. (OK, half marathons for now). Me? I did one 5K and that was far enough for me to run in one go. However, I am all about mixing up long runs with jumping, climbing, and crawling through the mud. I guess I’m more of a roller coaster than Ferris wheel kind of girl.

But I have seen the kind of effort and determination it takes to run a marathon. And, of course, this year’s Boston Marathon will be even more meaningful and poignant for the runners who take part in memory of last year’s devastating bombing.

As the demand for spots in the marathon was beyond capacity, Stonyfield, official yogurt sponsor of the 2014 Boston Marathon, will be sending 10 runners who missed the cut off. And, of course, Stonyfield will be handing out hundreds of thousands of cups of organic yogurt on race day to runners, their families, and volunteers.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 7.16.30 PM

The New England-based company felt compelled to participate in this year’s race to show their deep love and support for their community. And they show their love for community every day but not compromising on whole, organic ingredients.

For my personal marathon of life – running a PR firm, keeping up with my blog, raising two children, and maintaining an unwavering dedication to my CrossFit routine – yogurt has become a surprising part of keeping the family fueled. My four-year-old knows how to take his Stonyfield yogurt from the fridge first thing in the morning while letting mom get some extra sleep. My 10-month-old devours yogurt like it’s her job. And I find that the best thing to get me over the 2 p.m. hunger lag is a container of Stonyfield Greek Cafe Latte.

In fact, I have recently caught both the baby and the dog red-handed with their brother’s greek yogurt. These kids are definitely #StonyfieldSuperFans!


Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

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April 14th, 2014

Adopt-A-Classroom: Teachers Change Lives

Being a teacher can be a thankless job. Living in the midst of one of the largest school district crises our country has ever seen, I truly feel for my friends who give so much of themselves in the classrooms. I try to offer small ways to help both students and teachers, because I know that teachers change lives.

Teachers spend money every year out of their own pocket, especially in underfunded areas like Philadelphia. According to one recent survey, teachers spent an average of $448 of their own money each year – and that seems like a low estimate compared to what I have seen. It is often up to the parents and teachers to just provide paper! And I know when my son starts elementary school I will be dropping of cases of recycled paper just so the kids have something to write on.

Office Depot has partnered with Adopt-A-Classroom – a nonprofit organization that connects donors with teachers to enhance the learning environment for students – to raise awareness about all teachers do in the lives of their students. You can help these teachers doing innovative things by donating to a teacher highlighted in these videos of a teacher in your local community.

This is David Vixie, a teacher in Paradise, California. He believes that learning should extend outside the walls of the classroom. David teaches his students to learn from experience and provides them with new adventures every class period. His goal is to help students think differently, and come to their own conclusions.

You can donate to a teacher or register your classroom on the Teachers Change Lives Web site.

With school districts across the country in dire straights, every penny counts – and can help a stressed out teacher fuel life-changing work.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


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April 7th, 2014

When Medical Mistrust Deters From Life-Saving Vaccinations

With all the information coming at us about GMOs in food, hormone-disrupting chemicals in soap, and toxic flame-retardants in pajamas, it’s no wonder we don’t trust the government.

The FDA isn’t protecting us from toxic chemicals. The EPA is watered down by political and corporate lobbyists. There are yoga mat chemicals in our bread and Flintstone vitamins are little more than high fructose corn-syrup in a Barney Rubble jelly mold. We are trained to read every ingredient and do hours of research before buying a bath toy.

So it’s easy to see how the anti-vaccination has taken on such steam with green, holistic, and health-minded parents. There’s just one problem – this is an instance where we really should listen to our doctors.

One hundred years ago, your life expectancy would have been in your 40s. Vaccines are a big reason why human life expectancy has doubled over the course of the last century. Childhood diseases used to be so common that most families had experienced at least one childhood death due to diseases. Many of those life-threatening diseases have been controlled or even eliminated through immunizations.

I’ve always kept quiet about the vaccination issue. I have friends who truly believe that their child’s autism is a result of vaccines. Who am I to judge the belief of a parent desperate for answers to such a devastating diagnosis? There but for the grace of God go I.

But what I began to realize is that this is one parenting decision that doesn’t just affect your own children. Whether or not we breastfeed or cloth diaper or work outside the home or feed our kids Fruit Loops – these “mommy wars” need not be public debates as they only affect the family at hand. But not vaccinating your children could lead to the illness or even death of other children.

When Rachel Sarnoff, a well-respected blogger in the green parenting community and former head of Healthy Child Healthy World came out as pro-vaccine, it gave me the courage to add my voice to such a controversial topic. A statement that may well turn off some of the very readers I hope to engage.

In Sarnoff’s Huffington Post article (which also quotes the debate on my Facebook page), she says, “I believe that we can still support environmental health while remaining pro-vaccine. Isn’t the green movement about questioning preconceptions, seeking out good science, and making better decisions?”

And this is where she hits the nail on the head. At the crux of environmentalism is an unwavering belief in science. We call out the climate change deniers who eschew science and we rally against the fact that only a small percentage of the 80,000 chemicals used in consumer products have been tested for their impacts on human health and the environment.

In the case of vaccines, the scientific analysis has been rigorous and transparent. The CHOP Vaccine Education Center breaks down each vaccine by ingredient with an explanation for any key concerns. I’m not going to sugar coat it – some of those ingredients do look pretty funky. That’s why the ingredient analysis on this Web site is so key. Because I am always concerned about bio-accumulation, I avoid many questionable chemicals in my daily life through my food, personal care, and product choices. So if an inscrutable amount of formaldehyde, which exists in detectable quantities in the circulation of all humans, is necessary for the efficacy of a polio vaccine, I can accept that with a grain of salt (which is also a chemical by the way).

The argument we often hear is, “If everyone is so confident that vaccinations work, then why are you concerned about others not vaccinating? If they truly work, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”

Yes, for the majority of people, these vaccines provide lifelong immunity. However, in some people immunity wanes or they become immuno-compromised later in life.  Now, when the disease begins to reappear due to less people being vaccinated, those whose immunity has waned are now susceptible to the disease.

It makes sense to be skeptical of everything. Plastic leeches chemicals into our sippy cups but also saves the lives of premature babies in incubators. Antibiotics are overused and misused – but penicillin can still save the life of a child with pneumonia. Chemistry and modern medicine is not all bad. We just need to separate the facts. And believe me, I know how hard that is.

But here are some easy facts:

In 2013, the Journal of Pediatrics found no connection between vaccines and autism.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine found no connection between vaccines and autism.
In 2010, Andrew Wakefield, who first proposed the connection between vaccines and autism, was stripped of his medical license for fraud.

What really hurts the conscious parenting movement overall is the completely nonsensical articles floating around the internet. A Facebook friend of mine recently posted this article: “More medical tyranny: Father sentenced to life in prison after daughter dies following eight vaccinations in one day.”

Google Ja’Nayjah Sanders and learn the truth: Sanders was sentenced to 50 to 100 years for first degree child abuse in the beating death of his daughter. There is absolutely nothing in this story even remotely connected to vaccines.

Take what is essentially an urban legend at face value and you are acting just as ignorant as the people who believe Obama still hasn’t shown his birth certificate.

I do believe that environmental exposures are linked to autism, and that is why I work so hard to minimize everyday toxins in the instances where I have some semblance of control. But I also believe in considering when the benefit outweighs the risk. It’s why I took anti-anxiety medication during pregnancy. It’s why I let my kids use the Purell at gymnastics class if I’m out of Clean Well. It’s why I will borrow some Coppertone sunscreen if my kids are getting burnt at the playground and I’ve forgotten my organic SPF.

But when it comes to vaccines, our pediatricians are not trying to poison our children. They have seen the devastation of whooping cough and polio and tuberculosis first hand.

Stacy De-Lin, MD, is a family medicine physician practicing in a low-income clinic in New York City:

“I can promise you ‘big pharma’ has never given me a dollar, or even taken me out to dinner. This is what is so confusing to us as doctors: what kind of monsters would we have to be to know a drug is dangerous and inject thousands of children with it each year? Every pediatrician and family medicine doctor I know vaccinates their own children. This is an important fact to consider as well.”

Anna Gallagher Tierney, MD, is a pediatrician and mother of three.

“I receive no incentive to vaccinate – I get no payment whether you chose to vaccinate or not. My practice does not refuse those who choose not to vaccinate.  This is something I struggle with whether I agree or not. Vaccines are so fundamental to my practice that I wonder how a family would ever trust me about anything from the mundane like potty training to the judicious use of antibiotics, which I prescribe rarely and only when truly clinically indicated.”

It is also reassuring to see that Alan Greene, renowned pediatrician and author of Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care minces no words on the subject: “Immunizations save lives. Immunizations remain one of the greatest discoveries in human history, having saved innumerable lives and prevented measureless suffering.”

The World Health Organization presents some of the myths and facts about vaccines here.

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has also created an extremely informative Web site on The History of Vaccines.

Opting out of vaccines has serious consequences for all of our children on a global level. Let’s take a look at the facts and allow modern medicine to save lives.

Infographic courtesy of Mommygreenest.com

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April 2nd, 2014

Giveaway: New Stonyfield YoBaby, YoToddler and YoKids Pouches

My nine-month-old daughter is a mess. I struggle with whether it is greener to feed her with a bowl and spoon -  using umpteen wipes for clean-up while creating massive amounts of laundry – or just keep it clean and simple with a pouch and attachable reusable spoon.

One of my favorite family brands, Stonyfield Organic, announces the launch of the first-ever refrigerated organic yogurt pouch.  Available in nine delicious flavors (even for adults), these pouches make eating yogurt fun, easy, and mess-free.

Pouches are especially neater when on-the-go. Plus they are re-sealable, and even babies who can’t use spoons can eat from them as easily as from a bottle. YoBaby & YoToddler are made with the whole milk pediatricians recommend for proper growth and development. YoToddler has real fruits and veggies blended in, plus Omega-3 DHA, ranked by moms as a high priority benefit. All products are made with pure, organic ingredients, and never any high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. Plus they contain calcium, protein, vitamin D and live active cultures.

And did I mention yogurt is one of only about six things my four-year-old will eat?

Giveaway: Enter to win 10 coupons for free Stonyfield Pouches.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

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March 28th, 2014

Is Proctor & Gamble in a Toxic Bed with US Green Building Council?

This March, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the Tri State Sustainability Symposium, an event produced by the Delaware Valley Green Building Council. The expo hall showcased the latest in green architectural innovation and products designed to help meet LEED certification.

I passed a table with a small display of Clean Well hand sanitizer, a product I used. I noticed that the sponsor of the table was Proctor & Gamble, and remarked that I didn’t know Clean Well was a subsidiary of P&G and it was nice to see them displaying a more sustainable product. (Note: They didn’t correct me, and I found out later that Clean Well has absolutely NO AFFILIATION with Proctor & Gamble).

Then I looked a little further down the table.

Spic and Span. Comet. Mr. Clean. Febreze.

P&G Cleaning Products

“Um, why are these here?” I asked the men working the booth.

“What do you mean? These products are green guaranteed!”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“Well, you can take a look at this full-color glossy brochure. Our products are clean and green. In fact, Tide was green before green was even a thing!”

“Was it? And what ingredients might I find in these products? They aren’t listed on the bottle.”

“Take a look at our Web site. Everything is perfectly safe! Look, we have this new Febreze Allergen Reducer!”

“Um, Febreze is really just phthalates in a can. It actually aggravates asthma and personally gives me a migraine.”

“Well, look, we’re just here to let attendees know about the green guarantee. Take a look at our Web site!”

So I did. But first I sent a tweet out to DVGBC:

Come on guys!! Why is Tide, Febreze, and Spic + Span being showcased at @tristatess? #tristates http://instagram.com/p/lPzteENfzO/#

And at my panel I made a joke about probably not being invited back next year because of my social media outburst. The good folks at DVGBC took it in stride and one of their organizers asked me a very good question:

“You call out the Proctor & Gamble display. But shouldn’t we applaud the small steps instead of accusing them of greenwashing?”

My response was simple. It’s about transparency. They may put the product in a plant-based bottle but it’s really what’s inside that counts. You can put solar panels on your factory but if you’re cranking out toxic sludge, who are you kidding? At least put the ingredients on the bottle and stop keeping “fragrance” a proprietary secret!

Intrigued by this, I did go to the Web site www.greenguarantee.com, which led me to a startling revelation.

P&G is a member of the US Green Building Council. P&G Professional’s core cleaning products can help every customer qualify for the Green Cleaning Point in LEED Certification. All of our disinfectants, floor finishes, and floor strippers count, including:

  • Spic and Span 3-in-1
  • Comet Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner
  • Mr. Clean Professional Finished Floor Cleaner
  • P&G Pro Line Disinfecting Floor Cleaner
  • P&G Pro Line New Directions Floor Finish
  • P&G Pro Line Floor Finish Stripper
  • P&G Pro Line Clean Quick Quat Sanitizer (editor note: what the hell is a quat?)
  • PG Pro Line Carpet Extraction Cleaner / Sanitizer
  • Mr. Clean Toilet Bowl Cleaner/Restroom Disinfectant”

So that explains why they were there. But opens a whole new slew of questions:

@usgbc Please help me understand how toxic @ProcterGamble cleaning products count toward earning LEED certification. http://www.pgpro.com/page/leed/


So now I am determined to know how the cleaning part of LEED certification is literally watered-down bullshit.

P&G’s site claims, “As of this time there are no government agency or 3rd party ecolabel standards for green disinfectants.”

Conversely, at least ten states and the District of Columbia have adopted policies in recent years with the goal of advancing green cleaning practices in schools and reducing exposure to chemicals. As an example, Connecticut’s law prohibits the use of cleaning products in schools unless the products meet national or international certification program standards that have been approved by the state. The department has issued an environmentally-preferable purchasing policy approving products certified through the Green Seal or EcoLogo programs.

As an example, I took a look at some of the GreenSeal standards:

The undiluted product shall not contain the following ingredients:

  • 2-Butoxyethanol
  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates
  • Phthalates
  • Heavy metals, including but not limited to lead, hexavalent chromium, or selenium both in the elemental form or compounds.
  • Ozone-depleting compounds
  • Optical brighteners

Manufacturers shall disclose the use of any added fragrances on their safety data sheets (SDSs) and product labels. Any ingredient added to a product as a fragrance must follow the Code of Practice of the International Fragrance Association.

The undiluted product shall not contain any ingredients that are carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins.

The undiluted cleaning product shall not be corrosive to the skin, as tested using the OECD Guidelines for Testing Chemicals or the Human Skin Construct systems.

The undiluted product shall also not be corrosive to the eye as tested using the bovine cornea opacity and permeability test after a 10-minute exposure.

The undiluted product shall not be a skin sensitizer, as tested by the OECD Guidelines for Testing Chemicals.

So, if P&G were to adhere to these environmental standards – which they claim do not exist – here’s what we’d be looking at according to their own MSDS on Spic & Span Disinfecting 3-in-1 All-Purpose Spray & Glass Cleaner:

Potential health effects:

Eyes:  Corrosive. Causes severe or permanent damage.

Skin:  Corrosive effects.

Inhalation:  Vapors and spray mist may irritate throat and respiratory system and cause coughing.

Ingestion: Irritating to mucous membranes. Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Large ingestions may cause dizziness, incoordination, and headache.

 Potential environmental effects:

May cause long-term adverse effects in the environment.

Chronic effects: Hazardous by OSHA criteria

Take a deeper look at some of the listed ingredients in Environmental Working Group’s database and there are immediate red flags for aminoethanol and benzylcoco alkyldimethyl, the two main ingredients.

I did a quick search for a few other P&G cleaning products on EWG and found big, fat “F” ratings for Comet Cleanser with Bleach and Mr. Clean Mildew Stain Remover Spray.

P&G on EWG

Confronting P&G, one of the most powerful corporations in the country, about their greenwashing would take a multi-concerted effort from a huge amount of consumers.

So my first question is for this national organization whose mission statement is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

United States Green Building Council: What gives?

UPDATE 4/15/14: 

A marketing assistant at USGBC responded to my post by saying that “USGBC as an organization doesn’t actually vouch for specific products, we just establish the standards that, if met, would allow a product to count for the Green Cleaning point. If a product does not meet these standards then it is not eligible for LEED credit, no exceptions. In terms of P&G products specifically, your best bet would be to contact them directly inquiring about how their products adhere to the standards we’ve outlined. In order to contribute to the green cleaning credit products must meet at least one of the environmental/health and safety standards that we have identified as rigorous and effective, including Green Seal, which you mention in your post, and the EPA Design for the Environment Program’s Standard for Safer Cleaning Products… no exceptions.”

They claim that after reading my post they contacted P&G and asked them to remove the information from their Web site. Of course, P&G has not, and I doubt they will unless it is further pursued. But I don’t know that USGBC has the interest to follow up.

P&G have launched a massive campaign based on a total lie and they are actually sending out ambassadors to man booths at green building events to convince builders and consumers that buying toxic products will get them LEED certification. Pretty outrageous…

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