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.
October 7th, 2015

Back to The Roots Water Garden Aquaponics Review

As soon as I saw the Back to The Roots Water Garden at my friend’s house I knew I had to have it.

This fish tank with a garden on top is a closed-loop ecosystem – the fish feed the plants, and the plants clean the water!

I was looking for a way to keep herbs alive inside over the long, dark winter. I wasn’t too excited about trying to keep a fish alive, though betta fish are meant to be hearty survivors.

Aquaponics is a closed-loop, sustainable farming method that combines traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). It uses 90% less water than traditional farming. Here’s how it works:

  • Fish produce ammonia-rich waste which can become toxic for your fish if allowed to accumulate.
  • Beneficial bacteria in the Water Garden converts the ammonia into nitrates. These naturally occurring bacteria grow really well in the plant pots.
  • Nitrates are amazing food for plants! As the plants continuously uptake the nitrates as nutrients for growth, they are also cleaning the water for your fish.

We set up the tank without too much hassle – though I was dismayed to learn I did actually have to remember to feed the fish.

Because I don’t have a trusted sun source in a convenient place for the tank, I bought a little grow lamp.

The tank comes with seeds for wheatgrass, a superfood great for juicing, and radish sprouts, which I have never tried but I imagine would be inoffensive in a salad. Those seeds took off in just a couple days and in less than a week we have significant growth. I also planted basil and parsley seeds, which haven’t responded as quickly but may need some more time.


You can also see that my careless planting has allowed seeds and sprouts to fall into the tank. I am just hoping the fish doesn’t eat them and explode. But so far he has lived for one week, which is pretty remarkable considering that I can’t even keep alive a basil plant. I’m hoping this tank continues to do the work for me so we can have fresh herbs, better indoor air quality this winter, and a pet fish to add to our crazy family.


Disclosure: Back to the Roots sent me a sample for review. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here.

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September 24th, 2015

A Better Mid-Day Snack – Stonyfield Organic Fruit Snacks

I’m fortunate that my son’s kindergarten has parents provide the afternoon snacks for their own children. I was afraid it would be a class where parents were assigned rotating snack provision duties that could run the gamut from Pop Tarts to Yodels to McDonald’s French Fries.

But vacation day camps, summer camp, and after school care are more of a challenge. In fact, one of the “vacation camps” where I send my son limits its snack choices to Oreos, Doritos, and Bugels. Even he was appalled by the snacks, knowing that filling up on these poor choices would lead to a belly ache.

I tried to make in-ways with the camp, pointing out the low snack quality and inquiring about healthier choices that would still be affordable. You can purchase a five-pound crate of clementines for as low as $2.99 and one article points out healthier snack choices that are cheaper than their conventional counterparts!

But while I collect an ammunition list of organic snack foods available for a steal at Costco and co-conspire with their PTA, I’m providing my own snacks for the days my son attends camp.

New to my arsenal are Stonyfield Organic Fruit Snacks. My son has a serious sweet tooth for gummy candy, and these bite-sized fruit snacks are made with organic ingredients you can feel good about, including real fruit and vegetable juices.

fruit snacks

This is Stonyfield’s first venture beyond the dairy aisle, and it’s a welcome expansion for a brand that is affordable and accessible yet stays true to its mission to provide healthy, organic foods. The fruit snacks contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives, contain 100% DV of Vitamin C, and, of course, they’re shaped like little cows!

I’m hoping they are such a hit with the other kids they’ll beg the camp to buy them instead of the Lance Peanut Butter Crackers!

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

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September 16th, 2015

Big Announcement: Spit That Out The Sequel!

Dear readers,

I am thrilled to announce that I will be writing a brand new version of Spit That Out! And this time I will have a proper publisher with national distribution!

So much has changed in the past five years, and I am looking for parents to share their thoughts and experiences for quotes and anecdotes in the new book.

Participants do not need to consider themselves “green” – I am only looking for parents who have experienced the dilemmas of parenting in a world where we worry about artificial dyes in birthday cakes causing ADHD, wonder if hand sanitizer is making our kids sicker, and check crayon labels to see if they contain asbestos!

I would like to include a mix of moms AND dads of varying ethnicities, socio-economic status, and geographical locations. It doesn’t matter if you are a new parent to an infant or have three kids in college.

You can participate as much or as little as you like, and only answer the questions that resonate with you. I will be selecting quotes and anecdotes for each section of the book and I am only looking for honesty.

I only need to use your first name and location and if you have an incredibly unique first name I can even change that! On the flip side, if you have a blog or relevant eco/parenting business, I am happy to try to include that information when quoting you (final cuts will be at publisher’s discretion).

If you are interested in being on the Spit That Out Parent Sounding Board please fill out this super quick form so I can keep track of your information.

Thank you so much for participating in this project. And PLEASE SHARE WITH OTHER PARENTS who may want to participate!



p.s. Expect a bit less blogging while I am writing the book. I will still post here and there but need to save some of the good stuff!


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September 14th, 2015

The World’s Best Sunbutter and Jelly Sandwich: The Lancaster Food Company

I am always looking for ways to eat better and support socially conscious companies. So I am thrilled to be working with a new mission-driven business just outside of Philadelphia that allows customers to “Eat Better. For Good!”

Inspired by a bounty of local produce and a disproportion of local area poverty, The Lancaster Food Company’s mission is to create extraordinary food sourced from nearby organic farmers and hire people out of poverty into thriving-wage jobs.

The only certified organic food company in Lancaster, PA, the company’s mission includes paying better than living wages and hiring people who might otherwise have difficulty getting work because of personal histories, education, literacy, or language barriers.

Organic sandwich breads include varieties include soft white, sprouted multigrain, whole wheat, and sandwich rye. The brand also offers two varieties of sunflower seed butter, two varieties types of salsa, organic maple syrup, and a variety of seasonal, regional gourmet products.


Living in a farm-friendly area where fresh produce thrives, Lancaster Food Company shares the best of Central Pennsylvania’s certified organic ingredients.


Partners Charlie Crystle and Craig Lauer started The Lancaster Food Company with a dual mission: having significant impact on the city of Lancaster – which has a 30% poverty rate – and making delicious, sustainable food. Passionate about reducing poverty in the United States, the team wants to do its part where they live by paying better than living wages, hiring people who might otherwise have difficulty getting work, and offering stock options to all employees. Launched in 2014, the company currently employs 14 people with plans to expand to more than 100 over the next 18 months!

The Lancaster Food Company’s products are available online and at more than 100 stores and restaurants on the East Coast. Learn more and find out where you can shop at www.thelancasterfoodcompany.com.

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September 4th, 2015

Reinventing My Summer Eco Style – Rompers, Maxis, and Shorts

I have never been a slave to fashion, but I have certainly been a slave to routine.

Once I find an article of clothing that fits me well, I continue to purchase it in various colors until it goes out of stock. At which time, I stalk the style number on Ebay, willing to pay anything to not have to try on a new pair of jeans.

Over the past few years my style has become singular and sad: black American Apparel leggings (in crop, long, or thick, season-depending) and a simple tunic-length top long enough to cover my ass.

But at some point this summer I officially grew tired of myself. My body was not exactly “bikini ready” (at least according to those Subway signs), but I was proud of my hard-earned biceps and thought I should try out some of the trendy styles I thought I could never wear.

The result: thrilling. I love shorts! I look cute in a maxi dress! I can pull off a romper! And I was able to achieve these styles being eco-conscious and budget savvy!

Here’s how:

The Maxi Dress:

I found this Threads for Thought organic cotton Bellflower Maxi Dress on Rodales.com for $19.99. I loved it so much I immediately bought another on Amazon (as low as $12!!) plus one for a friend:


The Romper

I felt surprisingly confident and cute in this Amour Vert Josie Romper. You can score it for less than $100 on Nordstrom by using various coupon codes – plus 3% back on Ebates!


The Shorts:

One day I discovered plain, old fashioned denim shorts. One pair sat tucked at the bottom of my drawer, quite possibly since high school. There was no way I was paying a premium on these things so I utilized the free tool at my fingertips – Yerdle. Considering these cost exactly $0 (you get 35 “Yerdle Dollars” just for signing up) plus $4 for shipping, I wasn’t too concerned that they wouldn’t fit. Fortunately they fit just fine!

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 12.56.15 PM

Have you ventured outside your comfort zone and discovered a new style that fits?

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August 31st, 2015

Tending an Urban Tree – And Keeping it Alive with Some Help from Davey

In the late 1700s, a wealthy landowner and botanist imported a ginkgo biloba from China to plant at his palatial West Philly estate. They grew in popularity across the city and hundreds of years later the Philadelphia streets are lined with white flowering trees every spring. There’s only one problem – the people who did the landscaping didn’t realize they were planting female trees. And a flowering female Ginkgo tree projects a strong odor that is often described as bleach, vomit, or worse.

When we moved into our home 10 years ago it was a flowering female ginkgo that leaned over onto our deck, making springtime lounging an odorous affair. So I wasn’t too disappointed when a strong blizzard knocked the tree over in 2010.


Fortunately Philadelphia has wonderful programs that offer free trees and planting assistance to urban dwellers. Tree Philly offers free yard and street trees year-round for city residents. We received our baby tree from a neighborhood program that even planted it for us. But keeping that thing alive and well was going to be tricky.

Bad parallel parking jobs knocked it to and fro. Occasional drunk people would rip out the stakes and try to topple it over. The tree leaned strongly to the left in its early years until it grew strong enough roots to stand up straight.

Here is the baby tree. I was able to find this image through a timeline search on Google Maps!

Here is the baby tree. I was able to find this image through a timeline search on Google Maps!

I spoke with a local expert at The Davey Tree Expert Company who offered advice for tending an urban tree.

  • Keep it well watered for at least the first year. It is difficult to over water it, and a tree that is well-watered for the first year has a pretty good chance of survival.
  • Keep it staked for the first year – but don’t strangle it. Be sure to remove the stakes after a year.
  • Mulch with wood chips or compost – but don’t overmulch. 2-3 inches is fine. (We were extremely lucky that our neighbor voluntarily did this for us).
  • Try to fertilize, especially during the fall season.
  • Weed the area around the tree.

Five years later we have a thriving, healthy, leafy maple tree in front of our home.



This post was sponsored by The Davey Tree Expert Company. To read my full blogger disclosure, click here.

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August 26th, 2015

Building a Better Big Kid Bed with Naturepedic Two in One Kids Mattress


With the growing knowledge of phthalates, VOCs, and toxic flame retardants in conventional mattresses, new parents are increasingly interested in organic mattresses for their babies and children. After all, babies and young children spend at least half their time in bed!

I’ve written before about my regret using a conventional mattress for my newborns and made the switch to organic cotton for both of their big kid beds.

Unfortunately, without proper knowledge, you might find yourself buying a fake organic mattress. Since greenwashing know no limits – and no government agency regulates the labeling of mattresses as “organic” or “natural” – several companies label their mattresses ‘organic’ when they are technically not.

Fortunately there are brands we can trust like Naturepedic, backed up with meaningful certifications and a genuine concern for children’s’ health.


We chose the Two-in-One Organic Cotton Ultra, which combines waterproof and quilted sides for an ideal children’s mattress. You can us the waterproof side when they first come out of the crib and aren’t fully nighttime potty-trained. The waterproof side also functions as a dust-mite barrier. When the child gets older, flip the mattress over for a more comfortable feel.


The top side is made of Organic Cotton Waterproof Fabric with easy-to-clean 100% polyethylene waterproof surface (so pure it meets food contact standards). The bottom side features a luxuriously quilted organic cotton fabric for a more mature mattress feel. The organic cotton filling is a healthier alternative to synthetic fabrics and foams. Naturepedic uses only U.S. grown and certified organic cotton as filling for its mattresses and buys directly from USDA certified sources. This ensures purity, organic reliability, and support for U.S. farmers.

With a built-in dust mite barrier on the top and sides and no wool or latex, there is no need to worry about these high allergy materials.


And with innovative mattress construction, Naturepedic passes all federal and state flammability standards without the use of fire retardant chemicals or flame retardant barriers. The finished mattress is certified organic to ensure that all components meet a healthy non-toxic standard. Certified by OTCO to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). All Naturepedic products are also tested for chemical emissions and certified according to GREENGUARD® Gold certification standards.

A good organic twin-sized mattress starts at $649. I know – it’s a lot. But it’s justified by the cost of the raw materials, the quality of the manufacturing process, and, of course, piece of mind.

I suggest splurging on the mattress and saving on the bed! We got our convertible IKEA twin bed for $20 on Craigslist. It’s also easy to find affordable organic cotton sheets places like Target.

What if you’re stuck with a traditional mattress in the meantime? Here are some tips:

  • Let your new mattress off-gas outside or in a well-ventilated area for awhile before using it.
  • Cover your mattress with an organic cotton cover or a natural latex, wool or cotton mattress topper.
  • For adults and older kids, consider buying a less expensive natural futon.
  • Get a HEPA air purifier – I am a big fan of these things for various reasons. Not only do they help absorb some of the yucky stuff and allergens in the air, they also make great white noise machines.
  • While we are purifying the air, try some plants!

Sweet dreams!

Disclosure: Naturepedic sent me a sample for review. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here.

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August 17th, 2015

Make Money, Do Social Good, and Avoid Landfills: How to Do the Most Good Discarding Unwanted Items

Did you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Did it lead you to throw away every item in your house or was the only thing you threw away the book?

It was a lovely sentiment, especially for someone who loathes clutter and takes pleasure in moving unwanted items to new homes. But what Marie Kondo was missing was the next step – what do you do with all that unwanted stuff? Can you make money with it? Do social good? Upcycle it? Give it to a neighbor?

For all you unclutterers out there, I have created a flow chart to help you figure out exactly what to do with the items you no longer need or want.

Learn more about the options included like Yerdle, Poshmark, and the Buy Nothing Project.


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy my monthly newsletter. Receive green living news, discounts, giveaways, and events delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

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August 10th, 2015

Getting a Tattoo for my 36th Birthday: The Eco Risks Versus The Rewards

“My tattoos represent much of the pain and suffering I have endured. They are part of me, just like my scars, my fat, my eternal struggle with gravity. None of our bodies are ‘perfect’. We live in them. They aren’t supposed to be ‘perfect’.” – Margaret Cho, who got her first tattoo in her mid-30s.

Did I really need to get a full color tattoo the size of my hand three days before my 36th birthday?

By the grace of God I was wise enough to avoid tattoos in my teenage years. So many people I know have ill-advised butterfly tramp stamps that cause them to grimace apologetically. A girl I knew in high school – and still know today as a fellow Philadelphia mother – impulsively got a tattoo of the sun and moon on her left buttcheek. It was, unbeknownst to her, the sign of Islam.

At 26 I decided to take a shallow plunge with a tattoo I had always wanted – the astrological symbol for Leo on my left shoulder. It is small, black, and easy to cover up with a well-placed bra strap. And ten years ago I still like it, and feel secure in the decision I made as a 26-year-old woman – not quite who I would fully become, but old enough to have a semblance of self awareness.

The O.G.

The O.G.

And for a long time I thought that would be it. I was never impressed by tattooed arms and chests, massive portraits and “sleeves” of winding images that clash with the wrong color dress. A simple quote, a tribute, a small image with deep meaning – those were the tattoos I liked. And around the time of my 35th birthday I developed a secure sense of what I wanted to do next.

Tattoos are about using our bodies as a palette to tell the story of who we really are. And who we really are typically isn’t evident until after we have lived past the age of college partying and relationship hopping. I am now closer to 40 than 30, I have had my children, and I know what my true passions are. After a year of dallying, I was ready to tell my story.

My story is simple: a rose for my June baby girl and an aster for my September baby boy. And the words “Nothing But Flowers.”

The quote is the title of a Talking Heads song that talks about taking back the earth from over-industrialization. And it’s lyrics are the intro to my book, which David Byrne’s people kindly gave me permission to use.

The meaning is many-fold. Obviously, these flowers are my children. But all children are flowers. Nothing else matters.

This ink represents my children, my writing, my work, my passion. And even more meaningful to have it done just miles from the pristine Pocono mountaintops I am fortunate enough to have the strength to hike.

Ironically enough, there are eco implications to getting a tattoo. A furious Google search days before my appointment had me more confused than ever, coming across articles that pan the inks used in some tattoos as toxic and laden with heavy metals. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea?

I continued to weigh the risks and rewards and decided to use the safest pigments I could find. I sought out a highly accredited artist who used one of the recommended brands of vegan inks that had a transparent MSDS sheet available. I also decided to stay away from red ink, which is generally the most worrisome, and tone the rose down to a more muted pink.

Overall, I decided that since I am so cautious to minimize my general toxin exposure, I could afford a little flirtation with mercury. I’m no longer breastfeeding or planning pregnancies. I was willing to take a calculated risk.

I was really not concerned with pain – I had gotten a (small) tattoo before, gone through several hours of unmedicated labor, and do my own Brazilian waxes. But I’m not going to lie – those two hours were pretty rough. I just put on my headphones and tried to breathe through it.

I literally incorporated my stretch marks into this hip tattoo

I literally incorporated my stretch marks into this hip tattoo

The result is beautiful. Sure, it is a bit muddled by the stretch marks on my hip, but that just makes it even more poignant. I know who I am and I know what my story is. It may evolve and it may expand, but I can confidently say that there will never be anything but flowers.

“(Nothing But) Flowers”

Here we stand
Like an Adam and an Eve
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
Are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it’s nothing but flowers

There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers
you got it, you got it

We caught a rattlesnake
Now we got something for dinner
we got it, we got it

There was a shopping mall
Now it’s all covered with flowers
you’ve got it, you’ve got it

If this is paradise
I wish I had a lawnmower
you’ve got it, you’ve got it

Years ago
I was an angry young man
I’d pretend
That I was a billboard
Standing tall
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it’s only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it’s nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we’d start over
But I guess I was wrong

Once there were parking lots
Now it’s a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it

This was a Pizza Hut
Now it’s all covered with daisies
you got it, you got it

I miss the honky tonks,
Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens
you got it, you got it

And as things fell apart
Nobody paid much attention
you got it, you got it

I dream of cherry pies,
Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies
you got it, you got it

We used to microwave
Now we just eat nuts and berries
you got it, you got it

This was a discount store,
Now it’s turned into a cornfield
you got it, you got it

Don’t leave me stranded here
I can’t get used to this lifestyle


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August 6th, 2015

Packing the “Perfect Lunch?” At Least I Can Count On Stonyfield

A six-year-old and a two-year-old. Two separate schools and two packed lunches every day. And, despite all efforts, the pickiest eaters in the world.

It seems like I can never get them to sit down for a proper breakfast or dinner. Threats, rewards, hiding vegetables in cake, cutting potatoes into letters and arranging fruit into smiley faces – I have tried it all. But for whatever reason, the one thing they (and almost every other kid I know) can agree on is yogurt. Thankfully there is Stonyfield stocking us with every variety of organic yogurt under the sun.

Smoothies, squeezies, frozen, or old-fashioned, with every kind of topping and texture. This is the easiest way to create variety for children who even fail to accept new foods when I give them blindfolded taste tests. So when those lunchboxes come home empty, I just have to hope the teachers aren’t letting them cheat!

Preview Document

One of our newest discoveries is freezing Stonyfield Squeezers, creating healthy ice pop snacks perfect for summer days. Something about squeezing just enthralls children (p.s. remember these things? Ew!I even loathed them as a child!)

New varieties from Stonyfield include the indulgent Petite Creme and Oh My Yog! as well as Greek, Squeeze Pouches, Chia Blends, and YoKids Cups. Warning: you might want to keep the Oh My Yog! all to yourself. Especially the pear one.

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

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