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. )*



Refurbished Phones: A Great Green Step That Needs A Little Push

Posted by organicneedle in reuse

I feel like I spend  just about all my free time finding places for unusable gadgets and goods.    We had a great and rather expensive office chair from Pottery Barn that broke.  They refused to fix it & refused to sell us the very unique part that would allow someone else to fix it.  After calling around to at least 1/2 a dozen shops and being told that without the iron swivelly piece they couldn’t fix it, we very grudgingly ended up putting it out on big garbage day in hopes that someone would come and take it for scrap.   Our microwave blew out about 6 months ago and we tried to have it fixed.  The entire computer board in the thing went wonky and Maytag said they would rather buy us a new one.  Disappointing…yes…but at least we found a few places that take old junked electronics for parts.   Our pedestal sink has a serious crack in it…can’t be mended.  No idea where that will go when the contractor drags it out.  Am I the only one who feels like even when you try you just can’t help but dump massive amounts of crap upon the earth?

So when my cellphone pooped out on me I was pretty much at the end of my consumer rope.  I went on to AT&T’s site to see what freebies I could get.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how many refurbished phones they offered.  Cool I thought…the full cycle in action.   Finally!    I found several that would suit me just fine…went on to read the specs.  Then something caught my eye that sadly shut down the whole deal for me.  90 day warranty!  WHAT?  So I am going to take a used phone and only get 1/4 the warranty you will give me for a new phone?  Considering my track record with cell phones,  that is not a risk I can afford to take.  Being me, I couldn’t just let it go.  I called AT&T to discuss the options.  The representative could not have been nicer about it and actually totally agreed and said it is an issue for them too because the refurbished phones weren’t really selling because of the measly warranty.  So great green idea…that falls pretty short if no one can use it.  I feel like there is potential here to REALLY make these companies take some responsibility for what they put out into the world.  They already have a system to do the work that needs to be done.  The next logical step is to annoy the bejeebies out of phone manufacturers until they actually stand behind their green ideas.  Who is with me?

Alas…so many people to annoy….so little time.



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.



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.



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?



First Outing into the World of Used

Posted by organicneedle in reuse

turtleneckDeeeeeepresssing. I thought I would find funky…different…unique…and cheap. Nope. I found last season’s Gap crap at about the same price it was in the store. If I were looking for outdated turtlenecks I would just dig through the back of my drawer, thanks. Now there are vintage shops in NY that deal only with the high end…but I’m not willing to pay 300 for a used pair of shoes even if Jimmy has carved them himself and hand carried them to the store. I’ve heard Brooklyn might be keeping some good dirty secrets. Fellow NYCers help me out.  This resolution may be a lot harder to stick to than I thought.



Clean Out Your Closets, Annoy Your Friends, & Support Some Awsome Local Charities & Community Organizations

Posted by organicneedle in reuse

Let’s face it after the holidays many of us end up with way more than we need. All into a trash bag, no? Not quite. Many local groups would love your extras. You could just haul everything off to Goodwill but chances are the more specific you are with your donations the more likely they will go to good use. Here are a few places to get started.

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.

As you put away your new things, remember that many could benefit from your old ones. Charities that do such crucial work are doubly hit when the economy sucks; their services are in extremely high demand…and they face the biggest funding cuts and donation shortages. You would be surprised what an impact a little bit of donating effort can do. And if you really want to start the year right, organize a few of your friends and each collect for specific goods for selected organization. (I’ll be grubbing clothes off my friends for Dress for Success.) If everyone takes up one collection the burden is nothing…one collection and drop off each. Plus, it really helps everyone with the clean out if they have specific things to pare down. So annoy your friends with your do-gooding nedtoday by assigning them do stuff they probably don’t want to do but will feel really good about after. If we can’t annoy the ones we love who can we annoy? Well I guess we then start a blog and annoy complete strangers across the nation.