House Commited: Long Overdue Building in Progress Update

Posted by organicneedle in building projects, energy, recycling

Awhile back I wrote about some of the things I would like to see happen in my building in terms of greenness. And I, personally, have made an estimated zero progress, people. Now…individually there are a few fellow communal livers who have taken on some green ways..not sure I can steal credit there too much or at all actually, but what the hell…most of them don’t read this anyway.

Electricity …the building did install timer lights in the laundry room which should reduce the time those lights are on by about 20 hours a day…seriously. I had planned to go to the board meeting and yammer on about installing CFLs and obnoxiously announce that our electric bill was reduced 20% just by switching to a little over half CFL use alone. But I didn’t get to. The Pres. announced that the building has, in fact, been switching over gradually to the CFLs. He even wants the building to have household CFLs on site for people to purchase- reducing trips to store. (Many city people do not drive and the stores with good prices on these things aren’t trainable…yes that is a word…maybe.) I’m not sure what other practical steps can be taken in that direction. He seemed to have it covered…I guess that is why he is the Pres. and I’m just a whiner with a blog.gnome

Garden and Compost . Remember my high hopes of a garden? Well…I had pretty much thought it was a dead end after being told there were "liability issues" with our insurance.  I was wrong.  After some gentle nagging, the Pres. informed me that the area in question is due to be rebuilt over the summer due to some leakage issues into our garage and that he is actually going to have it redesigned slightly to better accommodate a small garden AND actually have it filled with appropriate soil.  Dare I hope for an all organic garden? As far as the security issues…he seems to think we can find away around them.  Yippee!  (Now…I don’t expect this to happen over night…we are dealing with NYC contractors.)

Waste Reduction … This seems to be the area that the most work could be done but absolutely nothing has been done. Almost all of the waste is on an individual level…so people would either have to be inspired to change their behavior through more awareness or through building fines. The fines won’t happen…too much backlash. The Pres. of the Board keeps telling me I should work through the house committee on the issues of composting and recycling…that the board is overwhelmed and, although interested, the budget etc. is taking up everyone’s time. Why not join the house committee? Well…the house committee does a lot of stuff I really have no interest in…like planning the holiday parties…writing naughty notices…and generally taking everyone’s grief about everything from unsatisfactory child art being displayed on doors to ingrown toe nails. (There are a lot of high maintenance folks in this building. Including one who wrote a letter to the management complaining that nannies and children shouldn’t be seen in the lobby. Doesn’t look good to passer-byers. Nice guy, huh?) Not exactly my idea of a good time.   They produce a newsletter for the building every few months.  I could, if I really wanted everyone to be completely sick of me, write a piece for that offering simple suggestions to reduce paper, plastic, etc. waste.  Need to think if I want to be THAT person.  Let me run a sample by you guys to see if I’m up to the challenge.


Things That Are NOT Paper : food, wire hangers, Styrofoam clam shells with half eaten french fries, a broken flip flop, a broken radio with the batteries still in it, a bag of your dog’s crap, lasagna, or anything that is not, in fact, paper.  If you are still unsure if what you hold in your hand should go in the paper bin ask your self this question…IS it paper?  No…move along then, Sparky.

If you still have any questions, please schedule an appointment with my not-yet-3 year old so he can show you how to sort properly.

Now this would be just part 1 of a 4 part installment. Part 2 would obviously be Things That are Not Glass for our more advanced recyclers.

It is fairly amazing any one talks to me at all.



Making Room with No Room

Posted by organicneedle in building projects, family

One thing most NYCers can’t brag about? Space. We have about 1000 square foot 2BR apartment. Which was huge before kids. They eat space. One option…buy a 3BR. Well in addition to the HUGE pain in the ass of selling our apartment and finding a bigger one, we would have to fork out anywhere from 2-400,000 more for the extra room, literally THE extra room…singular. Plus…maintenance is paid per square foot….which means a couple hundred extra there each month too. Besides not wanting to ratchet up our monthly expenses, we just don’t want to move. houseWe like our neighborhood, our building, our neighbors…even the unbearably whiney ones, our little park, even our doorman who gives us all really weird nicknames. So when it comes to space we need to be uber efficient…quality over quantity. Hence our latest project. The boys are growing and their room is in need of a Big Boy transformation. Thing 1 has outgrown the toddler bed and Thing 2 has outgrown the crib. The problem? Their room is 13×8. Yep. We need to fit 2 growing boys and their crap, which seems to multiply like fed gremlins, into that space. Here is the real kicker…at 2 and 4…they are too little for traditional bunk beds. Sound like a challenge? Why yes it is. Try adding an ounce, and I do mean an ounce of greenness and we have a Sisyphean feat on our hands….and that is why I will expect all of your brilliance to come flowing forth.

Furniture…We have decided on a low-loft bed that can later be converted into a reg. bunk bed. Either boy could can handle the ladder and if worse comes to worse and one falls- 3 feet seems reasonable. The older monkey will get the top and the younger will get the floor. Okay okay…we are going to give him his brother’s toddler bed and scoot that under. Although secondhand would have been more ecohappy…the bed we need is so specific and after a few weeks of looking at Craig’s list I wanted to punch anyone named Craig…oh and just order the bed we needed. punchFor storage we are gutting their sizable closet and doing the CA Closet type thing. We are successfully finding homes for any furniture moving out and converting the dresser to fit in the closet. See…there is an ounce of green there.

Fabric…To save as much of the old as possible…I will be using the same color scheme in their room, meaning I won’t have to make a new set of curtains. (Of course I made their curtains…what kind of Needle would I be?) Here is my dilemma with the twin sheets, which we have none of. Do I go organic or fun? My 4 year old would literally poop himself if he found Indians Jones or Star Wars under his covers…not so much for organic tan. Fun or healthy? I may have to go organic sheets…fun bed spread?

Walls….Going to go with Benjamin Moore’s Aura…no VOCs. No big stress there. Great reviews…and safe around the wee ones. Okay…I get credit for a gallon of green there, no?

Floor…Out of courtesy to the poor women who live below us we really need to put in a thicker rug. The boys have a thin one now but they are beasts on the hardwood…beautiful but beastly. I am thinking of having a Stainmaster bound carpet in the earth tones family made. That way I could still clean the floors underneath, the rug will provide a good sound barrier, and will hold up well…meaning long term use…which in the long run will be greener. Not sure what other options are available really. (Hint hint…this is where you come in with the brilliance.)

If any one has any great space saver suggestions please, oh please share. Oh…and did I mention we have to get a desk in there for the upcoming kindergarten year? That fussy 4 year old of mine says it is too hard to concentrate while his brother tries to stuff Gorilla Munch up his nose…his brother’s…not his own. (He is actually really good at it. Talent comes in all forms people!)



Should I Become an Eco Hall Monitor?

Posted by organicneedle in building projects, projects, random rants, recycling

Last week I received a little pamphlet from the city about a new recycling/energy efficiency program they are kicking into gear focusing on the collective ecopower of modern communal livers..aka..apartment dwellers. NYC

Awhile back I too considered the positive side of compact living and certainly have plenty of opinions and ideas for what I would like to see done. (Although…my community progress has been…quite frankly sad.) What the program really comes down to is creating not so glorified hall monitors.hall

The city would send a building representative for a course on recycling and offer evaluation tools and supplies with the hope that said rep would go back and whip the building and its tenants into eco shape.

Now…I am of two minds on this. The education & supplies part would be great. However…it seems to me with either people recycle or they don’t. Not sure how to change that.

I know our board president, who has a lot more power than the little ol’ Needle, has an eye for the green but hasn’t had a whole lot of success pushing green policies through. (Although…we did get light timers put in the laundry room which must save those lights hours of shining.) Now I know there are some diligent recyclers and others who are just open minded to new ideas.

Buuuuuuuuut there are also those who are still thrown for a loop by our 4 part recycling system(glass, paper, metal, 1&2 plastic…which included pictures…yes pictures…above the cans…in color.

AND even worse than that…again…to be frank…there are a lot of miserable f***ing people in the world…and many of them have chosen my little corner of the earth to plant their cranky asses. These particular people complain endlessly about the slightest imperfection in their day…like having to pass toddler art on a neighbor’s door on their way to their own perfect abode. And they know everything of course. You know…the if they don’t already do it-it isn’t worth doing sort of people…because how on earth could someone else know better. Do I really think any of the self-absorbed set are going to take ten seconds to even HEAR a new idea let alone try it? And more importantly do I want to be the do-gooder that all of their fury is aimed at? And these are totally the types who love to find a fatal flaw…like the fact that I have a car. Don’t know if I could handle the scrutiny…I’m not exactly green perfection. And I do have to actually live with these people. Hell some of these grumps are even my friends. Well…were…before this post. As much as I would like to see strides made in our building in the form of energy efficiency – just don’t know if I want my name or face attached…rather be a suggester and ducker…you know…an eco-weenie. Seriously…I have enough people throwing food at me during the day. At least I hope it’s food.



I’ve Got Worms!

Posted by organicneedle in building projects, family, projects, recycling

Aren’t they cute? Long story…somewhat short. Got tired of waiting for approval for the outdoor building compost and decided to try my hand at vermicomposting. Say it with me boys and girls…..verm-i-com-post-ing. Did a little on-line reading. Scrounged around and found a good bin and bedding. Recruited my team of helper monkeys, including the big monkey. Drilled a few holes. Went rockstar on a few phone books, white pages only. Saved some veggie scraps. Ordered the worms. Ta Daaaaaaaaaaa! If all goes according to plan…these little pets should eat about a lb of garbage a day. Let’s do the math together. That’s 365lbs a year. No pressure little guys.

The Worm Bin

Worms 5

Worms 2

Welcoming the Worms

Worms 3

Worms 4

My top scientists quickly discover the worms’ displeasure at the flash and the paparatzzi, mama, is shooed away and given a stern warning.

Worms 1




One of the really cool side benefits of this project is that besides the worms, who were flown in 1st class of course, and a little organic dirt we were able to salvage almost everything we needed. The bin was an old toy container that had a cracked sharp top edge, not exactly toddler friendly anymore. For bedding, we discovered a pile of phone books in the lobby no one was using. For food collection containers we are using our granola cartons. (We buy Sweet Home Farm which comes in a recyclable milk carton. Perfect because the top can be tucked down and there is no traces of dairy to upset the wormies’ little bellies.) So…hopefully besides a lesson in composting…my boys are also getting a lesson in creative reuse solutions. Now if I can just manage to not completely destroy their childhood innocence by accidentally committing mass wormicide like I did to the yeast. No wine for the worms, right? Yeah right…like there is “scrap” wine in this house.

Serious negotiations as to the naming of the worms. Squigglies verses EEEdoooos.



High Security Gardening…Drop the Yam Nice and Slow

Posted by organicneedle in building projects, projects

gaurdThe President of the Board contacted me yesterday to give me a little update on my patch of dirt. He solved one dilemma- the liability issue for the kids. If everything works out, he is going to have the gardener dig out the entire area, rocks and all, and fill it with fresh soil. This eliminates the risk of the kids digging and finding a rusty nail, glass, or other not so organic lovelies. Yes…it means we will all be deprived of the really sucky part of gardening…but I can live with that. The kids and parents will still be able to plant, maintain, and harvest. You know..the fun parts.

The big issue now is security. The area in question has security alarms. In order for people to get back there the system would need to be disarmed, which may be an issue for first floor owners. If anything happened, like a break-in, they could sue the building…in essence sue themselves. The Pres is trying to figure out how it can be done without putting us all at risk of being sued. A whole different kind of pest control.

I’m sure those of you non-urbanites are laughing your peas off. These are the issues of NYC yuppy gardening. I’m sure somewhere down the line we will actually start talking about plants…they are part of gardening, no?



Wow…I wasn’t Completely Rejected Yet….Building in Progress Update

Posted by organicneedle in building projects, projects

For those of you who were following my quest to turn my building into a haven of communal greenness, there has been a positive turn of events. The head of the House Committee informed me that they love the idea of the garden and that the Board was all for it. They have even started the process of checking with the management company who handles our insurance. The big catch….the lawyers. Because our children will be involved especially, they need to make sure there aren’t going o be any liability issues. (I can’t really fight the process. We are owners in the building so we have to worry about lawsuits too.) But…I am still happy with the outcome. Having both groups on board means not only will there be less hassles, there might also be a little funding for supplies involved. (We allow for a certain amount each year to be set aside for landscaping, our playground, and kid-based activities.) worm She didn’t mention the compost…but I guess we’ll work our way up to who gets to kiss the worms. The one on the left is particularly dapper.



Hand Over the Eggshells Nice and Easy…Building in Progress

Posted by organicneedle in building projects, plastic, projects, recycling

As some of you may have read in my previous post Moving Mountains…, I have been thinking of ways to move my building in a greener direction. It was as if the little composting fairy worms were reading my blog! A few days after that post I received the usual NYC recycling update flier…with a new section….home composting…the how-tos and where to get the goods to get started. I also found out that the little patch of grass I had my eye on is completely in the free and clear and not owned by the adjacent first floor tenant. (I still need to get board approval… but I’m optimistic. Just waiting for the phone call. If I stare at the phone long enough I’m sure it will ring.) In addition, I managed to swindle two other families into my gardening adventure. So armed with a potential spot-o-grass, some too kind friends, ohhh and the support of a little city I like to call NYC, I have fine tuned my first plan of attack.

1. Arrange for a demonstration from Compost NYC. Absolutely necessary. For all my blogblabbing…I actually know absolutely nothing about composting. (They will come to your door for 10 or more people.)

2. Create a flier with information about composting benefits & instructions for the building residents.

3. Collect those pesky #5 plastic cups. The large ones would be perfect for personal collection in apartments. The little ones would be good for seedlings. At the end of the season we could mail in to Stonyfield any extras. (Pretty sneaky how I weasled another of my objectives in there without having to present myself as a complete crunchy nut.)

4. Get the garden team together. A meeting would need to take place that would decide what will be grown, who will take which weeding shifts, and, of course,who is in charge of kissing each worm goodnight. We would also need to make a detailed list of needed gardening and composting supplies. I’m pretty sure we could get decent 2nd hand containers from the garden centers on LI or even Freecycle.

I am pretty sure we will get approval to set up the compost and the garden if we plan well. My biggest concern is pest control. Will the plants attract more birds? Will the compost attract rodents? If residents or the building staff are not completely assured that these things will not be an issue than that could be the end of the road for plan #1. (If they say yes to the garden, but no to the compost…we can aways do the in-house worm bin…but that might be a tough sell. We’re a pretty froofy bunch. I am quite certain that some of my cohorts have never actually made direct eye contact with a worm…let alone had them as house guests. Pretty sure I will be doing most of the worm fondling.) Have any of you created urban composts or gardens? What grew/flopped? Were pests a problem? What makes worms happy? Matching sweaters or gangster rap? Ohhhhh….we have a lot to learn.