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. )*
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.
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.
ATTENTION ALL RESIDENTS WHO ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY READING AND/OR LOOKING AT THE PICTURES OF WHAT IS RECYCLABLE PASTED IMMEDIATELY ABOVE THE CANS…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Posted by organicneedle in energy, recycling, reuse
When 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.
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.
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.
If you look closely enough you can see the entire thing is encased in plastic. To preserve freshness?
Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, energy, recycling
The holidays are certainly a time to spend extra time with loved ones…and if your family is like mine…a time to drink heavily. This means a few more bottles of wine in the ol’ recycle bin and a few more corks in the trash, no? Not so fast there Drunkie. The bottles can always be saved, sterilized, and used for next years home made vinegar creations. And what about the cork? (Which is a real cork of course because I already told you months ago about the importance of that little issue in the bottle post.) Allie gave some great suggestions in her recycling tips section about what to do with your hole plugs. Me… I’ve got enough projects I can’t get done…so the one that caught my eye lets some other poor schlub do the designing and making. Yes…I will be ringing in the new year with yet another collection of “trash” to drive my poor husband insane. I’ll be saving and shipping my corks here: Yemm & Hart, who are up to their corks in experimentation and creating some nifty looking tiles. So hallelujah…a Christmas miracle…a valid reason to say screw the wine budget. Someone out there needs my corks…and who am I to stand in the way of eco-innovation.
Posted by organicneedle in energy
A 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.
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.
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.)
Posted by organicneedle in energy, politics
Setting a new greener standard for NYC cabs in an effort to cut fuel consumption AND clean up our air appears to be the Sisyphean feat of the year. In 2007 a brilliant challenge was made to the automakers of the world to offer up their replacement for the traditionally used Crown Victorias which get a depressing 10MPG. You would think this would be a golden ticket for US automakers whose sales have been severely lagging in the past decade or two. NYC Yellow Cab Taxi fleet is comprised of about 13,000 cars + there are an estimated 40,000 private car service autos! That is no small order. Plus, chances are if the new greener cars could make it here they could make it…well you know how the song goes. Only Kia offered up a modified Rondo…coming in at about 18MPG. Not great…but almost double the Crown’s. It is estimated that if Rondo’s replaced the 13,000 it would mean a savings of 22,285,714 gallons of gas a year! That’s right…22,285,714 gallons a year. One city…one service…22,285,714. So how many of these cars have I seen? 1. Yep…in over a year since they were designed I have seen 1. Strike one for cleaner NYC air.
Bloomberg then tried the ever-popular Congestion Pricing, modeled after London’s traffic volume reduction plan, to clear some smog. That went over like a lead balloon. Strike two for NYC air.
Then as part of Bloomberg’s 127 initiatives to reduce our carbon load by 30% he created the 25/30 rule. All new taxis would have to get 25MPG this year, and 30MPG by next. 1,500 hybrids were voluntarily introduced to the roadways. The NYC Taxi commission, however, fought back saying that the size of the cars available in the new gas range weren’t suitable for a large percentage of their passengers. Cabs often have to pick up multiple passengers and their luggage. They claim they have tested out this fleet of hybrids and the cars that meet that the mayor’s standard can’t hold up to the wear and tear of city traffic. They stated that the cars were constantly in need of repair and some were rendered unsafe within a year of taxi service. They filed a lawsuit against the city and a judge decided that the mayor does not have the right to set any type of gas limit. Only the state can set such limits. Therefore, he doesn’t have the right to combat smog. Doesn’t have a right to keep our asthma rates from constantly increasing. Doesn’t have the right to try and start a new greener path for New Yorkers. Doesn’t have the right to move us one step closer to energy independence. They won. Strike three for the breathers. We all lost big.
Utter frustration. Who’s to blame? A deactivist judge? The taxi commission? The car industry for the inability to produce a car that can meet the qualifications necessary? The state for not setting this standard across the board for all of our cities? Very frustrated. Very disappointed. Please let me get happier news tomorrow night. Otherwise I may be shopping for a nice cave to curl up in for awhile. Hey…Gollum did it and look how well he turned out!
What? Palin 2012! Noooooo….back to the cave!
Posted by organicneedle in energy, family
Survived the family vacation…yes the whole extended in-law family vacation. We will just leave it at my husband and I have veeeeeeerrrrrrrry different life styles and politics than most of his family so it is a balancing act. But we survived and had some fun without anyone leaving early, swearing allegiance to a new family down the block, or divulging any deep deep, but perhaps entertaining, family secrets…such as who was actually born with a tail. I guess you can’t get everything. (My money is on the sister.) And no one came home Aunt Edna style.
We went to Cape May. It is pretty much a sleepy little Victorian beach town. Any hoooo, while I was there it was my birthday. And guess what the hubbaronni got me? Carbon Offsets. (I can’t even imagine what the rest of the family thought. Let’s just say they weren’t seething with jealousy.) Wow…I thought…does he actually listen to a portion of my rambles? All this time I thought he was just staring at me waiting for me to be quiet long enough to reach for a booby without seeming like an insensitive pig or to tell me that one of the boys has created poop art.
Okay…now for the information you probably actually care about. My husband purchased carbon offsets from Climate Friendly . He offset all of our traveling, including air travel, and our car use for the year. Pretty cool, no? The website has a neat little calculator to help you figure out your personal damage as well as more detailed information about the projects they support with the money. If you are thinking about doing offsets for yourself or as a gift for that hard to please crunchy loved one in your life I suggest you give it a glance.
***Also while we were away we had friends take our CSA share. Now they are hooked and will probably join next year. Mooooohaaaaaahaaaaa….the first share is free but just when you get a taste of the peaches…we make you sign over your soul. Mooohahhhahhha. (Okay…maybe just make you agree to hand out veggies.)****