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The Uncommon Life

Celebrate Cycling for National Bike Month

May 17, 2013

Since May is National Bike Month, and today is is Bike to Work Day, we’re celebrating by sharing some stats about how our team gets our bike on.

In NYC, biking to and from work is among one of the regularities of city living. When the subway stations are too hot, humid and crowded during the summer, it’s not too uncommon to see bikers out enjoying the breeze as they cruise through the boroughs to work. Actually, NYC has ranked #7 on the Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities list and have you heard about the new Citi Bike Membership program? Awesome.

Jessica McDonough, Associate Art Director, on a cruise.

Here are some quick facts about UG bike riders:

How we get to work.

Lee Griffin, Operations Manager, walking his bike through the warehouse to his office.

The time we spend riding to work.

Mindy Wilson, Human Resources Manager, gives biking a thumbs up.

Who’s biking by department.

And the top three UGooders (combining commute in miles, commute in minutes and frequency) are…

#3 – Laura Frost, Customer Service Assistant Manager
8 miles, 60 minutes, Average of 4 – 6 times per month

#2 – Erin Fergusson, Senior Manager – Merchandising
8 miles, 40 minutes, Average of 3 times per week

And, our #1 bike commuter is…
Dave Bolotsky, Founder and CEO
8 miles, 35 minutes, Average of 3 – 4 days per week

Maker Resources

How to Make Your Products Eco-Friendly and Spread the Word

February 18, 2013

This month we had the pleasure of hosting our fourth How To Make It design panel and networking happy hour in Brooklyn. We invited local designs (although some traveled from as far as Central Pennsylvania) who came to hear our panel discuss greenifying your designs and small business and how to get the word out about your eco-friendly creations. Everyone stuck around to swap business cards, meet our buyers and enjoy Brooklyn Brewery beer and Morris Grilled Cheeses.

Weren’t able to make it? Watch some clips of the conversation below.

Rebecca talks about the return on investments made in making your products more eco-friendly.

Rebecca shares some great marketing ideas for building a happy and healthy customer-base.

Tiffany shares some common mistakes made when marketing eco-friendly products.

Green products also means a more energy-efficient work environment. Rebecca shares some easy retrofits to make your home and office greener.

Yuka gives advice on pitching your products to the media.

You have a green product, now what about your packaging?

A lot of companies throw around the word “green” but there are some restrictions.

Want more? You can watch a video of the entire discussion below.


NYC Green Resources

February 7, 2013

For those present at our How To Make It event panel on Tuesday, February 5, and those interested in learning how to implement greener practices in their home and their work space, here is a list of green resources in New York City from Rebecca Krauss of the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s EcoBiz program.

ConEd provides free energy assessment

Choose an ESCO (energy service provider) to save money and/or go green

Find your recycling rules

Where to recycle everything else

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: A Pocketful of Convenience

January 30, 2013

Background Research
The Pocket Utensil Set is an exciting new addition to UncommonGoods’ collection. In the world of utensils, I had only experienced traditional silverware, plasticware, and chopsticks until now. This new option could open up an entirely new realm of utensils for me.

Since I dislike the feel and overall experience of plasticware, and I often find myself in situations where plastic is the only option, I predict that always having stainless steel flatware on hand will improve the way I enjoy meals every single day. I predict that I will be much happier always having this option available to me.

I began by examining the packaging. It’s quite simple, and leaves minimal waste. (Good for the environment, which is always a plus for me.) The back of the packaging has simple directions for separating the device in two.

My friend’s dog Max watched as I learned how to split it in half. This was really easy to do. (It’s also very easy to re-assemble).

When I first set out, I wanted to use the pocket utensil is every possible scenario until my experiment was done. I took it everywhere I went. In some situations, such as when having dinner at a friend’s home, where a table is set and so forth, it really made no sense to pull out my own silverware, so I figured I would refrain. However, I found it most useful when my roommates have left all the silverware dirty in the sink, and I didn’t want to dig for a dirty fork to wash, and then subsequently, use. I now ALWAYS have a clean fork, knife, and spoon available to me!

The feeling of using the pocket utensil is much nicer than the plastic variety; however, there are a few things I’d like to point out. The fork, spoon, and knife are scaled down a bit. Which makes them still useful, and, of course, portable–but it is harder to grab a bunch of spaghetti on this smaller fork than with a larger, traditional one.

The spoon is most certainly not for soup, but it is fine for cereal or any food where it makes sense to have a smaller amount in each spoonful. It’s great how easily you can separate the fork/bottle opener end from the spoon/knife side. If you had a meal that requires a spoon, fork, and knife all at the same time, you may find yourself rushing to the kitchen to wash off the knife and spoon alternately, as needed. This could be a bit annoying, but luckily most meals do not require that many utensils.

The Pocket Utensil is cool-looking, portable, and useful. It definitely improved those meals where I would have had to wash my silverware right before eating, or where I would have had to use wasteful, flimsy plasticware.

My hypothesis was proven to be true. I enjoyed meals with the Pocket Utensil far more than without. The only real ideal situation is to always have traditional silverware ready, clean, and available to you, no matter what. When you can’t have that, the Pocket Utensil is a brilliant alternative.

Maker Stories

‘Tis the Season To Get Ready for the Holiday Season

November 9, 2012

‘Tis the season for the leaves to change color and the days to get colder–signs that the holidays are fast approaching! Our team here at UncommonGoods is getting ready for spending time with family, the merriment of holiday parties with friends, and lots of delicious family favorite foods.

But with all this planning at home, there’s still work to be done at UncommonGoods HQ. We’re preparing our warehouse with unique gifts and necessities for the season, so you can find the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person (come on we all know one!). But of course, we’re not the only ones having fun preparing for the holidays. We asked our designers, Jim Martin of Green3 Apparel, Josh McGlothlin of Icebox Knitting, and Jamie Cornett of Instrumental Lighting to share how they get ready for the holiday season.

The holidays are a crazy time of year at Green3 with orders pouring in for their one-of-a-kind reclaimed products. Jim says the demand really “keeps our team hopping!” Despite the demand, the Green3 team is solid, knowing exactly what to expect during the holiday rush. The team gets an addition during the holiday season, in the form of energetic college students home for the holidays. As if getting ready for the holidays didn’t give Jim enough on his plate, he is also a judge in our Upcycling Design Challenge!

This holiday season, Jim is excited for items that use reclaimed Christmas sweaters and reclaimed men’s ties, like the Necktie Skirt and especially the Recycled Holiday Sweater Skirt. These fun products make a statement not only in their unique beauty, but also in their eco-friendliness. Jim sources the materials for the reclaimed products from vintage wholesalers, who are collecting these ties and sweaters throughout the year. But the team doesn’t let the wholesalers have all the fun in the collection process, they scour markets and resale shops for their own vintage apparel finds.

After all the ties and sweaters are found, the reclaimed products are skillfully crafted, and the many orders are placed, we asked Jim if he finally takes a vacation. His response, “I’m not familiar with that vacation word?” All jokes aside, come January Jim is at work on the trade show circuit traveling all across the country from Atlanta to Chicago to New York and more. But, it’s not all work during the holiday season; Jim looks forward to spending time with his family, especially his daughter, who will be home from college.

At Icebox Knitting, the team is getting ready for the holiday season by getting in the holiday spirit. Josh recalls that thousands of sweaters arrive at the factory throughout the year to prepare for the holiday rush. Some of the sweaters have their own “interesting styles.” This year, the crew has chosen their favorite holiday sweaters to wear. Josh loves the Icebox Knitting “formal wear” or as you might know them glitzy black and gold holiday sweaters. Perhaps this is the start of a beautiful new holiday tradition!

Aside from this new tradition, Josh is excited for the Reclaimed Sweater Link Scarf and the Upcycled Knit Handwarmers. Both products are artfully crafted and Josh particularly loves the recycled yarn component. The sweaters used to make these reclaimed and upcycled products come from a textile recycler in the United States, while the recycled wool yarn comes from a manufacturer in Europe. This manufacturer is unique, Josh says, since they have developed a “new patented process of recycling that is 98% more environmentally-friendly than making yarn from scratch.” Not only are the products artfully crafted and unique, but also eco-friendly!

After the fast pace of the holiday season, Josh and the Icebox Knitting team make “a concerted effort to stop the machines and turn off the lights for 10 days.” It’s a time for reflection and to recharge the system, before they are ready to hit the ground running for the trade shows in January. During that mini vacation and the rest of the holiday season, Josh looks forward to spending time with his family and enjoying the natural beauty of Colorado.

Over here in New York City, Jamie Cornett of Instrumental Lighting is getting ready in different ways. With an inventory of lamps made of reclaimed musical instruments and room for custom orders, Jamie has taken to craft shows, street fairs and flea markets to start getting his designs in the hands of thoughtful gift-givers in the five boroughs. We caught up with Jamie a couple weeks ago at a street fair in Chelsea to benefit a local elementary school. We didn’t stick around too long as his table was very popular among shoppers.

Although Instrumental Lighting is sold to customers across the US at UncommonGoods, a lot of our designers rely heavily on local trade shows and markets to sell their products. In fact, our buyers discovered Jamie and his original lamps last year at Brooklyn Flea, a local market that Jamie plans on attending this holiday season. While planning on setting up shop at markets in the city and being a stay at home dad, Jamie will also judge our Upcycling Design Challenge with Jim of Green3.

With the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season, a season that started a couple months ago for the UncommonGoods team and our vendors, we are so glad to get to check in and celebrate our hard efforts. We can’t help but believe in Santa with all these hard-working elves!

The Uncommon Life

Goldilocks & the Three Bears: An Uncommon Story

October 9, 2012

There once was a beautiful collection of handmade children’s accessories by Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The story began with The Three Little Pigs, but those little pink piggies aren’t the only adorable animals in Storybook Land. Before we get to the part where everyone lives happily ever after, we’d like to introduce you to some more cuddly creatures, the stars of chapter two of our uncommon fairy tale, The Three Bears. (And their friend, Goldilocks, of course!)

Storybook Puppets | UncommonGoods

Storybook Purse | UncommonGoods

Storybook Slippers | UncommonGoods

Storybook | Necklace

Storybook Blanket | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

October Instagram Photo-A-Day Challenge

October 1, 2012

Show us your eco-side this October on Instagram. Snap a photo each day inspired by the day’s prompt and post it with #UGphotoaday. We will be sharing our favorites on the blog and Facebook.

We will be posting as well so be sure to follow along (@UncommonGoods) to see what we come up with!

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