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Sustainability

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

The Uncommon Life

How UncommonGoods Celebrated Earth Day 2013

April 23, 2013

One of the most inspiring things that gets me excited to come to work are the people that work here, but mostly their passion, enthusiasm and spirit to be part of something great.

I’m the first person (or maybe second, next to our security guard) that all new team members meet when they walk in on their first day. One of the questions I am always curious to ask is “so what brought you to UncommonGoods?” And the most popular replies include something with “B Corp,” “Better to Give” and “sustainability.”

When I sat down with the HR Manager (my boss) a few weeks ago, it didn’t take us too long to map out how the UncommonGoods team could participate in Earth Day. We knew that with our team members’ dedication we could accomplish anything… So that’s why we presented Earth Week. Why NOT celebrate the Earth for more than one day?!

With Earth Week, we presented five day’s worth of challenges for our team members to partake in, and on the fifth day, we would celebrate our efforts, encourage lasting green-behaviors and feast over our accomplishments!

We didn’t necessarily set specific days for each task, but allowed team member’s to work at their own pace. Here’s how our week panned out.

#1 – Ride your bike to work or walk from the 45th Street station
Goal: 10 bike riders and 20 walkers

This was by far the easiest goal for our team member’s to reach. We have many people located close to our headquarters in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, so commuting via a green mode of transportation is pretty popular every day. Not only did we have our usual bikers participate, but we also had teams walk to and from the subway station together. Almost all exceeding our set goal of 45th Street (we are located at the 59th Street subway stop).

Marketing Associate Rocky Taft and Merchandising Associate Ne’Quana Rollings having fun on their commute to 36 Street


Little did these guys know, they weren’t the only ones that went the extra steps! (From left to right): Cassie Tweten Delaney, Community Moderator; Abi Treut, Marketing Assistant; Rachel Goldstein, Inventory Planning Analyst; Jason Gomer, Purchasing Associate


#2 – Bring in your #5 plastics to recycle through our Take-Five-Drive
Goal: 20 recyclers

NYC has some great recycling programs and anyone can contribute by donating their unwanted #5 plastics to a participating Whole Foods. This plastic is the thicker more durable kind used for yogurt containers, ketchup bottles, aerosal caps, etc. This plastic is recycled for use as a material for every day products, including toothbrushes (my boss’ personal fave).

Although we aimed high with this goal, we landed a bit short of reaching 20 recyclers, however, we had some great donations including deli containers and pill bottles, and we emptied our break room cabinets of unwanted take-out containers, which we are bringing to the recycling center later this week.

#3 – Help weed tree beds and plant flowers around the Brooklyn Army Terminal
Goal: 30 green thumbs

UncommonGoods resides in the historical Brooklyn Army Terminal, which was built in 1918 and was the site of Elvis Presley’s deployment to Germany in 1958 (hence the photo of The King in the lobby). One thing this industrial atmosphere lacks is a lot of green space.

Similar to what we did last Earth Day, we had over 30 volunteers take two hours out of their day to weed tree beds and plant flowers around the trees within and around the Brooklyn Army Terminal. We also watered and mulched around the trees that we planted bulbs around last year – hopefully we will see those beauties sprout within the next few weeks!

Lee Griffin, Area Operations Manager


Giovanna Rosario, Warehouse Team Lead; Kris Keenan, Merchandising Associate


David Anderson, Inbound Operations Coordinator; Nicole Wang, Accounting Assistant


Ray Franco, ITC Associate; Jackie Robinson, Warehouse Associate


Matt Monsees, Marketing Analyst; Matt Disla, Warehouse Team Lead; Morgan Tanner, Production Manager


Lauren Negron, Drop Ship Associate; Jazmin Abreu, Warehouse Associate


#4 – Go to the local greenmarket and earn a $10 reimbursement
Goal: 10 veggie lovers

A task too easy to be considered a challenge!

Another great thing about living in NYC is the array of green markets in every other neighborhood, every other day of the week. The accessibility to local, fresh fruits and veggies is just another perk of city life.

Our team member’s beat this challenge and many of them are wearing the title of “veggie lover” with pride.

#5 – Bring your own non-disposable place setting to our company lunch
Goal: 50 UGooders

On the final day, we asked all team member’s to bring a plate, cup and cutlery to our monthly company lunch, in replace of our sustainable disposable products. It was great to see our break room sink piled over in dishes and the bathroom sinks filled with soapsuds (despite our maintenance team’s short grumbles).

For this Earth-inspired company lunch, we chose to go all vegetarian and local as a direct effort to minimize our carbon footprint. We (my boss and I – foodie connoisseur and foodie novice) traveled to our favorite Brooklyn spots to fill the Mediterranean-inspired menu: Damascus Bread for pita and falafel, Sahadi’s for fresh feta and hummus, and Tanoreen for the main course of mini pies and vegetarian eggplant.

On the day of the event, we set out a Flower Wreath of Wishes for our team member’s to dedicate to Earth Day 2013. They were asked to write out a promise on a flower petal and place them on the wreath, which will soon be hung in our community break room as a reminder.

Kira Snyder, Marketing Analyst

Some of the most inspiring promises our team member’s made were:

“I will plant a tree.”

“I will request fewer samples from vendors.”

“I will try to use cloth diapers for Ben for at least one week!”

And one of my faves…

“Vegan for life!”

With another Earth Day in the UncommonGoods books, I am already pondering up ways for the team to celebrate in 2014. Have any suggestions? Share your thoughts below!

The Uncommon Life

Help Us Let State Officials Know that NY State’s Min. Wage is Not Enough to Live On

February 6, 2013

Dear New York State UncommonGoods Customers:

As you know, UncommonGoods, since its founding, has pursued the goal of running a sustainable business. We seek out goods that are handmade, recycled and organic, and print our catalogs on recycled paper approved by the Forest Stewardship Council.

But to us, “sustainability” means more than just being “green.” We believe true sustainability starts with integrity in everything we do. Being a founding member of B Corporation is one example of that philosophy. So is our Better to Give program. Integrity and care in our dealings with you, our customers, is another. And so is providing a living wage to our employees.

At UncommonGoods, we pay all our workers, including people who are just here for the holiday season, well above the minimum hourly wage. That’s because New York State’s current minimum wage, $7.25/hr, is too little to live on.

I, along with 80% of New York State voters, feel strongly that all of our state’s workers must be paid a fairer wage, asap. We’ve gone 6 years with zero increase. 19 other states have higher minimum wages than New York. If minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since 1970, it would be $11.15 an hour.

A vote about raising New York’s minimum wage, and automatically adjusting it to inflation, is coming up soon in the New York State government. Signing one of the below petitions could truly make a huge difference to a great number (hundreds of thousands) of your fellow New Yorkers.

I’ve written up my thoughts on the issue in this piece:
http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Yearly-minimum-wage-hikes-help-everyone-4209844.php

If you agree, please let our state officials know that New York State’s lowest-paid workers need a raise to help get them out of poverty.

Business owners, sign this one. (The signatures of business owners will have the most impact on our politicians.)
http://businessforafairminimumwage.org/New-York-Minimum-Wage-Statement-2013

Individuals, sign this one.
http://action.groundswell-movement.org/petitions/raise-the-new-york-minimum-wage

Thanks for reading, and, I hope, for signing. Please share this message with other NY State businesses that you think would want to support this.

Dave Bolotsky
Founder and CEO, UncommonGoods

If you would like to do more, contacting your local state senator will have a real impact:

Find my New York State Senator: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators
(Enter your address and it finds yours.)
You can also Google “Twitter Senator (add their name)” and find their Twitter feed.
Ditto for Facebook.
For example:
https://twitter.com/dianesavino
https://www.facebook.com/SenatorDianeSavino

To contact the Governor:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Tel: (518)474-8390
Email: gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us
http://www.state.ny.us/governor
https://www.facebook.com/GovernorAndrewCuomo
https://twitter.com/NYGovCuomo

If you’re interested in reading more about minimum wage, this website is chock-full of clear and understandable information: http://raisetheminimumwage.org/.

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