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

Making green and healthy living manageable, practical, and affordable.
April 28th, 2016

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite. For Real

Yes we’ve had lice. And mice. And ants. And waterbugs (cough roaches). We’ve even had a rat (in the backyard – not inside!)

But Bed Bugs? There but for the Grace of God go I.

In reality the odds are stacked against us: Philadelphia is ranked the #2 bed bug city!)

And recently researchers found that bedbugs are developing thicker skins to be more resistant to common pesticides. They’ve also evolved the ability to produce a variety of enzymes that can detoxify insecticides.

For these reasons – as well as health and environmental safety –  experts emphasize using non-chemical methods such as extreme heat, the specialty of local company Prodigy Pest Solutions.

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Prodigy Pest Solutions employs research-based methods to effectively and environmentally soundly eradicate bed bug infestations in just one day. Heat treatment for bed bugs is a safe, organic, and advantageous method with minimal preparation on the part of the resident. Using heat, they are able to provide customers with a discreet, one-day service, leaving them bed bug free in less than 12 hours.

Benefits of heat treatment include:

  • Killing all stages of the bed bug life cycle, increasing the likelihood of full eradication
  • One-day process using dry, hot air where the home or business can be returned back to normal use within 12 hours
  • Family friendly with no concerns for children or pets
  • Reduces waste by eliminating the need to throw away furniture or mattresses – that is a HUGE plus!
  • Highest rate of efficacy in the research literature in regard to treatment outcomes
  • Minimizes the amount of preparation required on the part of the homeowner/business owner
  • Can be completed in almost any space

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Based in Delaware County, PA and serving the Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey areas, Prodigy Pest Solutions was born in 2012 out of a desire to do things differently and improve the quality and safety of pest control services. After working with a large pest control firm, Matt Kelley missed the opportunity to work directly with customers, seeing the job through to the end, and knowing that he’d be able to stand behind it. He and his wife, Sabrina, launched the company while expecting their son, wishing to offer heat treatment as a way to minimize the use of chemical treatments.

I truly hope you don’t have to deal with bed bugs. But if the critters do make their way into your life, at least Prodigy can make it much less of a nightmare!

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Prodigy Pest Solutions, with whom I have a business relationship. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

April 25th, 2016

Not Feeling the Bern on Philly Soda Tax Issue

In the PA primary tomorrow I will vote for Bernie Sanders.

I don’t agree with any candidate on 100% of the issues, but with the environment my number one priority, there is no competition. (That said, when Clinton inevitably wins the primary, I will support her like she is my own mother.)

In the meantime, Sanders will not lose my vote on a small local issue. But his vocal dissension on an issue I feel passionate about has caused me enough pause to warrant this blog post.

While campaigning in Philadelphia, Clinton voiced her support for Mayor Kenney’s proposed tax on soda and sugary drinks to help fund a citywide pre-K program. Sanders immediately countered, calling the tax regressive. He then took it a step further, writing an entire Op-Ed for Philadelphia Magazine stating that the soda tax would hurt low income families.

“Mayor Kenney wants to raise $400 million from a tax on juice boxes, soft drinks, teas, flavored coffee and other sweetened drinks. His proposal would raise the price of a $1.00 soft drink to $1.24. That will hit many Philadelphians hard, especially the more than 185,000 people in the city who are trying to scrape by on less than $12,000 a year.”

I have a problem with the implication that poor people need to buy Coke and Kool-Aid. I actually find the idea that soda is an undeniable necessity of low income families to be classist, elitist, and borderline racist.

The health issues and related healthcare costs of sugary beverages are indisputable. In fact, some doctors have gone as far as to say that sugar is as dangerous as tobacco. Cigarettes are not illegal, but high cigarette taxes reduce smoking, especially among children. Similarly, no one is suggesting banning Pepsi – but simply raising the cost as a potential deterrent from overconsumption.

No one needs to drink Mountain Dew.

Water is essentially free. And before you tell me about the flaws in this country’s water safety, let’s break down some facts.

Yes, in light of Flint, Michigan and similar cases, the U.S. needs to seriously step up water safety standards. Still, in the majority of cases, tap water is still safer than bottled water. It’s often advisable to make the extra effort of a filtered pitcher, which costs about $20. I personally chose to recently upgrade to an Aquasana faucet filtration system for my drinking water, which cost $140 (or about 90 liters of Mountain Dew).

And, if all else fails, bottled water will not be taxed.

Do I think this is the best plan the city could come up with to fill a budget gap? No.

I think there are better ideas, not the least a plastic bag tax which has been shot down by city council in the past with the same logic of it being a “regressive tax for poor Philadelphians.” That one actually boggles my mind, as free reusable bags are easier to come by than toilet paper in a public restroom.

I don’t know if Sanders’ vocal stance on a city issue will make a difference, especially if Clinton wins the primary. And, again, it won’t be the catalyst to change my vote April 26th. But the argument that slightly impeding access to insidious crap is somehow unAmerican just doesn’t hold water.

Image from The Alliance for a Healthier Vermont (ironically Sanders’ homestate)

April 18th, 2016

Career Wardrobe Expansion Offers More Ways to Do Good with Donated Clothes

Now there are even more ways to help and empower job seekers in Philadelphia – and you can help just by cleaning out your closet!

After more than 20 years of empowering women in Philadelphia by providing free or low-cost professional clothing and job search support services, Career Wardrobe was hand-selected by the PA Department of Human Services to run the PA WORKWEAR program. With the increased funding and responsibility, Career Wardrobe expands its successful model to the five county area surrounding Philadelphia including Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Bucks, and Berks Counties, providing professional clothing to aid job searches for unemployed Pennsylvanians receiving public assistance benefits.

Under this new expansion, Career Wardrobe expects to see its client services and budget to double over the next year. Career Wardrobe has opened two new boutiques, providing professional clothing to job seekers in Delaware County and Bucks County. They will also oversee PA WORKWEAR programs operated in Chester, Montgomery, and Berks Counties by Wings for Success, Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board, and Berks Counseling Center respectively. Last year in Philadelphia, Career Wardrobe provided professional clothing for 3,175 unemployed job seekers, with 60% referred through the PA WORKWEAR program. In the coming year, the organization could see up to 7,000 individuals with 80% coming through a referral from the PA WORKWEAR program.

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This new opportunity expand within the region comes on the heels of Career Wardrobe’s co-location with its successful upscale resale shop The Wardrobe Boutique at 1822 Spring Garden St. in the Logan Square/Fairmount section of Philadelphia. Combining locations gave the organization a 9,000-square-foot footprint that includes office and boutique dressing space for both men and women.

The expanded Philadelphia location also allowed Career Wardrobe to make permanent two successful programs it piloted in 2015 in an effort to ensure that more people, including men and underemployed women, have access to services they need to transition to sustainable employment.

  • The Open Access Program allows any unemployed man or woman to receive a professional outfit, resume review services, and job search advice from the organization for a small fee, much like a healthcare co-pay. Open Access Mondays allow walk-ins without an appointment at The Wardrobe Boutique in Philadelphia every Monday – all one needs is a resume on hand.
  • The Make It Work for Men program expects to serve 500 men in 2016, providing professional clothing in a private dressing suite separate from the women’s boutique. As part of the PA WORKWEAR contract, the men’s program will be expanded to Chester and Bristol, PA as well.

Along with clothing services, Career Wardrobe offers professional development education programming that is free and open to the public. Seminars focus on job readiness skills such as communication, time management, problem solving, self-advocacy and financial literacy.

Hope On The Move Annual Cocktail Reception and Auction

You can also support Career Wardrobe by attending the annual cocktail reception and auction, “Hope on the Move,”  Thursday, June 9, 2016 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia.

Career Wardrobe’s premier annual fundraiser brings together more than 300 of the region’s corporate executives and community leaders, and features a 150-piece silent auction, networking reception, and presentation highlighting the organization’s impact in the community. The event raises more than $100,000 to empower people to work and independence.

Hosted by longtime Philadelphia radio personality and BEN FM radio host Marilyn Russell, attendees will be treated to a Hope Walk featuring community leaders and media personalities who donate an outfit from their closet to one of Career Wardrobe’s clients. Models scheduled to appear include Karen Hepp, Sue Serio, and Jennifer Joyce (Fox29); Monique Braxtion (NBC10); Cherri Gregg (KYW Newsradio) and Rick Williams (6ABC).

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Signature cocktails will be created for the event by Pravda Vodka, Dreamcatchers Toasted Chestnut Liquor, and Bartenders I’m Coconuts Over You Rum. Individual tickets must be purchased in advance for $100, and corporate and individual sponsorship packages are available.

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Career Wardrobe is one of the nation’s largest independent organizations empowering women and men transitioning to work with professional clothing, job search support, and professional development. In the past 21 years, more than 80,000 individuals have transitioned from poverty, violence, or incarceration to employment and independence with support from Career Wardrobe.  Clothing donations are accepted Monday through Saturday in Philadelphia, Fridays in Chester, PA and monthly at partner locations in East Falls and Haverford, PA. To learn more about how to donate, volunteer or shop to support Career Wardrobe, please call (215) 568-6693, visit www.careerwardrobe.org

April 5th, 2016

Deciphering Sustainable Seafood with Wild Selections

Knowing what to look for when shopping for produce is relatively simple – organic is a definable term with a clear label to let you know that no persistent pesticides were used in farming.

But eco-conscious seafood is a bit trickier. Farm-raised, wild-caught, sustainably sourced – what does it all mean and how can you be sure that your seafood purchase isn’t harming the sustainability of marine life?

It’s a lot to think about for a tuna sandwich.

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Wild Selections® is a new brand created to effect meaningful change in marine conservation and fisheries management and expand awareness about sustainable seafood. Wild Selections® uses only Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable seafood. And with each can purchased, a donation of 13 cents goes to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to benefit their sustainable fisheries programs and marine conservation efforts – a total of $1 million by 2018!

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Wild Selections is the only full line of MSC-certified sustainable seafood.  The blue MSC eco-label tells you the fish in your can comes from well managed fisheries and healthy fish stocks.

Fishing has an impact on our marine environment, and it’s not just fish stocks that are affected. Sensitive habitats, endangered species, and the marine food chain need to be maintained to keep the oceans healthy and productive. The impacts are complex, hard to measure and vary from one fishery to the next. But MSC certified fisheries meet robust requirements for fish stocks, ecosystem impacts, and effective management. They are also encouraged to develop new ways to conserve the marine environment for future generations.

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Want to know exactly where in the world the fish in your can comes from? Just enter the can code on the bottom of any Wild Selections® products to locate where your seafood was sustainably caught.

Of course, I don’t mess around with taste. And fortunately, as is generally the case with sustainable products of any kind, the tuna is premium quality.

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You can find a local retailer using the store locator here. And enjoy a simple source of protein and omegas without harming the ecosystem!

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

March 31st, 2016

CrossFit Open 2016 Wrap – A Look Back at Three Years of Open WODs

Three and a half years ago I walked into a CrossFit gym – and then tried to walk out.

It’s amazing how much has changed since then. I’ve run Broad Street, tackled Spartan Races, competed in CrossFit competitions, and even popped out another baby. And all of this is in no thanks to genetics, youth, or spare time. If I can offer any “FITSPO” to those of you thinking you could never climb a rope, this is purely a testament to dedication, commitment, and hard work. As I’ve said before, if I can do it, anyone can do it.

And as a witness to the power of progress versus the waning of youth, we are offered the annual CrossFit Open. Increasing in numbers each year, now more than 300,000 athletes from around the world sign up to attempt a series of five surprise workouts, whittling the field down to find the fittest man and woman on earth.

Some CrossFit gyms strongly encourage its members to sign up for the leaderboard, even if they are new to the sport (the past two years have offered scaled versions of each workout). My gym welcomes participants but doesn’t really push The Open. So the CrossFit South Philly roster typically includes about a dozen elite athletes, a small handful of scaled athletes, and then – randomly in the middle – me. Gung-ho and eager to chat about the workouts, I spend most of the five weeks texting with my two CrossFit-loving friends in other cities who are the only ones who actually know and care what I am talking about.

Back in 2014, I was only about nine months postpartum and had no intention of signing up for The Open. But after doing the first workout for fun one day, I decided to just pay the $20 to put myself up on the leaderboard.

The weeks that followed were a rather sad display. In 14.2, my attempts at a 65-pound-overhead-squat yielded a score of “2.” In 14.4 I spent 10 minutes trying unsuccessfully to get a toes-to-bar. But in 14.5 I surprised myself by completing my most difficult workout to date:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps for time of:
65-lb. Thrusters
Bar-Over-Burpees

No Time Cap.

I had never done a 65-lb thruster. Not once. And now I had to do 84 of them. I remember telling my judge, “Look, I’m just going to do the 21 and then stop.” “OK, I will try the 18.” “Fine, I’ll just keep going.” I finished in 28:33. And it was the first and only time I have ever had to lay down after a workout.

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14.5: No matter how exhausted a workout gets me I always walk it off. This was the only time I ever had to lay down.

That year 44,984 women worldwide completed all five workouts. I placed 43,678 – the bottom 3%.

2015

I am better, faster, stronger. The first workout begins with 15 toes-to-bar and I complete them with little problem – I just can’t manage the 75-pound snatch that follows.

The Open decided to throw an interesting wrench in 2015 by offering a scaled option, but I am determined to do as many of the workouts as possible prescribed (Rx), even if my score is 1 (or 7, as it is in the repeat of 14.2 where I eek out another five reps).

The issue with introducing a scaled version was that it gave the CrossFit powers that be the option of starting workouts with movements like ring muscle ups, a feat limited to the most advanced athletes. So for two of the workouts I was relegated to the scaled option, which didn’t even allow me to show off my shiny double unders!

But I end on a high note with 15.5, a respectable finish on a couplet of thrusters and rowing.

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15.5: Thrusters and Rowing. Not nearly as bad as the final WOD in other years

In 2015 I rank 36,529 out of 59,599 women: A vast improvement moving up to the bottom 39% (or top 61% depending how you look at it).

2016

Another year of hard work and training. While I continue to resist the idea of a Paleo diet, I did revamp my eating habits about six months ago by increasing my protein intake, decreasing my sugar and carbs, and embracing daily protein shakes and Branched Chain Amino Acids.

And the CrossFit gods (or programmer Dave Castro) were far kinder to me this year, playing more to my strengths than my weaknesses.

The dreaded overhead squat was replaced with overhead walking lunges, which were sufficiently challenging but doable at a snail’s pace. I surprised myself with chest-to-bar pull-ups and had the opportunity to show off more skillful toes-to-bar and double-unders.

16.2: Killing the toes to bar

I survived 55 back-breaking 155-pound deadlifts in a row and came shockingly close to pulling off an ill-advised and terribly performed bar muscle up.

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16.4: Death by Deadlift – 55 155-Pound-Deadlifts IN A ROW. Then 55 Wall Balls, 55 Calories on the Rower, and then – if you have time, which I most did not, 55 Handstand PushUps

And when my prediction came true that 16.5 would be a repeat of 14.5 I literally jumped for joy in my San Juan hotel room. (Random fact: I’ve done one open workout in a different city every year). I knew it would be painful, but I knew that if I could do it in 2014, I could certainly shave a few minutes off my time.

I had a lofty goal of sub-20-minutes, but it was actually the burpees that got the best of me that day. I spent the five weeks of the open suffering from the worst asthma and allergies I’d felt since I was a child, and it was taking a toll on my lung capacity.

But I finished at 23:03 – a full five minutes and thirty seconds faster than my 2014 time. And while I did not lay down this time, it took me about five full minutes before I could speak. And six minutes before I could take this picture.

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16.5: God awful and grim. But my time was 5:30 better than two years ago.

In 2016 I rank 38,675 out of 78,722 women who actually recorded every workout. The top 49%! The top half!

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This ranking below would lead you to believe that I was in the top 29 percent. But if you look closely at the leaderboard, only 60% of the registered athletes actually recorded all of the workouts. I totally get that shit happens, but really? Only 60%?

Cooler still was seeing that I was ranked 1003 among all 36-year-old women in the U.S. – that is the number that really counts and I was really gunning to break 1000!

So what do all these numbers and statistics mean? Why am I being such a nerd about analyzing them? Well, it’s nice to be able to put one’s progress into some measurable context. Truly, that’s why I think everyone who does CrossFit should do the Open, even if they do one rep of the scaled versions. It’s amazing to see how I am progressing year to year, and also to stay conscious of what I still need to work on to be a well-rounded athlete and be in the best physical condition for my body. I know my limitations – and there are limitations – just not nearly as many as I would have imagined.

March 27th, 2016

Stop Shopping and Start Sharing! New Lower Cost Toy Rental Subscriptions from Pley

This fall I wrote about The Top Reasons for Renting Versus Buying New Toys with PLEY – waste, clutter, money, boredom, and eco-consciousness. Total no brainer, right?

Recently PLEY announced a new, lower-cost program enabling even more kids to rent educational toys, and an even wider catalog that includes toys for preschoolers and toddlers.

Originally launched with a portfolio of 500+ construction toys including the latest LEGO and K’NEX sets, Pley has expanded into preschool products, including toys designed to help little ones develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination, practice their letters and numbers, and more.

The site offers dozens of preschool toys from top manufacturers including LeapFrog, vtech, Lego , Fisher Price, and others. Ninjago, Minecraft, American Girl? Who wants to keep up with all that stuff your kids will quickly outgrow?

The brand-new, $9.99 per month plan makes the subscription service even more accessible for families. And the rental-based system encourages a sharing mindset versus early-onset consumerism.

Pley: A gift for the whole family!

Founded in 2013, Pley, the leading subscription-based toy rental program, provides a range of toys for rent, allowing kids to play with the next, greatest thing while saving parents money, reducing clutter, and decreasing environmental waste. With a simple “Play. Return. Repeat.” system, children select a rental from Pley’s vast library and the toy is delivered, free of charge, to their front door. They play as long as they like, then return the toy for another—no more money wasted on toys left gathering dust on the shelf.

To find out more about Pley, check out http://www.pley.com

Pley - leading toy rental company

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received monetary compensation for this review. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

March 15th, 2016

Spit That Out is Available for Pre-Order!

Spit that Out!: The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt is LIVE on Amazon and available for pre-sale!

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If you read the original book, let me assure you that despite the very similar title, this book is quite different! More than 75% of the content is brand new with chapters tackling new subjects like schools, travel, greenwashing, and what happens when your eco-minded choices backfire!

There are new celebrity interviews including Kaitlin Olson and Supermodel EMME, expert insight by health leaders like Robyn O’Brien and DrGreene.com, and even a foreword from Alysia Reiner, star of “Orange is the New Black” and “Equity!”

I can’t wait to get the book into your hands – but we will have to wait for September for that! In the meantime, pre-sales will really help drive the book and the message! So please spread the word!

A million thanks for making this project possible – I truly could not have done it without you all!

March 10th, 2016

Stonyfield Grass-Fed and Split-Cup Greek Yogurts

It’s easy to be a product ambassador for a brand when your family tears through the products on a daily basis. We can barely keep our fridge stocked with enough Stonyfield products – smoothies, squeezies, fruit snacks, and good old-fashioned organic yogurt cups. My kids may not eat enough green vegetables, but they are excellent in the way of probiotics.

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Stonyfield’s latest innovations are even more fun for kids, who get an unreal amount of pleasure in things that come compartmentalized. The new Whole Milk Greek Yogurt containers now have side cars allowing you to add as much or as little fruit as you want. Like all Stonyfield products, it’s made without the use of toxic persistent pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs. The Organic Whole Milk Greek comes in plain and vanilla as well as honey and three delicious organic fruit flavors featuring a split cup.

The following feedback came unsolicited from my 6-year-old – truly. He was going on and on and so I had to bring out the video.

When I learned about the new 100% Grassfed Yogurt I was a bit confused. If the other organic yogurt producing cows weren’t eating grass, what the heck were they eating?

Turns out, all of the organic cows get a large portion of their diet from grazing on pasture and eating dried hay. In fact, the organic standard requires dairy cows to be on pasture for at least 120 days a year, and most organic dairies keep their cows on pasture even longer than that. The difference is that most organic dairy farms also supplement their cows diet with a small amount of organic grains. Organic prohibits the use of GMOs and since ALL of Stonyfield’s products are organic, you can rest assured that they are made without the use of genetically modified organisms.

Milk from cows who graze naturally on lush grass gives yogurt a rich and unique flavor and creamy texture. I can taste the difference with my grass-fed meat, and also with this grass-fed yogurt.

Also, it totally works in a pinch for subbing heavy cream in a savory dish!

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Just two more reasons to love these yogurt pioneers – we’ll keep stocking our fridge!

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

March 4th, 2016

New Book and Local Race for Clean Air with Moms Clean Air Force

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Moms Clean Air Force for several years, supporting their mission to protect our right to clean air. MCAF is a community of moms and dads united against air pollution – including the urgent crisis of our changing climate – to protect our children’s health.

This Spring offers two unique ways to support their mission.

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The new joyful and empowering book, Every Breath We Take, is a positive, life-affirming look at clean air, with a subtle message about how air can be dirtied — and how it can be cleaned up. Written by Moms Clean Air Force Senior Director, Dominique Browning, a New York Times writer and author, and Maya Ajmera, the Founder of The Global Fund for Children. Every Breath we Take includes a foreword by actress and Moms Clean Air Force spokeswoman, Julianne Moore.

A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to Moms Clean Air Force, a national movement of over a half million moms, dads, and grandparents who are protecting the right of every child to breathe clean air. The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon

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Celebrate Earth Day at the Run for Clean Air: Saturday, April 16, 2016

Moms Clean Air Force also offers the opportunity to take part in a wonderful local race here in Philadelphia. In fact, the Run for Clean Air was my very first 5K back in 2012 – and now I am doing the 10K!

For the past 35 years, Clean Air Council has held the Run for Clean Air in Philadelphia to celebrate Earth Day. The Run for Clean Air is one of the region’s longest-running charity races and its largest Earth Day event. It has grown to 2,500 registrants, become a certified green event, and in 2015 added 10K distance. Located on the beautiful banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, the Run is a celebration of sustainable and healthy neighborhoods, clean air, and improvements in the region’s overall environmental health. Year after year, sponsors, volunteers, runners, walkers, and their families choose to celebrate Earth Day with Clean Air Council.

To join the Moms Clean Air Force team, please email gdahlkemper@momscleanairforce.org for a discount code!

February 20th, 2016

My Buy Nothing – Or At Least Nothing New – Home

How do we afford to eat at least 80% organic on two freelancer incomes? Being frugal and resourceful in other aspects of our lives plays a big part.

I’ve always sung the praises of secondhand – whether it’s a steal on gently used furniture on Craigslist, the unlimited generosity of the Buy Nothing Group, or literally finding things out on the curb, I make it my mission to buy almost nothing new.

Of course, there are a few items where it is practical and prudent to buy new like appliances and carseats. But when it comes to clothing and home furnishings, very little is bought from a store.

I like to think we’ve done a good job of creating a pleasing – though often messy – aesthetic from our secondhand finds. Of course, I play to my own personal shabby chic style, but it’s just as possible to create a contemporary or modern look of your choosing by giving items second lives.

Much like our eating habits, we follow a loose  80/20 rule with our furnishings and decor. At least 80 percent of our belongings came free or cheap thanks to the myriad of options available these days including Craigslist, Ebay, Wallapop, Yerdle, Poshmark, Freecycle, and Buy Nothing Groups – not to mention old fashioned flea markets, yard sales, and arbitrary “trash picks” (I’m talking things left on the curb – we aren’t quite dumpster divers.)

Here is a brief tour of my “Buy Almost Nothing New” home. I would absolutely love to see some photos of yours!

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