Spring Green Cleaning Step 3: Yes…Another List

Posted by organicneedle in green cleaning, recycling, reuse

listMy last tiny bit of advice for your big spring clean out…which I know you ARE doing is to make yet another list…one of things you need/want. BUT DO NOT BUY ANYTHING YET!!!!!! Wait until you are completely done with all of your clean out. Why? Because chances are 50% of the things on your list you really don’t need. Some you may already have, some may have a perfectly good alternative which you already have, and some, in hindsight,..may have been more of a want than a need. Plus…if you are able to nag/encourage your friends to do their clean outs around the same time you may find in their out baskets things you need and vice versa. The truth, people, is we all have way too much crap…chances are what you need/want exists in your little universe. Don’t be afraid to ask. Besides, moms secretly LOVE to unload their kids’ old crap…it gives us a sick high to see junk march out the door. Moohahahahahha.

By not buying all the stuff right away you prevent future clutter, save resources, and save money…some of which you can use to buy the few items you may need in better quality and more responsibly made. I, for one, will be working on greening up the art closet. But if you have had your eye on that lovely but pricey hemp jumpsuit, go for it!

*And for those of you worried about all the trees harmed in my manic list making…don’t fret. I use smelly old used envelopes. Bloomberg makes sure to send me about 400 a day…so I am quite well stocked. We get it, Mike…you like being mayor.*



Spring Green Cleaning Step 2: Make A Checklist

Posted by organicneedle in green cleaning, recycling, reuse

This post is really one for me more then anything else…trying to be very thorough this year in the clean out.  If you too are doing spring cleaning it may be very helpful, in addition to having a list of places to bring your old junk, to create a master list of goals you want to accomplish this season.  (If I write about it here I feel more obligated to actually follow emu through…like you guys might secretly be spying on me…right now…this very minute… and see my piles of untended to clutter and just shake your heads in disbelief.)

So the following is my dreaded list of clean outs and respective junk recipients…

1. Pull out summer clothes, put up fall/winter clothes, pass on things that don’t fit or have too many of, make list of summer needs. (We have a favorite neighbor baby that gets all of our kid hand-me-downs, dress clothes go to Dress for Success .) Check

2. Clean out boys’ closets and pass on the forgotten toys. (Neighbor baby and a local church that runs a charity thrift shop.) CHECK

3. Clean out art supplies…you have no idea how much we have.  This is a great one to enlist some free labor…the miniature people.  My boys love testing markers…and it keeps them very busy while I check off some of the other things on the list.  (Unfortunately dead art supplies go in the trash.)  In Progress

4. Steam clean rugs and couches and vacuum/wash all drapes.  I have a small steam cleaner that I use really hot water in and a touch of Dr. Bronner’s…which has so far not damaged any of the color on anything.  For my washable curtains I use the 7th…although it does not thrill me for deeper cleaning needs.   CHECK

5. Clean out desks and unnecessary paperwork and see if any additional bills can be paid online.  Our paper trail has been greatly reduced over the years by following a few simple steps …so worth the time if you haven’t done so already.  Tossed paper will either be turned into art supplies or simply be recycled.  Don’t think anyone wants my old student loan bills.   Haven’t Touched

6. Clear out unwanted/watched media..books & movies. These will be going to the charity sale …and leftovers donated to a church that sells books to raise money for habitat for humanity. In Progress

7.  Dust Mite Patrol and bedding & stuffed animal clear out…cook pillows, animals and blankets in high temp dryer, wash what can be washed, pack up unneeded blankets for summer.  Pass unwanted blankets and pillows on to the ASPCA .  Sadly…unwanted stuffed animals have no almost no chance at a second life…keep it in mind when choosing gifts for kids.  In Progress

8. Clean out bathroom cabinets…cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and medical supplies.  Toss expired junk…recycling what I can of course.  Check cosmetics for the toxic goodies.  Make a list and order any emergency meds necessary.  Haven’t Touched

9. Go through educational supplies and plan summer projects, make list of possible reuse applications…like seedlings in paper egg carton.  In Progress

10. Finish painting.  Yes…sad but true…I never finished painting the trim in my hall.  Plus I have a whole big ol’ living room/dining room/nook to paint.  I did finally pick a color…which has been the majority of the hold up. I will be using Aura this time because Benjamin can make the color I want whereas Freshaire is limited to their stock. In Progress

11. Clean kitchen shelves and stock pantry. And while I was stocking the pantry I realized 3 things:

A) The freezer had way too may UFOs…unidentifiable frozen objects.

B) Oats should never smell like feet.

C) Rubber nipples are no longer required in my home…at least not in the kitchen.  Snicker snicker.

Which means this step now includes cleaning out the old food, the freezer and the cabinets.  In Progress

The point of being organized is that it will hopefully mean a lot less waste…a lot less headed to the landfill. It is just too easy to end up tossing things in the garbage out of frustration when too much piles up without a destination. Now this is just MY list.  You actually need to go make your own.  Right now.  I’m waiting….and watching.



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.



Trader Joes Paper Produce Packaging: Keep Complaining…It Works

Posted by organicneedle in recycling

trader joes Have I mentioned I am falling more and more in love with Trader Joe’s each week?  It is like they actually listen to their customers over there.  First, there was the plastic egg carton issue…which they changed.  They there was the traveling dairy egg and dairy issue…which they changed.  And the latest change?  Remember those awful Styrofoam trays all of their produce was packaged on…they seem to have been replaced with recycled/recyclable paper trays.  Now…it still comes shrink wrapped so we are not talking perfection here, but definitely a significant step in the right direction.  (Would it be great to get naked veggies all year long?  Of course…but here in NY we pretty much get 6 months of naked organics through the farm markets and CSAs and 6 months of traveled organics which usually come packaged.)

I don’t know about you, but this inspires me to bitch and complain even louder!!!!  Maybe this is one of the few positive side effects of an economy in the dumper…companies may actually have to try to please us to get those few moving dollars. So go out there and flap your beaks at stores and companies. Get what you want. Someone may actually be listening.beaks



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

Posted by organicneedle in recycling, reuse

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

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



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.



Plan Toys: Great Green Gifts for Little Green Goblins

Posted by organicneedle in family, recycling

A week or two ago I tried to compile a list of companies and products that try to go full circle in the recycling process by using recycled material in their products or packaging.  Well…I am thrilled to add to the list the Plan Toy  company. Plan Toys actually has an environmental PLAN! And their toys are adorable. farm A friend of mine gave this great set to my toddler who is a huge animal freak…especially piggie piggies. How cute is this? The sheep can even be sheered!

OK…so what makes Plan Toy a member of the full circle club?

These toys are actually completely nontoxic and eco-friendly. The toys are made from rubber trees that no longer can provide rubber. Apparently rubber trees only produce rubber for about 25 years and then are chopped down and replaced. The wood used to be considered fairly worthless…until Plan Toys started using it. Their balanced approach to harvesting and replanting has ensured that the rubber tree forests will remain in tact and healthy…and simultaneously allows the local economy to thrive. In addition to the wood, they use only soy and water based inks and dyes. No questionable chemicals floating about. So if your turn ons include reading long lists of lead warnings for your kids’ toys…Plan Toys aren’t for you.

Now the product alone makes them full circle cyclists…but it gets even better. Packaging….NOOOOOOOOOO PLASTIC!!!!!! Toys come in a 100% recycled paperboard box.  Plus the individual parts are bagged in 100% recycled paper.  In case you missed it….NO PLASTIC.  No enormous clam shell to rip your hands open on while your kid loses his mind in anticipation.  You can actually let your kids open the toys themselves!  And after the opening excitement is over everything can be recycled in the paper bin.  Better yet…since they use no adhesive on the the little white paper bags used to wrap the toys they can be reused for something else before recycling.   It seems so simple…and yet so far from anything else any other toy company is doing.

I love discovering products like this because not only does it give me a place to get well thought out adorable toys without the taint of over packaging and fast disposability…but it also shows that green business CAN be done.  Plan Toys is making money, employing people, being a member of an active economy and business world AND being green, protecting an environment and its indigenous inhabitants, and responsibly following its products through to the end of the line.  Manufactures and environmentalists do not have to be mortal enemies. So good to know…yet I will miss the cage matches.



NYC Charity Lists

Posted by organicneedle in recycling

Today’s post is just for the NYCers. The rest of you scram. Do I need to repeat myself? Skeedaddle. Okay…now that it is just us…the cool people.   Last week I mentioned a few great charities to help you clear out your post-holiday excess. Yesterday over at the Green Phone Booth Green Bean expanded on the idea and mentioned how her city has an official Wish List that allows charities to post what they need and, therefore, allows people to have real places to give their extras. Despite my bast efforts I did not find anything so clear cut for NYC residents. (Don’t tell the other cities…they’ll never let us live it down.) I did find, however, a few additional ways of placing your unwanted items within the boroughs.  I’ve included the 3 I highlighted last week as well as the new ones I dug up.

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.



Going Full Cycle Everyday

Posted by organicneedle in energy, recycling, reuse

glassWhen 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.

    Recycled Content

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.

    Recycled Packaging

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?



Drinking for the Cause…Yeah…Sure…That Is Why

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. corkThe 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.