Spring Green Cleaning Step 1: A Charity List Review

Posted by organicneedle in green cleaning, projects

cleaning It is that time of year again…time to go through all of your junk and clean those nooks and crannies that never see the light of day.   One key to not being overwhelmed by spring cleaning, besides ebbing the the crap tide coming in all year round, is to be organized .  Step 1, of course, is to have less crap in the way of cleaning.  Since most of us crunchettes have a really hard time sending anything to the land of garbage, we need to take the extra step of having a plan for our crap.  Start by creating a list of local charities or even people that might be good recipients for your goods.  (For example…the single mom of 4 down the block who has kids slightly younger than yours might think your ol’ hand-me-downs are the bee’s knees.)  Also make a list of random things you would like to get rid of and start asking around.  Your best friend just may happen to be in desperate need of that extra electric banana peeler you have laying around. I find knowing my old stuff will be well used by someone else makes it much easier not to hold onto things and makes the process go much faster…no time to reconsider needing that neon green and organge afgan/poncho.

So get in those closets and start letting go! You never know what you will find….like this old post I ran around the holidays.  Perfectly good…only slightly used…slightly moldy.  (I am not  lazy blogger…just an accomplished recycler.)

As mentioned, I ran this list around the holidays to help with post holiday clutter…but find it comes in handy for spring cleaning too.  Some of these are specific to NYC, but I am sure you can find equivalents in your neighborhood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Stocking the Food Pantry:Longevity Vs Sustainability

Posted by organicneedle in CSA/ Local Food, family, projects

pig The past few weeks I have been pretty busy waiting for the piggie flu to infect my world, watching way too much news coverage, and hoping ol’ Bloomy will just decide to shut down all schools so that my brood and I could take off to the Keys pre 100 degree weather.  It has all been very time consuming. Now I will admit that most of my news watching has only aided in increasing my already slightly neurotic germaphobia, but there has been a tiny kernel of enlightenment.

So…here it is.  Living in one of the world’s biggest cities that literally never shuts down, I haven’t done too much planning in terms of stocking a pantry in case of a food shortage. After 9/11 my husband went through a period of evacuation prep. but this didn’t really extend to the scenario of being shut in without incoming supplies. Watching Mexico City shut most of its doors in quarantine made me think of whether I would be well stocked if such an event happened here. Fortunately for Mexico City, it didn’t last long and things never seemed to get to the point of food shortage, but it isn’t difficult to imagine what would have happened had the virus taken a different turn for a longer period.

After my husband got fairly ill last week and was in bed for 3 days with what turned out to not be the flu, I realized that our supplies were foolishly low. Thankfully, due to urban communal living and having amazing friends and neighbors whom I can rely on for the basics, a short term personal quarantine is livable. But what if we all got sick, or the city simply didn’t have incoming supplies for anyone? Would I, would you, be prepared for a large scale city shutdown or a long term personal quarantine?

So then I had to consider what constitutes a well-stocked pantry. (Keep in mind that space is always an issue.) I decided to approach the question by thinking of the basic nutritional needs met in non-perishables….grains, produce, protein, and fat. (I also had to think about what we would actually want to eat…a choice between Ebola and canned Lima beans would be a really, really, really tough call.)

So…here is what I’ve started with….

Produce : canned peaches and pineapple, apple sauce, fruit preserves, raisins, canned tomatoes, apple juice, Fruitabu (All organic except the peaches, pineapple, and tomatoes.)

Grains : organic brown rice, whole grain packaged pasta, dry cereals, organic oats, packaged granolas, granola bars, whole wheat and white flour and other bread making staples, canned corn, falafel mix

Protein : Dried and canned beans in case cooking isn’t an option, dried lentils, peanut butter, peanuts, almonds, canned tuna, canned salmon, anchovies, turkey jerky, tahini

Fat : sealed olive oil, peanuts, almonds and peanut butter count here too

Convenience Items : salt, pepper, mustard, soy sauce, red curry, various spices, coffee, tea, etc.

head soup Now there are a few things that didn’t thrill my inner greenie about this adventure. One…not everything I wanted could be found readily in organic….like no sugar canned peaches and pineapple. (There are organic tomatoes but in my haste to get the job done I bought what was in stock at the store.) Also…obviously part of the preservation of the products is that they are well and heavily packaged in plastic…meaning bulk and paper is pretty much out. And the whole local thing…not so much. (I plan to try to rectify this a little with the upcoming CSA season…more on my cluelessness in that area later in the week.)

So…what have I missed? What other fruits and veggies can survive the can?   Any tips? What do you consider pantry must-haves? How do you reconcile longevity with sustainability? Or when they shut down your city do you just plan on eating the neighbors?



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.



Art Waste…An Unchartered Green Territory

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

Art of all sorts is very important to raising well balanced kids…and a quasi-sane mama.   pig I, therefore, have often turned my big green eye away from any of its less then green aspects. We’ve always been big about using the backs of paper, letters, envelopes, boxes, even paper packing material for drawing and enjoy making musical instruments out of would-be recyclies, but that is about as green as we get in the world of art.  The other day, as I was prying out yet another dried up wad of Play Doh from the heater and tossing it and its respective plastic container in the trash, I thought perhaps it is time to explore some greener options. I did a little research and came up with two very doable and fun greener art options for the little ones.

First…Recycling Crayon Nubs

Now…we don’t seem to end up with a ton of nubs.  My kids are pretty good about using them pretty close to up and then they often fall victim to the vacuum.  The crayons ….not the kids.  But it is still a really cool idea for not only getting a little more wear out of the crayons, but also serves as a really cool art project and science lesson in one. Teensygreen gives detailed instructions for this one.

Homemade Play Doh

Now this is a big saver for us. My 2&1/2 yr old has secret stashes of Play Doh all over the house…which I only find moments after they have hit that awful so-crusty-no-kid-will-use-it point of no return. I found a great collection of recipes on an occupational therapy website. My kids loved making this mock Play Doh. We tried the no cook version and had great success except for the coloring part. I forgot to mix it into the water and tried to kneed it in post dough…but that just colored everyone and everything blue.  Our Blue Period we’ll call it.  You can easily skip the food coloring if your kids will allow it and still have a really cool dough.  Did I mention you can eat it?  Don’t like the way that alien you sculpted is looking at you? Bite its head off.

We’ve made definite progress but there is still one major art supply that adds A LOT of plastic waste to the ol’ garbage: markers. My kids love them and aren’t spectacular about putting the caps back on tightly so many end their walk on this earth depressingly early.  (We are working on the cap issue.)  Yes…they could use crayons or pencils which have greener paths, but they LOVE markers…the vibrancy, the glide, the ability to give each other very convincing mustaches.  Really at a loss with this one.   Anyone have a green marker alternative ideas? I would love any other green art options that anyone has tried.  It has been a long ass winter trapped inside, people…and frankly I’m running out of ideas to keep the little runts from eating each other for fun.



Books = Food

Posted by organicneedle in charity, projects

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

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

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

I recommend a book drive for four crucial reasons:

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

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

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

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

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



Freshaire Choice No VOC Paint Review

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

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

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

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



Feed the World Through Art

Posted by organicneedle in handmade holidays, projects

Tis the season for giving so why not give a gift that gives back? Today I will feature a few charitable groups or individuals who have found a way to promote great art and a great cause: hunger.

Will Paint for Food is an RI based organization created by local artist Shawn Kenney and Ninecooks. He sells his food inspired paintings and donates a portion of the proceeds to local food banks. Fairly simple concept…but brilliantly good.blueberries

The NYC Foodbank has partnered up with The Lunchbox Fund, an organization trying to feed the impoverished people of Soweto, for a really cool twist on a traditional art auction: celebrity designed lunch boxes. From Dec.11th through the 18th you can bid on line for your favorite lunchbox and support two amazing causes.lunchboxIf you live in the NYC area you can even buy a ticket for the kickoff party on the 11th and hobnob with Michael Stipe and Mario Batali among others.

Doodle for Hunger is another great charity art event that keeps NYC hungry fed. Again…so simple in it’s concept…yet so magnificent in its result. Celebrities are asked to doodle…just doodle. The doodles are auctioned off and the money buys food. It is too late to bid on this year’s contributions, the auction is held in late Oct/early Nov., but it is such a brilliant idea…I had to include it. Do you have any local celebrities who own crayons? I bet you do.doodle

What I love about these organizations is that not only do they do good work, & offer us a chance to be involved, but they also, hopefully, inspire us to see how we can use our own creativity and effort to solve problems that often seem unsolvable. What artistic resources could you use to solve your town’s food bank shortage? How about a kid’s art auction? A charitable concert or dance performance? If you put the word out, I bet you would be surprised to see what talents have been tucked away in the corners of people’s lives just waiting for the right cause to show them off.

If you know of other great art-charity partnerships please be sure to leave a link in the comments to help them out. Charities and artists share one unhappy trait; they are some of the first to suffer the consequences of a tanked economy. If you can, why not give some kick-ass gifts that support real people on so many levels? Or even better yet…make your own art-charity connection and help stock your local pantries shelves for the long lean months sure to come.



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.



Meet the New and Improved Organic Needle Tea Bag with Tagua Nut Tag

Posted by organicneedle in handmade holidays, organic cotton, organicneedle, organicneedle bags, projects, sewing, tea/tea bag

I am finally ready to put my tea bags up on Etsy after thinking over my test piggies’ comments and making some design tweeks.

*First I made the bag a little larger. It is still small enough to fit nicely in a mug, even a travel mug, but now has a little more room for loading and cleaning. (Thanks Arduous!)

*The second change was I added a small wooden bead over the cording to allow the bag to be cinched closed to prevent any tea leaves from escaping. (Thanks Joilie!)

Price wise I am thinking $4.50 per bag, or 4 for $15. They are actually quite a bit more labor intensive than a regular produce bag.

I am still working on a simple pouch that could hold the bags and some tea. I have some great organic Harmony fabrics that are beautiful and would make for a very nice gift presentation. Trying to keep it simple to keep the cost down. My goal is to make organic gifts practical for any budget. Not always easy.