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Eco-Friendly

The Uncommon Life

UncommonGoods Heads to the Farm

September 20, 2010

Last Friday, a group of UncommonGoods staffers headed out to Governor’s Island for a day of volunteering at the Added Value Farm.

(L to R) Mary Catherine, Marcus, Sara, Shammyann and Sarah are pulling up weeds from the okra, cabbage, collards and lettuce crops. The produce is donated and sold locally, and the farms offer educational programming and work opportunities for children and teens in South Brooklyn.

Design

YouGoods: Put a new twist on old greeting cards

August 30, 2010

“Pass me the White-Out!”

Christy Eichers had just realized she had no card for the birthday girl, so she quickly fixed up an old card of her father’s.

The result was fairly tacky, but she was certain there was a business idea there somewhere.

And regreet was born:

With regreet, you can upcycle your old cards in style, and take away the stigma of passing along a card that’s been doctored with whiteout or eraser marks. Christy’s even thought of a way for you to track your card’s journey, and see just how many times it gets regreeted.

According to Christy and the Encyclopedia of American Industries, the greeting card industry is a $7.5 billion business with 90% of households purchasing cards each year. The typical household purchases 30 cards annually.

So regreet kits, made from earth-friendly materials with a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste and printed with soy inks, can have a huge impact on reducing the amount of paper we waste each year.

Christy is winning a $1,500 cash prize, along with the chance to show off her designs at World Maker Faire NYC and sell the regreet kit at www.uncommongoods.com.

Leave a comment below to congratulate her on her idea– eco-friendly, clever, and well designed.  A perfect YouGoods design for National Inventors Month!

Design

And the Finalists Are…

August 26, 2010

Last night, a group of us met with the YouGoods guest judges at the Tribeca Grand in downtown Manhattan to pick our finalists among all the great entries we received.

And the finalists are:

The Grocery’minder by Francene Pisano Dudziec. With a wet-erase front, this bag is perfect for making your grocery list, checking it twice, and heading off to the market. . Judges thought the concept solved a basic problem; sure, everyone tries to be a good person and bring their reusable bag to the grocery store. But it’s hard to remember every time. With your grocery list stuck right on the front of your bag, the grocery’minder tote makes it hard to forget.

But the judges did have some questions.
1. Would you be more likely to use the grocery list if the bag were easily attachable to your refrigerator?
2. Are there enough blank spaces for you to fill in your personal shopping list?

If you’re a fan, you can vote for the grocery’minder tote through Sunday, August 29 at 11:59 PM ET.

The Double Wall Tea Cup by Endrit Hajno. The judges admired the basic concept of this tea cup made of glazed porcelain or ceramic. Each cup has an insulated double wall for keeping your drink warm, but not burning your hands. The bottom strip of color is notched, allowing you to tuck the string of your tea bag out of sight. While the judges expressed some reservations about how difficult it could be to make this cup and the choice of materials, they all agreed that with a little tweaking this tea cup had a lot of potential!

If you enjoy the idea of a Double Wall Tea Cup, vote for it through Sunday, August 29 at 11:59 PM.


And last but not least, regreet by Christy Eichers. regreet offers you a way to reuse old greeting cards without the stigma of seeming cheap. Judges thought of this entry as a great social concept. These greeting cards make “regifting” cool and give senders a way to reuse last year’s greeting cards. The designer even included a way for you to track your regreet-ed card’s journey using Google maps.

Judges were curious to know what the environmental impact is of using additional paper to regreet an old card.  And judges also wondered if after seeing the idea of regreet, you wouldn’t just use your own scrap paper to reuse your stack of birthday and holiday cards. But everyone acknowledged it was a great way to inspire us all to be more sustainable during the holiday season.

If you love the regreet gift card set, vote for it now through August 29 at 11:59 PM.

If you like them all, don’t worry. You can vote for each entry once, through August 29.  And feel free to leave a comment if you have a question or idea about the designs. We’ll announce the winner on Monday!

Special thanks to our guest judges: Becky Stern, editor at CRAFT and Make: Online, Debera Johnson, Academic Director of Sustainability at the Pratt Institute, Allan Chochinov, Editor-in-Chief at Core77, Coroflot.com and DesignDirectory.com, and Graham Hill, founder of Treehugger.com.

Maker Stories

Inventors Month: The Alyce Santoro Story

August 18, 2010

When I first saw the sonic fabric tie, I knew which uncommon artisan I wanted to talk to for National Inventors Month.  Alyce Santoro makes each sonic tie from prerecorded audio-cassette tapes– and if you’ve got a tape deck handy, you can actually listen to your tie sing. The sonic fabric tie is available for $120 in platinum or onyx black.

Read my interview with Alyce Santoro below

Continue Reading…

Design

Announcing the YouGoods Guest Judges

August 11, 2010

Update 8/12, 1:18 PM: Meet Allan Cochinov, Editor-in-Chief of Core 77.com and our fourth YouGoods judge.

Update 8/11, 5:52 PM: Meet Becky Stern, an editor at CRAFT and MAKE: Online, and our third YouGoods guest judge!


We only announced the YouGoods “Inventors Month” Design Challenge last week, but already, we’ve seen some really clever and sustainable product ideas.  And there’s still a few more days to enter. In fact, we’re extending the entry deadline to August 23!

So be sure to submit your great ideas to the YouGoods Design Challenge today.

In other exciting YouGoods news… I’m thrilled to introduce two four of our guest judges.

Allan Cochinov is a partner of Core77, a New York-based design network serving a global community of designers and design enthusiasts. He is the editor-in-chief of Core77.com, the widely read design website, Coroflot.com design job and portfolio site, and DesignDirectory.com design firm database. He has been named on numerous design and utility patents, and has received awards from Communication Arts, The Art Directors Club, I.D. Magazine, and The One Club. He teaches in the graduate departments of Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and serves on the boards of the Designers Accord and Design Ignites Change.

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Welcome back the Plastiki

July 27, 2010

If you haven’t heard the news yet, be sure to congratulate the crew of the Plastiki on their epic voyage across the Pacific. They set out to raise awareness of the threats of plastic bottle waste and ended up inspiring a wave of activism.

Here at UncommonGoods we try to do our part.  We print our catalogs on recycled and FSC- certified paper. More than half of our products are handmade or constructed from recycled materials. We’re always looking for more ways to become more sustainable.

 

And just last week, we resolved to shake up our monthly company lunches. Each month we all get together for lunch, and we go through a fair amount of plastic plates and silverware.

So we agreed as a company that we would try to reduce and reuse. Next month, many of us will be dining with these Box Appetit lunch boxes.

And after seeing photos of the Plastiki docking in Sydney Harbor, I’m gearing up to do more.

What  about you? What kinds of things can you do to cut back on plastic waste?

The Uncommon Life

Sweet Treats Week: Recipe #4

July 23, 2010

I love buying my groceries from the farmers who actually grew it.

Strawberry image by Bahadorjn, posted under a Creative Commons License

I just started going to the farmers market at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. In the past I’ve frequented markets in Carrboro, NC, DC and Vermont.  It can be hard to get up on a Saturday morning, but it’s worth it. Just check out this video of the farmers market in Burlington, VT!

But once I get home, I’m stumped. I just bought 3 lbs of strawberries! What do I do?

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Care to Air Design Challenge

July 2, 2010

Care to Air

A few years ago, a neighbor moved out of our apartment building and gave us her washer/dryer. Instead of doing our laundry in the building’s basement, we could now do it at home. But there was one catch: our building prohibits the use of dryers. To solve that problem, we decided to keep the washer, pass on the dryer and become air (aka line) dryers with the help of a couple folding metal racks.

It’s a little more work, but I enjoy it, much in the way I like composting or cooking.  It’s a welcome contrast from my digital existence and makes me feel a bit more grounded.  It’s also a household chore that my sons can participate in (with only a limited amount of grousing).

Last year, I read an article about  a non-profit called Project Laundry List that was fighting for people’s right to line dry their clothes.  Apparently, some towns ban line drying for aesthetic reasons.  Project Laundry List’s founder Alex Lee is an environmental activist who believes in the energy savings of line drying.  It makes a lot of sense, since line drying gets the job done in 24 hours using zero fossil fuels.

In talking to Alex about his efforts, I learned about the current “Care to Air” design challenge being sponsored by Levi’s and Myoocreate. The Care to Air contest challenges people to design “the world’s most innovative, covetable, and sustainable air-drying solution for clothing.” Levi’s is offering up a $10,000 prize for the best design, and they are doing this in conjunction with their new product care labels that instruct customers to cold water wash, air dry and donate the jeans to Goodwill when they’re done with them. UncommonGoods was invited to participate in the design challenge and help judge the winning entries next month.  Ultimately, we hope to be able to bring one of the designs to market.  If you’ve got an idea, please visit  Myoocreate to submit. Good luck!

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