Walmart Need Not Apply: Calling All Artists and Craftsmen

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, Etsy, organicneedle, product review

I will be off the computer for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family…but I will still be using my brain. I will pause and allow time for snickering. Done now? Let’s face it people… if you haven’t started MAKING gifts yet, you ain’t going homemade this year…at least not from your home. Time to start thinking of other ways to check off your list without selling your soul to Walmart. I’ve told you about cyber gifts, but maybe those just won’t work for all you need to please. So besides stuffing myself with manateeesq portions at my ma’s this week, I will be preparing a little series all about what alternatives there are for purchasing gifts this year of the artistic nature. As usual, I don’t want to do all the work myself. So…if you have a favorite painter, seamstress, potter, quilter, soap maker, cheese sculptor, creator of any kind drop me a line in the comments and I will include them in the series. Trust me…they will appreciate your efforts. (Yes…it is okay if YOU are your favorite creator. I won’t tell…you little self-promoter you.)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!



Ho Ho Hold onto That Packaging and Have Yourself a Merry Green Indoor Yardsale

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, handmade holidays


Sitting on a pile of goods? Need to make space for the yule tide o’crap about to hit your home?

Selling on Ebay is definately one green way of clearing your clutter before the holidays. Your items will get a second life & are saved from a landfill. A new thing is prevented from having to be born and over packaged. Not to mention all those organic gingerbread men you can buy from your local bakery with the money you make and someone else saves!

Make the sale a little greener by reusing all that extra packaging that is bombarding your door this month. Hell, steal your neighbor’s scraps too while you are at it. I was able to make about a dozen Ebay shipments without using any new packaging except tape. Bubble envelopes and boxes are so easy to reuse. For smaller items I even cut a larger pre-used bubble envelope in half and tape up the edges. Since letting the boxes and packaging materials sit around will just lead to clutter, start preparing your sale now.

P.S. Did I mention buying on ebay also gives you a little green credit. Used over new. Just include a note to the seller that you don’t mind used packaging, in fact, you prefer it. Most will be happy to oblige you, I’m sure. I, for one ,will be using my little Paypal kitty to track down a few things for my boys in an effort to create a little less waste this year. 2nd hand Geo choo-choos and Batman figures all around.

Remember the classic saying: One gal’s junk is another’s cheap stocking stuffer. YOU may be over your MC Hammer obsession, but somewhere out there, in some home, some young man has just purchased his very first pair of ridiculously over sized gold lame genie pants. And in that same home is a mother desperate for two things: the world’s stiffest eggnog to suppress the shame & your old copy of Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’em.



November Budget Report Card: Taming the Green Splurger

Posted by organicneedle in Economics, family

Here’s a little update on how we are doing with our November Budget Challenge.

*Well…we have so far managed to not buy any new junk. Getting easier as the month goes on but December lurks.

*My husband has taken a lunch everyday. He even packed his own one day. (It was a proud moment for the whole family.)

*And…. we completely blew our wine budget by the end of week two. I guess we are just not capable of buying wine in bulk and having any sort of adult willpower. Lesson learned. We will be trying a new approach next month for that one…as well as cutting back for the rest of this month.

The No Buy has caused some interesting self-discoveries. I’ve had to scrounge a bit for things I need and you know what I discovered? I am a complete green impulse shopper!!! I hear about something greener on the market I might like more…and I run out and buy it….needed or not. Then I shelve it at the first sign of shortcomings….like every 7th generation cleaning product ever made. Well…in the long run I think it might be a tad greener, not to mention cheaper, to use up what I have and THEN make a greener purchase.
This is what I have discovered in my green coffers:
4 types of TP
3 types of garbage bags
3 types of auto dishwasher detergent
4 brands of laundry detergent
11 bottles of sunscreen (I am a serious whitey…I wear it everyday.)
37 bottles of lotion…Yep 37. I have the supplies to make the cast of Golden Girls look supple!

This is at least two years worth of stuff. Would it be cheating to add the extra money not spent on cleaning supplies and toiletries to pad my wine budget?  Gal’s gotta have priorities.



Meet Romanesco Broccoli. Brassica Oleracea If You’re Nasty.

Posted by organicneedle in csa

broccoliI wish I could report how it tastes…but every time I get near it with a knife it hypnotizes me. Maybe it is right…veggies should rule the universe.



Let Me Be in the Cool Non-Plastic Club Too, Beth…I’ll Share My Wooden Pocket Protector

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, plastic

Last week Beth, Fake Plastic Fish,, wrote a little post about what bloggers are doing to reduce their plastic. And since I want to sit at the cool table too…I wrote my own little blurb.nerds

What inspired me to think about plastic specifically? You Bethikins! I’ve always had my eye on trying to use reusable & recyclable products over non-recyclable, hence the creation of Organic Needle products. But honestly, I thought that as long as it was recyclable it was a free pass. It was reading Beth’s blog that I began to see the error of my ways and the detriments of plastic recycled or not.

I have in no way come close to Beth’s success in ridding my life of plastic, but we have certainly come a long way in the past year without too much effort. Here’s how we approach plastic reduction on 3 fronts. I give you…The Slacker Approach to Plastic Reduction:

1. Replacing disposable with long term. The bags were the first to go in our house more as a reduction of clutter…the fact that it reduced plastic was a bonus. Also on the easy list, Sigg bottles replaced plastic disposable water bottles. Bonus.. a big money saver. Reusable lunch containers replaced disposable plastic. Now this still requires some plastic…my 5 year old can’t have glass containers…but having reusable containers means a tremendous reduction in the amount of plastic we use.

2. Another easy step was/is simply switching products to ones that come in non plastic or less plastic packaging. Like mayo…plastic jar or glass jar? Easy…don’t even have to switch brands. (There is some controversy about this choice since glass is heavier and, therefore, uses more fuel. Still tinkering with that one.) Sometimes we have to rethink our thinking about things entirely…like shampoo. We now use Burt’s Peppermint Shampoo which comes in a paper box and eliminates the bottle completely. Added bonus..the shampoo bar keeps your hair moisturized so it also eliminates the need for conditioner.

3. This one takes a little thought…but not too much. We have reevaluate how much we “need” things that only come in plastic. If it is in a clamshell…probably not coming home with me. We used to buy a lot of seltzer in bottles. We are surviving without it. Bread? We bake our own. **Now we do have our failures. Yogurt…just can’t make my own. Snack foods like fruit snacks, Kashi bars, Fruitaboos are hard for the little boys…and the big boy to part with.

For me…the biggest challenge comes with business. All of my fabrics and supplies come in giant protective bags. And honestly…they ain’t cheap so I guess I would be a little annoyed if they arrived tarnished and unprotected. I try to buy in bulk on the roll where I can…which significantly reduces the amount coming. I also try to reuse the bags over and over to protect various projects from my little helper’s jelly hands. (Murphey’s Law of Sewing: The More Expensive the Fabric-the More Interesting It Is to Jelly Hands.) I have found ways, mainly by stealing them from other people, of shipping without the use of plastic for the most part. Right now my big challenge is getting my nuts to their destinations in one piece without the use of bubble wrap. It is definately a work in progress.

So thanks to Bethikins and her big ol’ brain & blog, we too have started down the less plastic path. Besides being a less toxic path, we are also finding it has less clutter, less waste, and actually is a bit of a cheap ride. I’m all about the cheap and easy.



Carnies Are in Town

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, handmade holidays

How many green carnies can be crammed into one phone booth? To find out, head on over to the APLS carnival hosted by Burbanmom at The Green Phone Booth.phone booth

Oh…and seriously guys? No one is interested in the toilet greenies?



Cool Green Gifts That Will Hide the Fact That You Are an Eco-Dork

Posted by organicneedle in handmade holidays, plastic

So…you have tried your hand at knitting only to create the world’s longest bookmark? Your cookies taste like floured soap? And those recycled can mobiles you dreamed of dazzling everyone with…look like recycled cans hanging from a hanger? Don’t give up. There is still a way for you to give uber cool gifts that will still satisfy your inner eco-dork. Give the gift of shared resources. What in the holy holly am I talking about? I’m talking Netflix, Rhapsody, and Gamefly. Maybe an online subscription to the NY Times or Consumer Reports?

Why am I calling these services green? Yes…they do require electricity but they greatly reduce the amount of STUFF being produced in the world. You rent a movie from Netflix and you save a disk, a big ol’ plastic container, and its shrink wrap from ever being born. Rhapsody allows you to listen to whatever your little heart desires with out a plastic case, plastic disc, or the shrink wrap. Game Stop…same thing. On-line magazine subscriptions save a whole lotta trees from doing the nasty dance with a saw. Not to mention the fuel savings by not having to drive to the store or for magazines to ship heavy loads of paper to your recipient’s house.shorts

So if those hand tied lace biking shorts just aren’t going to be ready in time for the holidays…quell the rebellion and give a shared resource a whirl. Trust me, they will go over much better than those compost filled air fresheners you have been crafting.



Organic Needle Giveaway to Green Your Toilet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NYC Water Saving Kit

Posted by organicneedle in energy

toiletA few months ago I sent away for the NYC DEP’s free water conservation kit for apartment dwellers. Well it just arrived. First let me say…kudos to NYC for thinking ahead and for creating these free kits. Why wait until we actually have a shortage to get people on board with conservation?

So…lets have a looksy.

* Low flow aerators for kitchen and bathroom faucets. Sweet.

* Drip measurement valve and shower flow rate bag. Cool beans.

* Toilet displacement bag, toilet leak tablets, early closure toilet flapper. Nice.

* Low flow massage-type shower head. Mama may need a little special alone time to “research” this one.

* Plenty of info. on how to use the stuff and other tips to reduce H2O use.

Not bad, NYC. Not bad at all. And here I thought I would get a fridge magnet and a bumper sticker saying, “Be dirty like me: Save NYC Water!”

So why am I giving some of my goods away. Well …I have a low flow toilet that has no tank. Do I think I am hot snot for having such a thing? Why yes…yes I do. But this means I have no use for the float, the displacement bag, or the leak tabs. Rather than let them go to waste…why not share the potty wealth.

So if you are interested in any of the toilet accessories…just leave a comment in the comment section stating which thing you would like and I’ll throw your name in the pot. (I will draw for each separately.)If you are a NYC resident you can get an entire kit all to yourself by logging onto the NYC DEP’s website. If you are not…my condolences. You can either move here…or take the easy way out and contact your own town’s DEP and see what they have for you and your throne.



Add Shade-Grown to Your Green Checklist

Posted by organicneedle in coffee filter, energy, organics

Sunday I took my peeps to the good ol’ Bronx Zoo. Always educational for all. In addition to staring down the Eco Toilet for 20 minutes and excitedly talking about what eats poop, besides the weird kid at the playground, we also visited the recently renovated Madagascar House. There we met a 10×20 foot screen showing footage of the devastating deforestation of the island. 80% of 99% of its land animals’ habitat is gone. Just gone. The evil culprit…the poor farmers trying to make a living. Not so evil, huh?

Well…apparently, I learned, there is a solution…one that we all can be a part of. By supporting shade-grown coffee we can send the message that we are willing to pay a little more to save a whole lot…an entire eco-system to be exact. Shade growing not only keeps the much needed animal habitat, but also lessens soil erosion, requires less pesticides,and lessens the plants’ vulnerability to climate changes. It’s a win-win…as long as the farmers can still make a decent living with less crop output.

Costa Rica has already launched their own shade-growing effort to save their migratory birds’ habitat. Hopefully their success will encourage others that economy and ecology do not have to work against each other. coffee

So send a message to coffee growers around the world that we want them to have fair wages, lessen their chemical output, and keep their lands in tact. Here is a list of resources to find exactly what you are looking for in your morning cup. Demanding little group, aren’t we?

Gosh golly…you know what would go perfectly with your new organic, fair trade, shade-grown coffee? An organic cotton reusable coffee filter, of course. (I am nothing if not subtle.)



My Hidious Holiday Quilt: APLS Holiday Shopping Report

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, csa, CSA/ Local Food, family, handmade holidays

My approach to the holiday shopping cannot be described as a solid green effort…more of a veeeeeeery unattractive quilt…with a few green squares, but mostly what ever fits the space without me losing my fa la la la mind and kicking any man with a red suit and beard in the nards. Overall…I want to enjoy my holidays and the people I share them with. If in the process I can streamline things, produce a little less waste, perhaps stuff people with an organic pie or two that’s just peachy.(Not local peachy of course because we are a wee past season for that.)

Let’s start with the gifts. I try to do homemade, the most local workmanship known, whenever it will please the receiver. handmadeFor some branches of the family this has always been my practice…not so much a s a green thing…but as a way of showing people I care and think about them. My father’s side of the family are all artistic, crafty, and very into the do-it-yourself type of mentality. (One year my uncle even crotched everyone their own blanket!) Each year I have fun picking a new creation…usually sweet. One year it was Norwegian hazel nut cake with chocolate ganash, another it was homemade chocolate covered pretzels, truffels, assorted cookies, you get the picture. fatpantsThe planning and cooking/baking is what I enjoy most about the season. Now that I have assistants it is even more meaningful and festive. We get a chance to talk about everyone’s favorite foods…favorite colors…and actually spend some time thinking about what will make people smile…and gain 10 lbs. To make this practice even more local this year I am going to try to incorporate my CSA pumpkin puree, stashed in the freezer with love. I’m thinking pumpkin ginger truffles dipped in dark chocolate. Everyone grab your fat pants…you’re going to need them if you’re on the list.

But I would be a big fat liar if I claimed all my squares were green….read on.

As for the kids…not our own…and the adults not so into the homemade thing…if I know specifically what they want I simply get that item. I consider it waste prevention. Otherwise…I go services, more on that later in the week, or books & book gift cards. My one sister-in-law started the book practice a few years ago with my older son. He loved having his own book “credit card.” I in turn started doing this with my other nieces and nephews…and so forth and so forth. Now some people may not consider books a green gift but I do. One…I never consider encouraging reading a waste…ever. Mind expansion and spirit enrichment trump all else. Two…books are one of those things most people pass along when they are done with them. Here, we have a local church that collects unwanted books, has an annual book sale, and donates the profits to Habitat for Humanity. Three…when a book really hits the wall…most are completely recyclable. Now I could go local with purchasing, but I’m afraid my cheapness takes over here. Most local book stores can not even come close to Amazon’s or Barnes & Nobles’ prices. (And yes…both will ship books without plastic if you request it.) Plus, by using the bigger book stores you know people can easily return something if they already have a copy…preventing waste. Let’s call these squares plaid, shall we, with green highlights.

treeWith my own children I try to be “green” by limiting the amount we get & by being sure to get long term toys only. The boys get 1 gift from us, 1 from Santa, and 1 from each other. Stockings are filled with yummies, books, matching PJs and required art supplies. We try to avoid the toy frenzy as much as possible. With tons of aunts, uncles, great aunts & uncles…even a great great aunt & grandmother…they get a sleighful. I also try to head off some of the crap tide by having a few gift ideas for askers well in advance. I have found over the years saying…oh they don’t need anything…results in singing dancing x-mas trees headed for the trash. Again, as far as local…not so much. Now if only someone would start a homemade Lego shop….. Greenish-brown squares? …Like pondmud.

As for food. We don’t host most of the big days…so a take-along organic pie is no big whoop. As far as meals at home, we stick to our usual rules…just with added fat and gin. New Year’s is our one big hosting event. This is my first year of really focusing on the local thing…whole new perspective. For the party we’ve always done the bulk of the shopping from local specialty shops…but the ingredients themselves are far from local. I will certainly be adding some newly discovered local delicacies, and serving a CSA turkey, but I will also NOT be turning down my Norwegian smoked fishies, or super rich French, Spanish, and Italian cheeses. But this year I may try offering organic wines…depending on what my “research” unveils. Local with wines isn’t easy. We don’t have quite the variety that a CA or Europe dweller would have…but maybe a Finger Lake wine or two will find themselves nestled between the Frenchies…if they don’t make me gag. Again…I’ll go plaid with these squares.

**We also participate in the NYC Operation Letters to Santa program where the NYC P.O. collects letters to Santa from underprivileged kids and has volunteers make the kids x-mas wishes come true. They could ask for imported plutonium dipped clubbed baby seal rugs…are you gonna say no? You heartless bastard.** Black as coal…no way around it.

Well…I may have the world’s ugliest holiday quilt…with some green squares, some black ones, some from origins near, and some from tiny ice villages, but it’s mine…and it includes everyone I love…green or not. I sew them all in…nice and close.