Cash for Clunkers = Cash for Consumerism = Lack of Innovation

Posted by organicneedle in Economics, energy, reuse

Yes…I get the part about promoting the auto industry and supporting all of those who rely on the auto industry for their livelihood. But aren’t we thinking very small here, people?  And does anyone else smell a little green washing with the lower millage business?  Really?  Producing thousands of new cars, using all those resources and chemicals, shipping the damn things to dealers, and then junking the old cars has less of a carbon footprint then having the old cars with slightly higher millage still on the road?  (Now if anyone out there has found some actual data as to the carbon footprint of all these new cars verses the carbon footprint due to millage increases please send me a link. I have yet to find any concrete numbers.)
Is the only way for the auto industry to make money is to produce more new stuff and waste already existing stuff? Can they only survive by causing people to spend MORE money then they have?  Or..perhaps…just maybe….with a little thought by people much smarter than myself…there are a whole host of things that could be going on that would be better for the environment, better for the auto industry and all those who rely on it for the long term, better for tax payers, and better for people’s personal finances.  The complete lack of innovation with this plan and our approach to converting  industrial America is shocking and disappointing.

Here are just a few thoughts that come to my completely *non-technical mind*.

What about the auto industry building more stations to support electric & solar cars? These cars are perfect for urban areas and train commuters because we don’t need to drive them very far and in the case of a power failure we are never far from civilization. But…there are very few places to have these cars serviced.  And those of us in apartments can’t do electric because we don’t have a place to plug in. Couldn’t the auto industry be working on that solution? Making money and jobs by creating service stations and garages & charging a plug in/spot fee?

What about the auto industry running their own version of the Zipcar? (The Zipcar service is a smart little program that allows you to pay a monthly fee to use a car as you need…perfect for people who do a weekly shopping trip, etc.)They would make more money off of each individual car because many people pay for the right to use them…therefore they would need to use less resources making more cars and still make money.  People who don’t need a daily car would spend less money than buying a personal car, and fewer cars would be clogging up the streets needlessly.  Win. Win. Win.

Couldn’t they be working on finding an affordable way to convert an already existing used  car with less then desirable millage to one with very desirable millage?  Many people would pay to have their current car upgraded if it would pay off in 5-10 years in gas savings.  Again…the auto industry could be making that money, employing people to do the upgrades, while saving resources  and carbon emissions, and saving consumers from the big expense of a whole new car.

I feel like there is a lack of effort on the part of these auto companies receiving our big bailouts to really reexamine where they went wrong and begin to create a NEW plan…not just get funding for their old plan that didn’t work.  And we’re letting it happen all for the promise of a few thousand dollars if we are willing to put ourselves further into debt.  There must be more the auto industry could do to remain viable without putting consumers and the environment deeper into dept?  Is a perfectly usable car in a dumpster the image we want of American economic innovation?

*(I fully disclose that I have no idea about the technical parts of any of my ideas.  Not a clue…but I am assuming there are plenty of people out there who can make it happen.  Now if you need a snazzy set of  organic cotton fuzzy dice…I’m your gal. )*



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?



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?



Save Art From Your Budget Chopping Block!

Posted by organicneedle in Economics, Etsy, handmade holidays

While many of us are cutting back on the extras this year, I am going to make a plea to keep ART off the budget chopping block. If the choice is between feeding your kids or buying a new Picasso, the choice should be obvious…even to me. If, however, you intend to spend money this holiday season on some non-essentials, I say get all artsy crafty on your receivers’ tinseled behinds. Good for the giftees, good for you, good for the artists, and in some cases even good for the planet!

This week and next I will be featuring some interesting artists and crafters of various sorts to get your brains out of the big store box. Not to late to include any talent you’ve discovered!

Just think…support THIS.

Or…This. Yet another set of reindeer horns. Which do you think your giftees would rather have? (OK bad question if you have a lot of friends dieing for any opportunity to use the word “horny” in polite conversation.)horns



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.



November NO BUY CHALLENGE Challenges

Posted by organicneedle in Economics, family

So last Saturday started the kick-off of our November Budget Adjustment Challenge…which includes bringing lunches, a wine budget, and the ebbing of the crap tide. Of course…by 7:19AM Saturday I noticed about 15 things that need to be replaced in the house….kitchen sink stopper is broken, baby’s gloves are too small, 3 door knobs are broken, the worms have really outgrown their bin, and there is a snag in my scarf from last year. Hard knocks life, no?

So how are we doing? Here is our 1st week’s report card. (Completely objective of course.)

Lunches…A+++…I made an extra big batch of rice and beans with chicken chorizo and CSA peppers to cover for any leftoverless days. This is going to be my strategy for the month…and hopefully long term. My husband almost always takes a lunch if there is one. Over the summer we had a lot of CSA dinner salads…which don’t translate well into leftovers…hence the creation of bad lunch buying habits. Hopefully the Cook a Big Pot o’ Something on Sunday Specifically for Lunches strategy will help fix this problem permanently.

Wine Budget…C-…We have decided that $100 should be an adequate amount to spend on wine in a month- this also includes beer and any other adult drinks. (It does not include what we spend when we go out or entertaining guests. My husband and I go out twice a month on dates and probably once or twice individually with friends. We haven’t really tackled that section of the budget yet. We went for YEARS without a sitter so we kind of feel like we deserve the debauchery of going where ever we want, drinking what we want and eating foods that make the children gag. It’s not cheap…but it keeps us sane.) nullWell, so far we have already blown the budget…sorta. We decided that buying a case at the beginning of the month would be the most cost effective and easiest to keep track of money wise. Of course the case cost $135. To justify the expense we calculated the average amount per bottle and decided that 1/2 of the bottles will go into next month’s kitty. Knowing us and our complete spinelessness this may backfire. We’ll see how it goes is the best I can offer you. Yes…I fully recognize the sadness in how much thought we have to put into this. Oh…and the bottle of Sancerre we had to celebrate Obama’s victory totally doesn’t count. Sancerre is lovely…but budget friendly it is not. Those damn French and their diabolical plans to undermine my budget with their deliciousness.

Crap Tide...A…So far we have made no purchases…This, however, is a little harder than I thought. We’re not big shoppers but we are used to just getting what we need when we need it…or think we need it. When I proposed the No Buy I was really thinking of all the crap that annoys me…mostly everyone else’s crap…not my own good stuff. Here’s how I’m tackling everything.

1. Clothes…mend & swap. I will ask around for my baby to see if anyone has any hand-me-down gloves and give the too small gloves to our favorite neighbor baby. (One pair out and one pair in is fair, no?)

2. The Worm Bin ….We may be able to create a new one from found stuff, as we did the first one. Or…we could simply split the worms up and find a new home for half. (I swear they must listen to Barry White round the clock because it is a regular worm humpfest in there.) We have been unable to process a lot of food scraps due to the space shortage so I would like to get this done sooner than later.

3. House Repairs…Things will NEED to be purchased in December for the DECEMBER FIX IT CHALLENGE. (Details to come about that.) Our doors are nonfunctional due to completely damaged knobs.(Go ahead …insert joke here.) Can’t really whittle new ones out of cheese. Plus we need to paint. So a few cans of Aura will need to be purchased. The stopper we will try to fix in our own sad pathetic way. Anyone have some old Hubba Bubba?

4. Kids’ Crap…Easy Peasy…They ain’t getting squat until x-mas.

Anyone else playing along, tinkering with their budget? Are you joining in on my fun for November? Come on, you can do it. As always, I set my standards so low that anyone can join. I’ll even let you write your own report card! Low standards…it’s a way of life.



Countering the Cucurbit Crisis: Sqaushing My Squash Squimishness and Other Fall Goodies

Posted by organicneedle in csa, CSA/ Local Food, Economics, recipes

In the words of the great Moose A. Moose…I feel like I’m falling for fall. (If you can identify the song…you have little people infesting your home too.)moose

I have finally learned to appreciate the bounty of autumn. I have mastered the art of the world’s easiest butternut soup, narcoleptic cat easy. You simply steam them in the nuker in pyrex until they are soft, mix them with stock, salt, pepper, and buttermilk. Puree the whole shabang up with an immersion blender, the coolest kitchen gadget EVER, and you have some tasty creamy healthy fall soup. (You can actually use any cucurbit you have rolling around.)

Still tripping over squash…nuke ’em up like noted above and add them to your cheese sauce for a tasty quasi-nutritious mac & cheese. Create your reg. light roux…fat&flour browned for a minute. (I like butter and a little King Arthur’s white but any fat and flour will do.) Add a little mustard, either fresh or powdered. Add your milk and bring to a slight boil. Toss in shredded cheese. Then add your pureed steamed squash. (Puree the squash before adding because pureeing with the cheese makes for a weird texture.) Pour over whatever noodle you have on hand, or even rice and bake the bad boy until crispy on top.

A taste of summer…coleslaw made with fall cabbage, dicon radish, and apples. Shred it all up, add salt, and pepper,a little mayo, and a little white vinegar. Beyond tasty.

Leftover apples and pears…although they go pretty fast in the land of baby chimps. Cook them down into tasty apple/pear sauce to put with pancakes or even to bake with. (Applesauce can replace veggie oil in many quick bread recipes. Another way to localfy your ingredients.) Or use Green Bean’s fantastic rhubarb tart recipe and just replace the rhubarb with whatever fall fruits you have on hand.

Besides being nutritious, local, seasonal, and delicious…I am also finding these dishes are quite budget friendly. If you haven’t joined a CSA keep it in mind for the next season. Not only will you be supporting sustainable agriculture in your neighborhood, but you will be forcing yourself to learn about food and seasons and, perhaps, saving yourself a little green.

Isn’t it funny how watching one’s retirement plan go from escaping to a small remote tropical island to living in a small trailer on Long Island makes one appreciate a cheap meal? Maybe it’s just me.

Retirement Vision Before Stock Market Crash


Retirement Vision After Stock Market Crash



Milking the Budget

Posted by organicneedle in Economics, family

My strategy for getting food budget under control without sacrificing quality, Fair Tradiness, Organiciness…or cheese… will be have to be simple…narcoleptic cat simple. I know myself…I won’t be clipping ads from papers or keeping track of coupons for 7 cents consistently…I need something much more streamlined, organized, and consistent…and did I mention narcoleptic cat simple.

The Plan…
1. Collect receipts for a month of all food
2. Compare prices between stores…especially for the basics
3. Create an *envelope, repurposed from junk mail/bills of course, for each store I shop at with a list of the items that are found cheapest in that store, along with the price. If I happen to have a coupon for that item or store I can slip it into the envelope. Clip the wad together. Wallllllaaaaaaa. Moron proof budget organization!
*(I use the used envelope method now for my general shopping list…very helpful. Great reuse before recycle too!)

I think even I, the leader of the organizationally challenged, could do this and have it be effective. I have already discovered by glancing over the receipts that by consistently shopping at Trader Joe’s for some basics over Stop & Rob,the local Quickie Marts, or my health nut shops I could be saving quite a lot of money without sacrificing the core quality issues.

Organic Milk…$30 savings per month
Organic Fair Trade Coffee…$16
Organic Yogurt…$5

So simply by being more organized about my shopping I could be saving $51 dollars a month..over $600 a year on 3 measly items! That’s a lot of stinky cheese. Hmmmmmm stinky cheese. The potential savings thrill me and at the same time make me say…WTF have I been doing all this time? Ok…enough focus on my financial incompetence… back to my happy place……cheeeeeese. Now whatever will I do with all this extra money in the budget?cheese



Tossing Around the B***** Word

Posted by organicneedle in CSA/ Local Food, Economics, family, product review, projects, recycling

I’m talking about BUDGET, of course. (How many of you filth seekers counted the stars? Admit it…I know you are out there.)

We have never really had any formal type of budget. Since neither of us shop for sport and we have a decent income it has never really been an issue. We usually just keep an eye on the credit card tally through Quicken. Getting too high …we buy one less diamond encrusted codpiece that month. Pretty loosey-goosey. Now that we are losing about a new car, a decent new car at that, a month in our stocks, 401Ks, and wherever else it is possible to lose money, we are thinking of taking a slightly more organized approach.

Now…I already told you about the November house rules: no new stuff, no buying lunches, and the dreaded wine budget. Obviously the stuff spending freeze is temporary but it will hopefully give us a decent idea as to what we have been spending by comparing it to a month of no spending. Come December I will start to examine those areas of spending a little more closely but for now the stuff spending suspension will hopefully allow me to focus on our big issue.

I would like you to meet my Arch Nemesis:cheese

Hi. My name is Organic Needle and I am a foodie. I have never met a $15 a lb cheese I didn’t like. Worse yet…we are a family of foodies. Even my 2 year old knows the difference between a 99 cent canned olive and a $12 a jarred olive and will voice his knowledge loudly at any given occasion. We spend a fortune on food…real food. Not pre-made or junk..but just good, usually organic, hormone free, ingredients. And our shopping is insanely diversified…the CSA, at least 6 different specialty markets, Trader Joe’s, Stop & Rob, and all the late night milk runs. Because of the scattered nature of the spending, I actually have no idea what we spend on food per week…but I’m sure it is gross. And yes…having grown up quite poor and on a very tight food budget, I am more than a little embarrassed that I have just taken the luxury of buying what I want completely for granted.
So for the month of November I am NOT actually going to cut back on anything in the food department. (That would require willpower and self-discipline.) I am simply going to figure out what I am spending & where. Once I figure that out, I will hopefully be able to see where some modifications can be made without sacrificing quality…or cheese. Wish me luck. This may actually require math with numbers higher than 10. Hey…those extra toes I’ve been growing might not be such a curse after all.



It Will Be One Long Ass November: 3 Economic House Rules to Find Balance

Posted by organicneedle in Economics, family

Right before walking out the door for our long weekend vacation we foolishly decided to open the mail. Let’s just say the new car’s worth dip in our stocks this month gave us something to chat about on our way to the land of outlets and gluttony. Perhaps we need to tighten our belts a wee bit more than we thought. (Although after a week of eating chocolate things seemed to have mysteriously tightened all on their own.)

So…for the month of November we have created a few house rules to help us save a few nickels without completely peeing on anyone’s fun parade.

Rule #1…No new STUFF can come into the house. I have mentioned before how much we fight the craptide…well we are building a bigger crap dam. This includes a ban on buying toys, books, house wears, clothes, etc. Now…most of these goods come from larger Big Box stores so it shouldn’t have too much of an impact on our local favorites.

Rule #2…No bought lunches. Now this really only applies to my husband but it kind of falls into my lap. After all of our years of marriage the section of the male brain dedicated to the complicated art of assembling a sandwich or putting leftovers into a tuppy seems to have shriveled up like a forgotten pea.

wineRule #3…And this one hurts. We are going to actually set a wine budget. Which means either drinking cheap CA wines…or actually drinking a reasonable human amount of good wine. Haven’t decided which is worse. Tell me honestly…is there a fate worse than Fetzer’s?

It will be interesting to see how much of our income is freed up by these three rules. Obviously December will mean complete debauchery. But isn’t that what Jesus would want?