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The Uncommon Life

East New York Farms

November 3, 2010

East New York Farms is no regular farm. It is an “urban farm” that was created in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The organization literally transformed once abandoned lots into beautiful fields of fruits and vegetables. Its farmers are the young people who live in the community. The food they grow is sold at a bi-weekly farmers market, only to residents of East New York at a price they can afford. They also provide workshops and cooking demonstrations to make health eating more accessible.

They hire a small staff a folks who oversee the operations and development of the youth, including my friend Sarita, who is honestly one of the happiest people I know. It is clear to me she is fulfilled by the mission of organization.

I am passionate about this organization, because I too have been transformed by produce. I got interested in cooking ten years ago after discovering a farmers market across the street from my office. I made simple dishes based on quality ingredients, and slowly over time noticed my health improving. I eventually lost 30 lbs and had a number of health conditions clear up. My experience taught me that improving our food is the best way to improve our health.

It’s the unfortunate truth that poorer neighborhoods, like East New York, generally have higher incidents of obesity and diet-related health conditions. And I think a big reason for that is little access to fresh food and less education about the issue.

East New York Farms is the perfect model to address these issues. I encourage your support by voting for ENY Farms on Facebook.

– Ameet Maturu, Online Marketing Manager

The Uncommon Life

Win a WindowDry Rack for 10/10/10

October 8, 2010

Congrats to our winners, Kristen and Courtney.

Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed, to get the heads up on all our giveaways and contests.

Earlier this week we gave away a WindowDry rack to promote line-drying. And today we’re giving away two more, to spread the word about our friends at Project Laundry List.

This Sunday is 10/10/10, a global work party, in which people like you and me take on small tasks to make a big difference in the fight against global warming. Some groups are fixing up bikes. Some are planting trees. Some are installing solar panels. And some are saying no to energy-sucking dryers and switching back to the good old-fashioned clothesline.

Our friends at Project Laundry List, an organization devoted to the “Right to Dry” movement are having a Halloween party in New Hampshire this weekend. They aim to raise awareness about “vampire appliances” (ie. dryers that suck up energy). Learn more about their fun party (with a graveyard tour!) here.

Imagine what a difference we could make, if we all let more of our clothes hang in the breeze! (And how much softer our clothes would feel.)

Even if you’re not in New Hampshire, you can get involved. Make a pledge to try out line-drying (or leave some helpful tips if you’re an experienced clothesline user) in the comments below, and you’ll be entered to win 1 of 2 WindowDry racks.

We’ll announce the winners on Monday. Hope you have a fun 10/10/10!

The Uncommon Life

Why WindowDry? #Giveaway

October 6, 2010

For the sake of Janice Jacoby’s house guests, we’re giving her the first WindowDry rack in our giveaway:

“I line dry as much as possible but here in Florida we have so many unexpected thunderstorms it is hard to do for much of the year. I actually have a line stretched across my porch that has almost strangled unsuspecting visitors! I sure would love this and so would my company.”

Stay tuned— we’ll be giving away two more WindowDry racks later this week with some more info about how to join the line-drying movement with our friends at Project Laundry List.

Made just outside of Seattle, the WindowDry rack is a great solution for urban line-dryers or clothesline aficionados caught in rainy weather. The rack folds up easily when not in use, and can be hung in a shower, on a window, or on tile walls.

How did the WindowDry rack come about?

Laura Bridenbeck says, “We live in Seattle where the climate is wet, so our drying happens mostly indoors. Brent developed the Windowdry rack out of necessity because the large, bulky rack I was using was continually being knocked down by our 90 pound golden retriever and 4-year-old daughter. He decided to build a rack that could be mounted up and out of the way yet be near or on a window.”

But does one small rack hold a full load of laundry?

“One of the first questions people ask after seeing this rack is how much weight does it support using suction cups? It supports over 25 pounds (average load of wet laundry weighs 11 lbs)and we have even tested it with our 36 pound daughter!”

Today we’re giving away one WindowDry rack to a lucky reader who’s ready to make the switch to line drying. Just leave a comment below, and let us know why you want to be a line-dryer. Winner announced at 6 pm ET today.

The Uncommon Life

Get Your Green: Serving You Sustainable News

September 28, 2010

Eco Salon finds a mod, green home worth dreaming about: meet the itHouse. [Eco Salon]

Dutch designers are having an eco-friendly moment: Architects, graphic designers, fashion designers and jewelers developed a collection of sustainable work for new exhibition reTHINK at the Textiel Museum in the Netherlands. Passing through Tilburg? Send us pictures of the solar-powered textile robot. [Eco Fashion World via The Textiel Museum]

Here’s looking at you, Greenpoint. Newton Creek, the backyard waterway separating Brooklyn and Queens, gets a Superfund nod from the EPA, which promises a “thorough environmental cleanup for the long-neglected” waterway. [The New York Times]

Get creative, activists: Grassroots initiatives around Atlantic Rising, an educational organization focused on promoting shoreline erosion awareness, taped yellow “caution” tape around a Nantucket lighthouse. “The more of this, the better,” reports columnist Andrew Revkin. [Dot Earth, The New York Times]

Because all cool things start in a lab: Japanese scientist invents a machine that converts plastic into oil. A magic box that recycles and restores a precious resource! We want one in our kitchen. Scratch that: We want four. [You Tube via Eco Friendly Mag]

While we’re on oil: Researchers say the U.S. military needs to ween itself from the slick stuff by 2040 if it wants to stay strong (read: eliminate weak spots, like a 77% operational dependency on petroleum). [Tree Hugger via the Center For A New American Security]

Today’s electric slide: A study released Monday by the Baker Institute claims that if 30% of Americans drove electric cars, U.S. oil use would drop by 2.5 million barrels a day and reduce oil imports by 20%. [CNBC via the Baker Institue For Public Policy]

Speaking of green machines, the award for most concentrated electric car charging stations goes to …. Elk Horn, Iowa! Surprised? [Tree Hugger via The Wall Street Journal]

The Uncommon Life

UncommonGoods Goes to Washington

September 23, 2010

Yesterday, I was part of a panel discussion sponsored by at the Social Investment Forum in Washington DC to talk about sustainability and business.

Our panel was moderated by Paul Hilton, Director of Sustainable Investment Business Strategy at Calvert and included Andrew Kassoy, co-founder of B Lab, and New York State Senator Daniel Squadron.

We talked about the role of benefit corporations (a new legal form of company that has a social mission, as well as a goal of making money) and the impact public policy can have on these businesses. B Corporations, which include Method, Seventh Generation, King Arthur Flour and UncommonGoods, must receive a passing score on a rigorous, comprehensive list of sustainable practices. I spoke about how the B Corporation audit encouraged us to make changes, such as extending medical benefits to family members, implementing energy saving measures, investing more in learning opportunities for our team members, providing incentives to bicycle commuters, and formalizing our whistleblower and flexible work schedule policies.

Andrew discussed how his team succeeded in getting legislation passed establishing benefit corporations in Maryland and Vermont. He also discussed State Senator Squadron’s leadership in gaining 60-1 passage in the New York Senate, leaving it in the hands of the Assembly. Similar legislation will be introduced in a number of states in the coming months, including a number of states that tend to be more conservative, as this is an issue that should be truly bi-partisan – it merely provides owners with the choice of establishing their business under this type of legal framework.

If you want to see this happen in your state, reach out to Andrew Greenblatt at B Lab: agreenblatt(at)bcorporation(dot)net.

We’ll be keeping you posted on our progress.

– David Bolotsky

The Uncommon Life

Talking About Corporate Responsibility

September 22, 2010

Today our CEO, David Bolotsky, is joining Andrew Kassoy, founder of B Lab, and other business leaders on a panel discussion about sustainably-minded businesses and the laws that could make it easier for companies to become more ethical, sustainable and accountable to our customers.

Learn more about the panelists and the Social Investment Forum, happening today in Washington, DC.

And of course, part of our commitment to a sustainable business model means that we’re accountable to you. If you have any suggestions for how we can make our business better, leave a comment below!


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

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


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, and, and Graham Hill, founder of

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