30

Jan

Books = Food

Posted by organicneedle in charity, projects

Quite a few weeks back I had an idea to do a book drive through my son’s school, host a book sale of said books at the school, and then donate the proceeds to our local branch of the NYC Food Bank.  By doing so promote literacy, reduction through reuse, and community involvement.  Sounds good, no? Well…the PA turned it down…said they had way to much to do this far into the year…maybe next year.  The problem is the foods banks really need help NOW.  The city is facing up to 300,000 more layoffs…this round primarily in the working class/ minimum wage sector.  Meaning that many of the newly unemployed were living a paycheck or two above the poverty line to begin with.  Needles to say, I was a wee bit disappointed and didn’t want to wait.

Sbook eatingo what did little Ol’ Needle do?  What she always does…annoy her friends until they agree to do things they don’t want to do.  It’s a gift really.  So now we, my team of forced volunteers,  will be hosting the book drive/sale/fundraiser through our building.  And because the board does not want a donation box in the lobby…don’t get me started…we will be collecting in our apartments through a convoluted system of Morse Code and pigeons.  OK…maybe just an informative flier in the lobby.  We will then have a sale in our playground and donate the money as per original plan. It may not result in as big of a donation, but I’m optimistic.

So why am I telling you all of this?  Because YOU can do this stuff too.  Trust me…I have no special talents…besides the annoying the friends thing.  You can do this project.  You can get unwanted books back into circulation, support your food banks, and create awareness in your community.

I recommend a book drive for four crucial reasons:

1.  People tend to have books they no longer want/need but don’t want to throw them in the trash. So the supply of donations is usually good and the collection appreciated.

2. And here is the big one…people are willing to buy a used book.  Clothes, toys, kitchen gadgets can be hard because many people don’t want used from an unknown source.  But books are different.  There just don’t tend to be too many book recalls.  They are often in almost new condition when someone is done with one.  Plus…new book prices are insane and if someone is an avid reader…$1 a book is a dream come true.

3.  You do not need any special equipment, area, or display technique to sell them.  Seriously…any community center, church, school, garage, or front yard will do.  You can spread them out on tables or even blankets or organize them in a box.   No helium tanks, ovens, jackhammers, or circus clowns required.

4. What does not sell can easily be donated to community centers, schools, libraries, etc.  And the ones in really bad shape can be recycled.  No guilt or hassle of piles of waste.

So see…YOU…can do this.  Gather a handful of friends who are kind or that you have dirt on and make a plan.  Food banks across the country seriously need a helping hand.  And besides, it will give you an opportunity to unload that complete set of Pickled Fish of the World encyclopedias your mother-in-law gave you for Christmas.


22

Jan

Plan Toys: Great Green Gifts for Little Green Goblins

Posted by organicneedle in family, recycling

A week or two ago I tried to compile a list of companies and products that try to go full circle in the recycling process by using recycled material in their products or packaging.  Well…I am thrilled to add to the list the Plan Toy  company. Plan Toys actually has an environmental PLAN! And their toys are adorable. farm A friend of mine gave this great set to my toddler who is a huge animal freak…especially piggie piggies. How cute is this? The sheep can even be sheered!

OK…so what makes Plan Toy a member of the full circle club?

These toys are actually completely nontoxic and eco-friendly. The toys are made from rubber trees that no longer can provide rubber. Apparently rubber trees only produce rubber for about 25 years and then are chopped down and replaced. The wood used to be considered fairly worthless…until Plan Toys started using it. Their balanced approach to harvesting and replanting has ensured that the rubber tree forests will remain in tact and healthy…and simultaneously allows the local economy to thrive. In addition to the wood, they use only soy and water based inks and dyes. No questionable chemicals floating about. So if your turn ons include reading long lists of lead warnings for your kids’ toys…Plan Toys aren’t for you.

Now the product alone makes them full circle cyclists…but it gets even better. Packaging….NOOOOOOOOOO PLASTIC!!!!!! Toys come in a 100% recycled paperboard box.  Plus the individual parts are bagged in 100% recycled paper.  In case you missed it….NO PLASTIC.  No enormous clam shell to rip your hands open on while your kid loses his mind in anticipation.  You can actually let your kids open the toys themselves!  And after the opening excitement is over everything can be recycled in the paper bin.  Better yet…since they use no adhesive on the the little white paper bags used to wrap the toys they can be reused for something else before recycling.   It seems so simple…and yet so far from anything else any other toy company is doing.

I love discovering products like this because not only does it give me a place to get well thought out adorable toys without the taint of over packaging and fast disposability…but it also shows that green business CAN be done.  Plan Toys is making money, employing people, being a member of an active economy and business world AND being green, protecting an environment and its indigenous inhabitants, and responsibly following its products through to the end of the line.  Manufactures and environmentalists do not have to be mortal enemies. So good to know…yet I will miss the cage matches.


20

Jan

Too Busy Being Proud of My Country to Write Today

Posted by organicneedle in politics

obama


14

Jan

NYC Charity Lists

Posted by organicneedle in recycling

Today’s post is just for the NYCers. The rest of you scram. Do I need to repeat myself? Skeedaddle. Okay…now that it is just us…the cool people.   Last week I mentioned a few great charities to help you clear out your post-holiday excess. Yesterday over at the Green Phone Booth Green Bean expanded on the idea and mentioned how her city has an official Wish List that allows charities to post what they need and, therefore, allows people to have real places to give their extras. Despite my bast efforts I did not find anything so clear cut for NYC residents. (Don’t tell the other cities…they’ll never let us live it down.) I did find, however, a few additional ways of placing your unwanted items within the boroughs.  I’ve included the 3 I highlighted last week as well as the new ones I dug up.

Who :Dress for Success
What they want :office and interview appropriate attire, dress shoes, purses, and accessories
What they do : Dress for Success is a nationwide organization that helps women get back on their feet and into the work place through practical general job skills training, interview practice, and job placement and support. Once a woman has completed her training courses the organization goes one step further; it, through your donations, helps her literally dress for success. Can you imagine living cent to cent and being forced to purchase an entire office appropriate wardrobe? It can be a real roadblock for someone without even enough money for food. If you have things to give click on their link and find a local drop-off. They have offices in almost every major and even many minor cities.

Who : Baby Buggy
What they want : baby gear of all kinds including furniture
What they do : Baby Buggy works with social services to provide families in need with the necessary baby gear by collecting the millions of unwanted items from the 5 boroughs and redistributing them where needed. Their efforts are brilliant because they provide desperately needed relief in our poorer neighborhoods AND save tons of very useful gear from hitting our landfills. They do only serve the NYC area, but if you contact your local social service agency they may know of a similar organization.

Who : ASPCA
What they want : pillows, blankets, pet food and pet supplies
What they do : ASPCA provides care for unwanted animals and assists in finding them loving homes. Your old blankets and pillows can provide a touch of home and comfort to an animal awaiting a home. There are ASPCAs in almost every neighborhood.

Who :DonorsChoose.org
What they want : classroom supplies
What they do : They allow you to choose a specific subject, age, town and even income level of the area to help.  Teachers post exactly what they and their students need.  Trust me…schools need this.  The budget cuts are ugly…and teachers and students feel it.

Who :Materials for the Arts
What do they want : Art supplies of all kinds…including frames
What do they do : In their words,"Materials for the Arts has provided thousands of New York City’s arts and cultural organizations, public schools and community arts programs with the supplies they need to run and expand their programs. Materials are gathered from companies and individuals that no longer need them and redistributed to the artists and educators that do. In the process, hundreds of tons are removed from the waste stream every year and kept out of landfills, helping to sustain our environment and promote reuse and waste reduction. MFTA helps artists realize their visions, provides students with a richer educational experience and furnishes businesses and individuals with a simple and efficient way to enhance the cultural life of their city."

Who :Dell Inc., Epson, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lexmark, MPC Computers
What they want :old or non-working computers, printers, etc
What they do : According to NYC Charities, the offices here in the city will take them back and recycle/refurbish them. Couldn’t find out a lot of details, but since broken computers are virtually impossible to find a home for otherwise, it is certainly worth the effort of returning them to their creators.

Who :Housing Works Thrift Shop
What they want : Clothes, accessories, and housewares, furniture, books, etc.
What they do : The Thrift Shop provides….thrift stores.  Seems simple…but frankly we don’t have a lot.  By providing a place and opportunity for these goods to be purchased they are keeping millions of lbs of unwanted goods out of our landfills and providing affordable goods for lower income families.  And guess what they do with the money they make? They provide for NYC’s population of homeless suffering with HIV and AIDS. This organization is such a great example of how to help so many groups at the same time even when extra funding dollars are scarce.Clean out your clutter, keep goods out of the landfill, help the poor get what they need, and provide for our neediest all at the same time. Brilliant!

I think this list covers just about any household items you might be looking to clear out. If you have something you aren’t sure what to do with, leave a comment and I will try to track down a home for it. As I mentioned in my first charity post, get your friends on board and each take up one charity/ one collection/one drop off. You can even make a little party out of it. After a few glasses of good wine it will be much easier to let go of that old sequence bell bottom jumper 2 sizes too small that is still in your closet. Yes… we know it is still there.


12

Jan

Freshaire Choice No VOC Paint Review

Posted by organicneedle in family, plastic, product review, projects

freshaire My apartment, other than the recently painted boys’ room, is in desperate need of a coat of paint.  I used Benjamin Moore’s Aura for my son’s room and was very pleased with its VOCless goodiness.  At $60 a can, however, it was a wee bit pricey for a big project.  One thing I didn’t mention in my review was that it actually took almost 2x as much paint for good coverage with the no VOC paint verses the old kind, which is something to consider when planning your paint budget and brings me to why I tried this new paint.  Our living room is easily 4x the size, plus the hall and breakfast nook are getting the same color…meaning we will need about 5 gallons of the stuff.  Suddenly $60 a can seems a little pricier than before.  So I decided to try another VOC Free paint Freshaire Choice, at a mere $35 a gallon. Still not the cheapest, but certainly worth the lack of chemical intake and worth a try.

I started with the hall just in case it was a dud. I must say…it was fine. Now Aura had no smell. Freshaire had a slight smell…not really chemically…but a little odor like silly putty. I did have some slight bubbling over a few spots I had patched with compound and not bothered to prime…but not sure I could blame the paint for my laziness.  Overall the color was even and vibrant…with a second coat. I must say…can’t really see too much of a difference to justify the $25 a can more for Aura.

The only drawback I have found so far is that they do not have as many color choices.  The ones they do have are absolutely beautiful nature inspired hues…but they might not be for everyone…like nature haters.  We went with Tranquil Pond.  I’m hopin it will have a calming effect on my little beasties and myself.  Ah…who am I kidding.  Nothing would tame my brood.  Perhaps Tranquilizer Pond.  I feel calmer just thinking about it.


9

Jan

Going Full Cycle Everyday

Posted by organicneedle in energy, recycling, reuse

glassWhen we think of recycling we need to think of the whole process…supporting the recycling by choosing daily goods that come in recyclable or reusable packaging AND buying goods made from or packaged in recycled materials. Unfortunately, many companies find that using virgin material is cheaper than processing and using recycled ones. Therefore, as consumers, we need to ensure manufacturers that using recycled materials is GOOD for business and their bottom line- that we are willing to pay a nickel more for a product encased in a recycled/recyclable box than one in a virgin box. (Insert your own joke here…I’m far too much of a lady.) Fairly simple…the more we buy everyday products made with recycled goods the more manufactures will see a purpose.

I am hoping to comprise a decent list of companies and products dedicated to the full cycle…to make the weekly shopping a wee bit less of a complete brain scramble. Most of you probably already know about some of the goodies I have listed …but I thought it would be a start. I am hoping all of you can contribute your experience to flush out the list to make it a bit more comprehensive and useful. (I can’t try out everything people!) Definitely add in the comment section anything made of recycled materials that you have enjoyed…or thought was a waste money.

    Recycled Content

Preserve Tooth Brushes and Razors made from recycled #5 plastic. In addition to being made of recycled plastic, they are also recyclable into industrial strength plastics. I use and enjoy both. My husband, however, does not enjoy their toothbrushes…thinks they are weirdly shaped. No comment.

7th’s Recycled TP and other paper products. We have gotten used to the TP without any major scaring. Their paper towels are absolutely worthless. You are better off making your own T-shirt rags…or a poodle.

7th Generation Trash Bags...80% recycled plastic. They’re garbage bags. ‘nough said.

Luigibormioli 100% Recycled Glasses…Love these!!!!! They are the most beautiful sea glass green and quite durable. Makes a great gift.

Terracycle Bags, garbage cans, pencils, Oh my! I haven’t tried any of their products yet, but those newspaper pencils will be on my list when I run out. Has anyone tried their juice pouch bags? Seems like a cool gift.

    Recycled Packaging

Here is a great list of companies that have signed on to use 100% recycled paperboard for their boxing needs. 100% Recycled Paperboard Users (Remember-many of these companies own a lot of popular healthy brands…like Kellog’s owns Kashi.)

Some that I didn’t see on the list but who also use recycled packaging….
Burt’s Bees uses 50-100% recycled paper for their boxes and does not shrink wrap them. We use their soaps and shampoo bars.

7th Generation uses 100% recycled paper boxes for their various powdered detergents. They all suck in my opinion…but I give them props for the packaging.

Fantastic Foods…100% recycled cardboard box. They do use plastic liners, but if you are going to go semi-prepared foods…this is definitely tasty and way better than a frozen dinner in terms of packaging.

Celestial Seasonings…100% recycled cardboard box. Mostly a loose tea kind of gal…but I keep a few boxes of the herbal stuff on hand for guests.

As people add things in the comments I will update the list so that it is hopefully useful. And please…if a product sucks let us know. A turd in a 100% recycled box is still a turd.
turdd

If you look closely enough you can see the entire thing is encased in plastic. To preserve freshness?


7

Jan

First Outing into the World of Used

Posted by organicneedle in reuse

turtleneckDeeeeeepresssing. I thought I would find funky…different…unique…and cheap. Nope. I found last season’s Gap crap at about the same price it was in the store. If I were looking for outdated turtlenecks I would just dig through the back of my drawer, thanks. Now there are vintage shops in NY that deal only with the high end…but I’m not willing to pay 300 for a used pair of shoes even if Jimmy has carved them himself and hand carried them to the store. I’ve heard Brooklyn might be keeping some good dirty secrets. Fellow NYCers help me out.  This resolution may be a lot harder to stick to than I thought.


5

Jan

Clean Out Your Closets, Annoy Your Friends, & Support Some Awsome Local Charities & Community Organizations

Posted by organicneedle in reuse

Let’s face it after the holidays many of us end up with way more than we need. All into a trash bag, no? Not quite. Many local groups would love your extras. You could just haul everything off to Goodwill but chances are the more specific you are with your donations the more likely they will go to good use. Here are a few places to get started.

Who :Dress for Success
What they want :office and interview appropriate attire, dress shoes, purses, and accessories
What they do : Dress for Success is a nationwide organization that helps women get back on their feet and into the work place through practical general job skills training, interview practice, and job placement and support. Once a woman has completed her training courses the organization goes one step further; it, through your donations, helps her literally dress for success. Can you imagine living cent to cent and being forced to purchase an entire office appropriate wardrobe? It can be a real roadblock for someone without even enough money for food. If you have things to give click on their link and find a local drop-off. They have offices in almost every major and even many minor cities.

Who : Baby Buggy
What they want : baby gear of all kinds including furniture
What they do : Baby Buggy works with social services to provide families in need with the necessary baby gear by collecting the millions of unwanted items from the 5 boroughs and redistributing them where needed. Their efforts are brilliant because they provide desperately needed relief in our poorer neighborhoods AND save tons of very useful gear from hitting our landfills. They do only serve the NYC area, but if you contact your local social service agency they may know of a similar organization.

Who : ASPCA
What they want : pillows, blankets, pet food and pet supplies
What they do : ASPCA provides care for unwanted animals and assists in finding them loving homes. Your old blankets and pillows can provide a touch of home and comfort to an animal awaiting a home. There are ASPCAs in almost every neighborhood.

As you put away your new things, remember that many could benefit from your old ones. Charities that do such crucial work are doubly hit when the economy sucks; their services are in extremely high demand…and they face the biggest funding cuts and donation shortages. You would be surprised what an impact a little bit of donating effort can do. And if you really want to start the year right, organize a few of your friends and each collect for specific goods for selected organization. (I’ll be grubbing clothes off my friends for Dress for Success.) If everyone takes up one collection the burden is nothing…one collection and drop off each. Plus, it really helps everyone with the clean out if they have specific things to pare down. So annoy your friends with your do-gooding nedtoday by assigning them do stuff they probably don’t want to do but will feel really good about after. If we can’t annoy the ones we love who can we annoy? Well I guess we then start a blog and annoy complete strangers across the nation.