Long Overdue Riot Update : 56% Less Consumerist Pig!

Posted by organicneedle in Economics, energy

Wow….it has been almost a year since I looked at my Riot numbers . Shame, shame, shame on me. For those of you who are scratching your heads wondering what the hairy heck I’m talking about, Riot4Austerity is a nifty little group that focuses on how people could actually achieve sustainable living. If you want to see how you rank in your own personal consumption check out their calculator .

So…here’s how I did.

Transportation Same.  No big surprises here.  Started at 12%, went to 13%, and now back to 12%.  Now, keep in mind, I live in one of the biggest cities in the world and actually have very decent public transportation and even my numbers aren’t at 9%.  (I don’t include flying in here because I’m not quite sure how to weigh that in, and I kind of think business travel goes to the company’s footprint, no?)  I can totally see why this is a priority, but not sure I can see how people who live in the country have a shot at achieving the kind of reduction necessary for sustainability without a major collaborative effort on everyone’s part…including the government’s.  Even having to drive as little as 10 miles back and forth to work each day would blow your numbers through the roof.   This is a mind blowing environmental dilemma. Plan: More walking with the warmer weather.

Electricity A little disappointed with myself here.  Started at 50%, went down to 29% with CFLs and basic diligence, and now we are back up to 44%.  Uggg.  Now I will give myself a break on a couple of usage points due to the simple increase of inside time due to this insane winter, but the bulk of it is from just pure lack of attention.  As I am writing this I can count 6 things on that don’t need to be.  Oink.  Plan: Simple diligence and more outside time.

Garbage Was 31%…reduced to 22%…and now at 24%.  The 2% increase isn’t horrible…but it is still an increase.  As you may remember, we have been raising worms all year long with the hopes that they were going to greatly reduce our organic waste…which is a huge part of our garbage.  Well…after a year it doesn’t look like they are even putting a dent in the job.  I feel like we could actually reach 9% here with some extra effort. Plan: Finding an alternative receptor for our organic waste, perhaps a farm compost project. Also, continue to find more reduced or recyclable packaged products.

Heating & Water …????. I am guessing we use less than average but more than desired. These things are all tied into our maintenance so I can’t really give a real number.  Isn’t it funny how when you don’t have a way to measure usage, it is so much LESS motivating to conserve?  We have zero control over the heat.  The water we could work on…tough to tell.  Face it, numbers are satisfying to the little Lisa Simpson in all of us. Plan:  Actually install the low-flow shower head that is currently staring at me on my desk.

pig Consumer Goods Can we have actually made progress in an area?  It was 100%, stayed 100%, and this last one was 44%.  No way!!!!! We have seriously cut back on the stuff train.  A very large chunk of our current number is books…which I don’t feel toooooo guilty about. (Writing is art…supporting artists is always good.)  How we did it?  We just stopped buying right away.  We have never been huge stuff people…but would often, for convenience sake, just buy what we thought we needed as soon as we thought we needed it without a lot of…well, thought.  Just waiting a week or two usually gives us a chance to find an alternative item already in the house.  Although, I’m pleased with our consumer shift in mentality, the Needle household spending isn’t all peachy.  I noticed something quite alarming as I was combing through the credit card bill; we spend an insane, embarrassingly insane, amount of money on restaurants and wine.  Not sure how I feel about this.  On the one hand, it feels foolish to be spending so much on extras, but on the other….NYC restaurants are a vital part of our economy…most are locally owned and employ a decent chunk of the population.  I think the word balance needs to come into play here.  Plan: Keep thoughtful about purchasing and try AGAIN to find more used goods.  Also, rethink our entertainment spending.

Food (Disclaimer….the following is based on a whole lotta guess work…honest guesswork…but I haven’t actually weighed my food and I also am still not 100% clear where traveled organics fall into the picture…I’ve placed them local for now…but that isn’t quite right either.) Okay…started at a guestamit of 25% local/organic, 1% bulk, and 74% traveled non organic.  Then we switched to the CSA and guestimated our numbers to be better…30% local/organic but now the bulk of that was local AND organic so it is a notable improvement.  Bulk went up to about 5% since I started doing more of the baking, and of course that left 65% everything else.  Now…I think we have moved into about the 48% local/organic and about 48% traveled & conventional, with bulk being about the same.  The big change here was simply paying more attention to where things were coming from.  Trader Joe’s now uses MA dairies and eggeries for their NE stores…which drastically reduced the miles on our heavy food.  (They used to send everything from CA!)  Our CSA allows us to get things like honey, maple syrup, cheeses, and even bread if we want it from upstate.  So things on this front are definitely moving in the right direction not only for me, but for the whole community.  Plan: When the markets open up try to find more local sources for things I still have shipped…like soap.

cornhusk Although I’m pleased with our consumer piggie progress…the electric and garbage numbers are a wee bit depressing.  I guess I will have to start eating more potato peelings by candleight while wearing my corn husk dress.

Have you updated your numbers?



Good Girl/Bad Soap: Trader Joe’s Next To Godliness Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

Posted by organicneedle in product review, random rants

dishes I have a confession to make.  I miss my bad boy detergents.  Electrasol was amazing…every girl’s dream in the dishwasher…yet sooooo toxic.  The total bad boy of the dish washing industry; its phosphate level even exceeds the governments rather lack standards.  So, although completely satisfied, in an attempt to be good to the world, I moved on.  Went looking for a "good guy" and found myself in the arms of 7th Generation.  Yeah…he’s a good guy…comes in recycled/recyclable packaging, nice to the planet.  He just couldn’t get the job done where it counts.  Film and residue.   So I moved on to a snazzy looking Palmolive Eco+…and I was impressed.  That was until I started finding clues that it had a pretty dark secret.  At first it was just a hint of a smell…but then I found the note: Contains Bleach .  Sigh.  So I was back on the market.  This time I tried an old tried and true friend, Trader Joe.  My girlfriends said he was OK in the rack…certainly a nice guy, like 7th, but perhaps with a little more pizazz.  Well…I’m here to report that once again the nice guy just doesn’t put the sparkle on my plates I’m looking for.  Still the issue with residue…even with the vinegar rinse.  What’s a girl to do?

So…not wanting to destroy the world, I will keep seeking out the good guys, but you better bet as I rinse the dull film from my pans I will be fantasizing about Electrasol the whole time. 

And Tide…I still long for your scent on my sheets.  Sigh.



Handing Out Wriggly Pink Slips

Posted by organicneedle in worms

Bit of a dilemma in the Ol’ Needle household. Here’s the poop…after a year of training, the worms are still not working hard enough. We love them…don’t get me wrong. They are great listeners… but they simply can’t keep up with our food scraps. Now we are not a family of food wasters…but we do eat an insane amount of fruits and veggies which leads to a lot of peelings, cores, nubs, and whatnot. With the Spring CSA shares coming just around the corner….something must be done.  They are only eating about 1/4 to 1/3 of our organic waste. The rest sadly goes in the garbage. There were entire months this winter that we couldn’t add more food to the bin because they simply hadn’t eaten enough. And now once again they seem to be dieting for bikini season.

So…the major complaints….
1. Keeping the balance of moisture , temperature , destinking, demolding, demiting and daily worm massages are a pain in the rump and seriously time consuming.
2. Evil, evil, evil fruit flies are on their way with the summer months.
3. They are space piggies…this is NYC, people…every inch counts.
4. They simply are just not doing the job they were hired to do. A lot of work on our end…with not a whole lot of overall results.

So…here are the Options….
1. Take them for a long drive out to the Pine Barrens, Soprano style.

2. Drive them to my mother’s in VA and add them to her outdoor compost pile and hope the milder temperature works out for them. (This would mean another few months of worm wrangling until our July trip.)

3. Find a local single person or couple for whom the worms could do the job. (I like this idea…but not sure how practical it would be.)

4. Find a farm or educational place that could use the worms to teach about vermicomposting. (I’ve contacted a local farm that does traditional composting but they haven’t responded.)

5. Suck it up and keep them as pets.

6. Eat them and sing a sad little ditty. Nobody likes me…..


Now I haven’t given up on the idea of keeping our scraps out of the garbage; we just need to find a system that better meets our needs. I tried getting our building to sign on to outdoor bins. People fear rats…which I can understand, but I will try again to get a discussion going. I also asked the farm I contacted if I could bring my scraps there…no response yet. Then there is the whole take political action and fight for more composting options…which I may do…right after I do the 400 other things on my little green to-do list…and take a nap.

So…what would you do with lazy worms?



On Your Mark, Get Set………Wash Yourselves Silly!!!!!!!!!

Posted by organicneedle in Etsy, organicneedle, organicneedle bags, organics, projects, sewing

By random drawing, test piggies winners have been chosen. I will be sending out my goods this weekend. I drew for the bag first and then with the leftover names drew for the cloths.   Beth and CT will be bagging their soap shards and Heather & Cat will be sloughing away their winter layers with the cloths. In about 2 weeks they will all report back and let us all know if they survived the experimentation.

I have been using my soap bag for about 2 weeks so far…and I’m digging it.  The washcloth is also a big hit for me, but I am very curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

So ladies…go enjoy yourselves a nice relaxing bath and get to work!!!!monkey in tub



More Needle in the Shower

Posted by organicneedle in Etsy, organic cotton, organicneedle, projects, sewing

Need to slough off that layer of winter skin? Well…while trying out my soap bag I discovered something…..the organic cotton mesh makes a nice sorta loofah-like washcloth.  Hmmmmm.  I will be making myself a few cloths and perhaps adding them to the Etsy collection. Anyone interested in trying one out? You know my give-away rules. Leave a comment and be prepared to wash and tell.  I’ll be sewing up two extra for the daring & exfoliant deprived.



An Even Greener St. Patrick’s Day: Grab a Growler

Posted by organicneedle in recycling, reuse

growler Now…to be honest…the Ol’ Needle tends to avoid going out in the city on days that are deemed official, ‘drink until you are no longer socially acceptable," days.  Not that I’m above a few drinks…just a half minute past the age of being willing to wait 45 minutes for the opportunity to pee into what may or may not have once been a functional commode while dodging tumbling exfrat boys who are pretty sure the bartender is checking out their wives’ rumps. But for those of you brave souls with iron bladders and a penchant for a good shove…here is my St. Patty’s tip for you: The Growler.  It is the equivalent of the glass milk bottle but even better; it’s for beer. 64 ounces goes for about the cost of 2 pints at the bar. Good buy, no? If you are like me, and would rather do your beer swilling at home with a few friends, you can pick up growlers at some local breweries….which you should be supporting anyway…or even some beer distributors. You plunk down around $4 for a deposit and can reuse the bottle over and over. Not to mention the bottles are really kick ass looking.

So call around before heading out tonight and find out if any of your local bars, breweries, and distributors have the growler…if not…encourage them to do so. If you are in NYC here is where to go. If you’re outside the city you are on your own, toots.



Soap On A Rope Twisted Green: Introducing the Organic Cotton Soap Saver ** CALLING ALL GUINEA PIGS!!!!**

Posted by organicneedle in energy, family, organic cotton, organicneedle, organicneedle bags

Let me tell you…the ol’ needle has been in total slug mode lately.  Not sure if it is the weather, old age, or a serious case of hotdog fingers…but I haven’t been inspired to create much of anything new.  But all that changed the other day in the shower as I was attempting to chase the last sliver of my Burt’s Milk & Shea Butter Soap around the tub.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a more dignified way of being a soap conservationist?  And then I remembered a trick my grandparents used.  They used to have a little dish where they would just park the old slivers.  When they collected enough they actually pressed them into a new bar.  I have no intention of buying or building a soap press, but it did get the ol’ brain operating again.  What about an organic mesh bag that could hold the scraps AND/OR be used as a little scrubber at the same time?  Huh?  Huh?    The porous slightly scratchy nature of my organic cotton natural mesh seems like it would be perfect for the job.  Such a bag could also hold a fresh bar, allowing it to be hung and dried out thoroughly between uses…less waste than sitting in a pool of it’s own soap juice.

The bag is quite simple…just 2x organic cotton mesh with organic cotton cording.  No added chemicals to your routine.  I could add a tagua nut to make it fancy or these new wooden buttons I have my eye on…but we can chat more on that once I’ve perfected functionality.guneashower

Now, as usual I will be needing some guinea pigs, preferable ones who bathe a lot and use bar, not liquid soap.  Now…if you plan on using it as a scrubber, it should be a one per customer kind of deal for obvious hygiene reasons.  (If the soap bag makes it through trials, I will probably offer either different choices in cord color or add a tagua nut for personal ID purposes.) If you are just going to use it as a sliver collector for future pressing or as a bar drier, than by all means invite as many people into your shower as per your wont. Any takers? Anyone out there willing to get in the tub with for me?  If so, leave a comment.

As usual, I never give anything away without making you work for it.  Your assignment…should you choose to accept: wash yourself for 2 weeks and then answer these questions.

1.  If you used it as a whole soap bar drier was the bag a proper size to hold your typical bar of soap?  If not…give me some dimensions.  Was the string a good length?

2.  If you used it as a scrubber, was the texture to your liking?  Did the material hold up well?

3.  Did you have any issues with my arch nemesis mildew, mustiness, or mold?

4.  Does this seem like something you would REALLY use long term?  Why or why not?

4.  Any thoughts, concerns, major complaints…keep it relative to the bag people….ideas for improvement?

I’ll be sending out 2 for trials next Friday…so you have until then to put your name in the pot.



Another Exciting Episode of How the Worm Turns: More Tricks of the Wormy Trade

Posted by organicneedle in worms

We finally broke the freezing point here in NY…and with the warm weather came another delightful treat…the return of the fruit flies.  So in addition to my husband going Rambo style with his water squirter, and my setting my lethal little vinegar traps, we have discovered a whole new trick in the world of worm wrangling.  Well…I must begrudgingly give credit to Mr. Needle for this one and even more begrudgingly, 7th Generation.  Allow me to explain.  Flies like it very wet.  So…remove the excess moisture and remove some of the temptation, no?  jim So my husband, on his way to becoming a vermi-genius, has been stuffing wads of 7th TP in the corners and in various pockets of the bin.  The worms don’t seem to mind.  After about 12 hours or so he removes the paper with the excess moisture, checks to make sure his "little buddies" aren’t hanging on for the ride, and flushes it down with the next flush.  And gosh golly…it seems to work.  Yes…the TP is safe for the worms to eat, but the idea is to remove the excess moisture all together.  Over the winter it was getting down right soupy in there.  Now it actually looks like something one could plant with.  And the flies?  Off to swarm some old lady’s forgotten fruit bowl.  That’s my man…the MacGyver of recycled toilet paper/ master of the worm bin/ arch nemesis of fruit flies everywhere.  I tried to get him to pose with his vermi-posse, but for some odd reason he declined.  Total closet crunch.



Save NYC Wildlife!!!!!

Posted by organicneedle in Economics, family

Yes…we have wildlife…in our zoos and aquariums, but maybe not for long.  Today while I was visiting the NY Aquarium I was reminded of the really ridiculous proposition of Governor Paterson.He is proposing cutting state funding for our WCS, Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the cities 5 zoos and the NY Aquarium.  walrus Now keep in mind, these places bring in millions of tourist dollars and tax revenue…so we are not really talking about SAVING the city or state a great deal financially in the long run.  More importantly, besides supplying us city folk with a desperately needed connection to nature, the WCS is a leader in conservationism around the world.  (In fact, today we visited a very famous baby walrus, Akituusaq, the first ever to have his birth filmed.  Gotta love that face.)  Check out WCS’s website to see all of the amazing conservation programs they are responsible for, some may even be in your backyard.  WCS provides so many outreach programs to help all of us see how our actions can impact just about every ecosystem…from 5th avenue to the Amazon Basin. For me & countless other NYC families, they have been such an amazing resource in helping us teach our children a crucial message…it is all one world and we are all connected, not an easy task when you live in one of the world’s largest cities.  So if you are a NY state resident, sign this petition and speak for all the creatures who can’t speak for themselves, and let them know that this is not the place to cutback.  Or perhaps you too would like a little visit from my little friend?


Hey Paterson…you want to do what with my money? Let’s chat, shall we?



Wash Your Hands and Call Poison Control

Posted by organicneedle in family

Let me tell ya a fun little story. Last Friday my 2&1/2 year old was in the potty doing his business almost into the potty. Suddenly from the hall I hear gagging. Of course I fly in there to find my baby with foam around his mouth. Fairly certain he wasn’t rabid, I deduced it was soap. He said he went to take a drink but forgot to rinse the soap out of his hands first. At first I’m thinking…OK it is soap…probably OK…lemme take a looksy at the bottle. IF INGESTED CALL POISON CONTROL IMMEDIATELY . And you bet your sweet caboose I did.soap bottle

They were awesome. I guess this happens all the time. The antibacterial agent in the soap is in fact toxic, but most kids puke it up as soon as it goes down. Mine didn’t…but she said he probably didn’t get enough in him to have a reaction if he was simply washing his hands and not drinking from the soap bottle. But it got me thinking, as does any high risk situation that requires emergency medical attention for my precious spawnage…such as washing ones hands apparently. So now I am on the market for a soap that will kill germs..but not my kids. I will take any suggestions from the audience.  Keep in mind…my kids are really filthy.  (Love them dearly…but little boys can have a slight tendency to be out and out…well…gross.)

*The photo is from BreadandBadger’s Etsy shop.  They make some really cool glass dispensers that I plan on getting my hands on as soon as my swarm of toddlers outgrow the Lemme juggle anything expensive looking phase.