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Eco-Friendly

The Uncommon Life

Goldilocks & the Three Bears: An Uncommon Story

October 9, 2012

There once was a beautiful collection of handmade children’s accessories by Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The story began with The Three Little Pigs, but those little pink piggies aren’t the only adorable animals in Storybook Land. Before we get to the part where everyone lives happily ever after, we’d like to introduce you to some more cuddly creatures, the stars of chapter two of our uncommon fairy tale, The Three Bears. (And their friend, Goldilocks, of course!)

Storybook Puppets | UncommonGoods

Storybook Purse | UncommonGoods

Storybook Slippers | UncommonGoods

Storybook | Necklace

Storybook Blanket | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

October Instagram Photo-A-Day Challenge

October 1, 2012

Show us your eco-side this October on Instagram. Snap a photo each day inspired by the day’s prompt and post it with #UGphotoaday. We will be sharing our favorites on the blog and Facebook.

We will be posting as well so be sure to follow along (@UncommonGoods) to see what we come up with!

Maker Stories

Made (Green) in the USA

May 3, 2012

Our friends at Green 3, Jim and Sandy Martin, have helped us add some fantastic uncommon goods to our assortment. From adorable babywear like the gnome babysuit and hat and matching blanket, to the perfect-for-a-breezy-spring-day reclaimed t-shirt scarves, to the summer-friendly update on the popular recycled sweater skirt, the recycled bridesmaid dress skirt, the Martins know eco-friendly fashion.

Sandy and Jim. photo via Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce

Jim works closely with our product development team to create unique clothing and accessories exclusive to UncommonGoods, like the bridesmaid dress skirt and the comfy, casual recycled dress shirt robe. We love that these products come from recycled materials, and many are even created with the help of organizations working with disabled adults.

“My wife Sandy started the company,” he told us. “She grew up on a farm in Michigan and saw firsthand the negative implications on the farmer’s health when they are exposed to chemical pesticides on a daily basis. She felt strongly that her company would focus on sustainable fibers that caused the least damage possible to the environment.”

Causing less damage to the environment means using organic cotton, like that in Green 3’s babysuits, and reusing materials when possible.

Sometimes those materials, like the sweaters used to make recycled sweater scarves, come from thrift stores. Others are leftovers from apparel manufacturers. “We actually look at what types of fabrics are available to us, and then design into the fabric,” Jim explained. “Certain fabrics lend themselves to specific applications and steer us into new product categories.”

Clockwise from top left: A Green 3 Artist hand-drawing a graphic / Green 3’s warehouse storing reclaimed and excess fabrics / Tina, an in-house sewer at Green 3 headquarters.

Once the fabric is in hand each piece is inspected individually to insure it meets aesthetic and quality standards. Thrift store items are washed before being deconstructed and prepared for cutting and sewing, so even though the garment created may be made from secondhand materials, it’s as good as new.

The processes of selecting, inspecting, and preparing fabrics and creating the final products are all done in the United States. “Sandy and I had both been in the corporate apparel industry for over 20 years. During that time we watched a steady flow of jobs going overseas,” said Jim. “We just felt strongly that we could do it here and bring a few jobs back. What we’re finding is that we’re not the only ones that feel this way. More and more like minded companies are partnering, and quickly it is becoming more than just a few jobs. In our community alone we employ 20 people. But our network of partners employs thousands.”

One partner helping Green three create handmade upcycled products for uncommon goods is Aspiro, a non-profit organization offering job training and career options to cognitively disabled adults in Green Bay, Wisc. “We contacted Aspiro after learning of them through a news report,” Jim said. “Their facility has been doing cut and sew work for years and they have a highly skilled labor force. When we toured the facility and saw the pride and passion of the workers, and how this opportunity for independence positively impacted their lives, we knew wanted to support the initiative any way we could.”

Reclaimed T-shirt Scarf / Dress Shirt Robe / Recycled Sweater Scarf / Recycled Bridesmaid Dress Skirt / Gnome Babysuit(TM) & Hat / Gnome Blanket

By partnering with Green 3 and other apparel manufactures, the skilled sewers at Aspiro earn fair wages and are given opportunities for independent living.

Thanks to these dedicated workers, secondhand and leftover fabrics, and the imaginations of Jim, Sandy, and the talented designers at Green 3, we’re always seeing updated products and trendy upcycled fashions. Which Green 3 design do you love most?

The Uncommon Life

10 Ways to Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

March 12, 2012

Whether you’re Irish by blood, have the luck of the Irish, or just love a good celebration on St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll probably be going green on March 17. Of course, we’re all about celebrating another kind of green here at UncommonGoods. So we figured, why not take a double-edged approach with these green (and green!) goods.

Wearing green on St. Paddy’s will prevent you from getting pinched, but you don’t have to go overboard. Adding a few green accents to your outfit is a great way to show your Irish pride. (1.) Heli Belt’s are handmade using leftover fabric from tatami floor mats and (2.)Ellen Thurmond’s Tree of Life–Renewal necklace features green peridot on hand-shaped recycled sterling silver wire.

Whether you plan on dying your hair green or skipping the food-coloring-infused shampoo, a (3.)Recycled Glass Barrette will look lovely accenting your locks.

Once your perfect St. Patrick’s Day outfit is complete, you can start the party. Serve up green beer in (4.) Recycled Beer Glasses, which also happen to have a slight green tint, since they’re made from glass from car windows. And, if you prefer a mixed drink or something alcohol free, your beverage of choice will look nice in (5.) Protect Our Earth Glasses. These recycled Bordeaux bottle glasses were even called party “must-haves” by HelloGiggles.com.

When it comes to your centerpiece, take a cue from the lush landscape of the Emerald Isle and add a little vegetation to your St. Pat’s. Fresh-cut flowers aren’t always the greenest choice, but our (6.) Moss Terrarium Bottle is a fun DIY alternative. If your thumb is far from green, visit Local Harvest to find sustainably grown blooms and show them off in a (7.)Recycled Wine Bottle Vase, or skip the flowers all together and go with a handmade recycled glass (8.)Four Seasons Globe to ring in Spring.

The centerpiece won’t be the most enticing thing on the table, though. Celebrate with a traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage, then use the (9.) Fresh Air Compost Collector to save the cabbage hearts and other unused portions for composting. And for dessert? These Beer Mug Cupcakes from I am Baker are too cute not to make.

From green beer to cupcakes that look like green beer, you don’t need luck (or a pot of gold) for your St. Paddy’s Party to be a success. But, the fun can only last one night, so don’t forget to take a few photos to capture the evening. Fittingly, your favorite will look fabulous on display in one of Margaret Taylor’s handmade (10.)Recycled Ceiling Tin Frames.

Gift Guides

How to Make a Gift Bag

December 2, 2011

I tend to procrastinate when it comes to gift wrapping. I purchase the gifts I want to give and stuff them under the bed or on a shelf in the closet until right before Christmas. Then, while I’m fantasizing about radiantly glazed holiday hams and sweetly spiced rivers of eggnog, I’m also faced with making a pile of presents bright and giftable.

Those odd shaped, extra-uncommon gifts pose a particular challenge. I suppose I could skip the fancy wrap and just stick bows on things that don’t pack up pretty. Or, I could put any asymmetrical or otherwise un-rectangular products in big boxes stuffed with lots of tissue paper, then wrap them. I go with option three–a fancy gift bag.

While the bow trick works in a pinch, it’s not nearly as fun to take off a bow as it is to find a surprise inside of pretty wrapping. I know this, because my husband is a huge supporter of “just stick a bow on it.” I do have to admit, it’s a step up from his other, “just hand her the thing in a crumpled-up shopping bag” approach.

The second tactic–put that hard to wrap gift in another box–seems like a viable option, but wrapping a box just right takes time and creates a lot of waste; you spend 20 minutes getting each crease perfect, only to see your lovely artwork ripped to shreds and tossed in the trash. It’s heartbreaking, really.

So, you can see why, for me, option three takes the customary yuletide fruitcake.

Not only are gift bags simple to use and reusable, they’re also easy to make. All you need is some heavy wrapping, construction, or scrapbooking paper and ribbon to create a sturdy, eco-friendly alternative to traditional wrapping. I picked pretty blue craft paper from the paper mezzanine at Pearl Paint here in New York. (Yes, that’s really what their paper department is called; it’s an entire sublevel–mezzanine, if you will– full of gorgeous papers for wrapping, crafting, and scrapbooking.) I wanted my bag to be festive, but not too Christmasy, so it could still be reused after the holidays. To fasten the paper, I used a Staple-less Stapler, but you could easily use a hole punch and stapler to create a similar effect.

First, make sure you have enough paper to cover the item you’d like to wrap. To wrap the Holiday Record Coasters, I placed the product in the middle of the top half of the paper, then folded the bottom up to completely cover the gift. It’s okay to make the bag a little bit bigger than you need it, just make sure the gift doesn’t stick out of the top.

Next, “staple” along the edges on both sides. The staple-less stapler will create interlocking flaps for a secure hold, but it also leaves a small hole where you punch. You’ll also want to punch once in the bottom left-hand and once on the bottom right-hand, just above the seam.

Threading the ribbon through the holes not only adds decoration, it also increase the bag’s sturdiness and create a handle. However, before threading the ribbon, make sure you have enough by measuring it against the length of the bag four times (once for each side, once for the handle, and once for extra ribbon to work with).

Start threading by inserting the ribbon in one of the bottom corners, just above the seam. Leave a few inches of ribbon, then pull the remaining ribbon up through the next hole in the side of the bag. Tie the two ends into a knot, and create a bow with the remaining ribbon from the short end. Using the long end, continue to thread up the side of the bag, looping around the outside edge of the paper.

When you come to the end of one side, leave enough ribbon to create a handle before continuing to thread down the opposite side.

Once you reach the end of the second side, pull the remaining ribbon up through the hole on the corner above the seam. Pull the leftover ribbon back though the final loop on that side, and tie it into a secure knot. This side won’t be as pretty as the bow on the opposite side, but the problem can be easily remedied by cutting off any excess ribbon and tying a new bow to cover up the knot.

The finished product uses no tape, glue, or staples (if you go the staple-less stapler route), can be used over and over again, and costs less than buying a pre-made gift bag. For an added touch, stuff the bag with leftover wrapping paper, folded into fans (or other origami shapes, if you’re feeling extra crafty), instead of using a new sheet of tissue paper.

Design

This Just In: Mushroom Kit

October 12, 2011

It can be hard to get kids (and some adults) to try new foods, especially if those foods are kinda funny looking. Mushrooms, for example, are quite delicious, but some folks just aren’t in to fungus.

Those caps can seem a bit strange, plucked from the dirt, packaged in foam, and wrapped up in plastic at the grocery store. But, you don’t have to go to the supermarket to find edible mushrooms. You can actually grow them easily at home, so picky eaters can see from just where their food is coming.

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Maker Stories

This Just In: Cuddly Cold Weather Gear

September 30, 2011

It’s still warm here in Brooklyn, but it is almost October. We’re going to have to face the fact that it’s fall, and winter’s right around the corner.

With the frosty season on the way, parents out there are likely dreading having to bundle up their little ones in over-sized hats, itchy scarves, and probably-going-to-get-lost-anyway mittens. Fortunately, we have some great new winter wear for kids that’s comfy, cute, and so fun your little munchkins won’t want to leave it behind!

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