While our business has grown a lot since our founding in 1999, UncommonGoods’ commitment to positively impacting the communities we touch has not wavered. If you’ve shopped with UncommonGoods before, you know that being socially conscious is a concept baked right into our company DNA. From founder and CEO Dave Bolotsky meeting with President Obama, to advocating for small businesses, to paying our lowest-paid seasonal workers more than 50% above the federal minimum wage, to advocating for mandated paid family leave in the State of New York, UncommonGoods has been able to successfully champion progressive business practices since from day one. Below are a few choice highlights from our mission in promoting social good.
UncommonGoods is a place that celebrates entrepreneurs and makers and wholeheartedly embraces creativity. If you’ve spent much time shopping with us or reading our blog, you’ve seen this celebration shine through the stories we tell about our products and the designers who make them. These stories share what really makes the pieces we sell and the artists we work with unique.
While every product we sell meets standards that make it an uncommon good, every once in awhile something comes along that is truly weird. Weird in the best sense of the word: In the way that weird, new music makes you want to listen again and again. In the way that a brilliant invention makes you ponder how in the world someone actually came up with that. In the way that an eccentric person makes you want to get in touch with your own beautiful inner weirdo.
Vedat Ulgen’s Worn Sleeve Vase and Worn Jeans Stool are perfect examples of this type of “weird” design. They are totally unexpected, look one way and feel another, and are as useful as functional products as they are intriguing as art.
These designs are made from upcycled clothing, so they should be soft, right? But they have a unique texture that’s smooth and doesn’t feel anything like you’d imagine. It seems like the sleeves shouldn’t stand upright and the stools shouldn’t hold the weight of a full-grown person, but they do.
Like his products, Vedat’s studio, Thislexik, isn’t exactly what it seems. From the street, it looks like a stack of shipping containers. Get a bit closer to the five colorful containers, and it becomes clear that the stack is actually a building with a living roof and windows perfectly placed to let in enough light. Inside, Thislexik is rooted in sustainable practices, fueled by experimentation, and filled with dozens incredible designs.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Red Hook, Brooklyn studio myself recently, and as a proud proponent of the aforementioned brand of weird, I was in paradise. It’s hard to convey how inspiring this space is to someone who hasn’t been there, how cool these designs are to someone who hasn’t interacted with them, and how innovative Vedat is to someone who hasn’t met him, but I hope these photos and this interview are at least a start.
As a certified B Corporation, UncommonGoods is excited about sustainability. That means more to us than just being “green”–we strive to offer products that reflect the environmental and social best-interests of everyone. So, when our makers are as concerned with sustainability as we are, we’re always eager to learn more about their process and the positive impact they’re having on the world.
A village in Laos, Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Suda
While many of our makers rely on sustainable practices at one point or another in their process, we’re especially excited about those who place the wider world at the forefront of their craft–those who are making an uncommon impact.
In the case of Elizabeth Suda, founder of Article 22, making a positive impact is, in part, about helping to heal the negative impact the imposed on Laos during the Vietnam War. The Peacebomb Jewelry designs produced by Article 22 aren’t just fashionable accessories, they’re also symbols of hope.
We have a wide array of vendors. Some vendors ship out of their apartments, some vendors ship out of large distribution centers and others operate somewhere in between. Despite their operational distinctions, a common challenge these businesses face lies in understanding the differences in efficiently packaging and shipping their products for e-commerce retailers like us which may differ from their practices with brick and mortar sellers.
Here are a couple ways businesses of all sizes can start to incorporate sustainable packaging solutions into their operations:
Make sure your boxes fit products as snug as possible
If you want to eliminate waste in your shipments and prevent damage, then make sure the packaging you are using is strong enough to survive the trip to the customer. We recommend shipping fragile items in a corrugated box as opposed to a paper or cardboard box that may be more flimsy. We use Box on Demand, a machine that allows us to produce custom corrugated packaging right in our Brooklyn, NY warehouse. The way it works is that we feed it the max length, width and height of a product that we sell and the machine creates a box that perfectly matches the item’s dimensions. Having a nice, tight fit is going to eliminate air in the box and eliminate the raw materials used. Eliminating air in a box means there is more space on the shipping truck. Now our parcel carriers can fit more boxes into a truck. More space on the truck means fewer trucks on the road and a reduction in the fossil fuels needed to deliver our products. Space is at a premium for us because we have a fairly small facility compared to other fulfillment centers of companies our size, so the less space something takes up the more room we have to bring in more inventory.
Try out alternative packing materials
We also recommend trying out alternative packing materials like corn starch peanuts instead of Styrofoam peanuts. Corn starch peanuts are compostable and readily available from shipping product distributors like ULINE. ExpandOS is particularly good for shipping glassware and other fragile items. Heavyweight craft paper that is 60# or higher is another good void fill for packaging. Its rigidity helps keep things in place and provides a nice buffer for fragile items. Another great and sustainable packaging option are biodegradable custom molded pulp trays and clam shells like the ones produced by Salazar Packaging.
As a B Corp certified company, UncommonGoods is excited about sustainability. That means more to us than just being “green” – we strive to offer products that reflect the environmental and social best-interests of everyone. So, when our makers are as concerned with sustainability as we are, we’re always excited to learn more about their process and the positive impact they’re having on the world.
While many of our makers rely on sustainable practices at one point or another in their process, we’re especially excited about those who place the wider world at the forefront of their craft – those who are making an uncommon impact. Continuing the water theme from our interview with Margaret Dorfman, we spoke with Vince Purino – the Vice President of Aquaovo – about the sustainability implications surrounding the new Adventure Filter Water Bottle.
Vince Purino – Vice President of Aquaovo – with the Alter Ego Adventure Filter Water Bottle
“Sustainability to us is simply being accountable for the well-being of the Earth’s limited resources… in our case water.”
The Adventure Bottle was designed by Aquaovo cofounder Manuel Desrochers as an eco-chic solution to replacing bottled water. “Our goal is to enhance the experience of drinking water with beautifully designed objects that pay homage to this precious resource,” said Vince.