Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How many times can you recycle a piece of paper?

March 11, 2013

Theoretically, a single paper fiber could survive the recycling process 20, 30, even 100 rounds, but the odds suggest that a strand only has about 5 lives. At the recycling plant, paper is heated and chopped into tiny bits to make pulp. During that process, the long fibers that make up virgin paper have about a 20% chance of being sliced into a fragment that’s too small to be reconstituted into top-quality sheets. Fortunately, this isn’t the end of the road for these subpar strands. Since paper quality declines after each recycling, there is a hierarchy that paper descends on its way to retirement. As they age, previously recycled sheets are typically transformed into something less distinguished, but still useful, like cereal boxes, milk cartons, or toilet paper.

Want an easy way to extend the life of that humble sheet of paper? Just remember to flip to the back!

Paper-Made Letter Opener, $45

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who made the first fortune cookie?

March 10, 2013

The fortune cookie has a number of origin stories, but none of them start in China! One of the earliest dates back to Los Angeles baker David Jung, who distributed cookies stuffed with biblical passages to the homeless as early as 1918. What we do know for sure is that China didn’t actually get a taste of the fortune cookie until it came to the country in 1993, sold as “genuine American fortune cookies.”

Baby Fortune Cookie Booties, $28

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What makes ladybugs more special than your average beetle?

March 6, 2013

Given their popularity, it’s not surprising that ladybugs are tied to many myths. According to Norse mythology, the ladybug came to earth riding a lightning bolt, and Swiss children are told they were delivered by a ladybug rather than the stork. These stories may be pure fantasy, but these polka-dotted beauties do perform one miraculous feat: a single ladybug can consume up to 5,000 plant-eating aphids in its lifetime!

Ladybug Castle, $30