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The Uncommon Life

Our Uncommon Book Club Picks

October 20, 2014

Once the weather gets dreary and the bikes get put into storage, the typical morning commute of a U-Gooder involves a meandering, pre-coffee descent into the New York subway, followed by a (hopefully) quick transfer to the N or R trains. These are the two main lines that run through our neighborhood of Sunset Park, so it’s not unusual to bump into coworkers with their noses in a book. Given these frequent literary sightings, it seemed apropos to ask my fellow U-Gooders just what has them so engrossed that they almost miss the 59th Street stop.

What are you reading right now?
Nikki Desautelle“I just finished Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman, the final book in a series which starts off as a darker, more grownup up version of wizard school a la Harry Potter. It’s great because it allows me to continue my life long fantasy of the magical life that was STOLEN FROM ME.”
–Nikki DeSautelle, Graphic Designer

What’s your all-time favorite book?
Brian HashemiTropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. I remember walking into my college bookstore freshman year, reading the first paragraph, falling in love with it, and immediately deciding Henry Miller was my favorite author ever. Years later, and after reading every single book (both fiction and non-fiction) that Miller ever wrote – and he wrote a lot – it still holds true. Actually, just over Labor Day, I visited the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, which was like a pilgrimage for me.”
–Brian Hashemi, Director of Marketing

Rebecca Marshall“It’s a tie between A Tale of Two Cities (the first book that really sucked me in; it made me love reading) and Prince of Tides. (I have no idea why I love this book. I just do. Every time I put it down I wanted to pick it back up.)”
–Rebecca Marshall, Associate Art Director

Reading tablet or the real thing?Jen Grim
“While I own hundreds of real books, I vote for tablet. I travel a lot and love the convenience of always having several books to read without having to sacrifice suitcase space for books.”
–Jennifer Grim, Director of Customer Service

Jille Natalino
“The real thing. I read a novel on my iPhone once and my eyes hurt for weeks afterwards, but more importantly: I m a bit nosy— I like to know what other people are reading on the subway and can use any excuse to talk to strangers (the fault/charm of being a Southerner.) Therefore, I prefer my books to proudly display their titles as well”–Jille Natalino, Graphic Designer

Sum up your you life with a book title.Emily Hodges
Catch 22 – From deciding what shoes to wear in the morning, to choosing what to eat for lunch, to booking an AirBnb accommodation for my next travel plans — I’m always thinking “I should have went with the other choice” even if I know exactly why I didn’t.”
–Emily Hodges, Community Outreach Associate

Jen ColemanMe Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris—sums up how I feel before my morning coffee!”
–Jennifer Coleman,Community Outreach Assistant

Other titles that made the cut: Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan), Jitterbug Perfume (Tom Robbins), The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho), Signature of All Things (Elizabeth Gilbert), and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers).

Probably the best takeaway from this office poll is how eager everyone was to talk about what’s in his or her reading queue. Just add some good wine and bite-sized snacks, and we’d have had a good old-fashioned book club meeting. Too bad a crowded subway car isn’t an ideal setting for a tasteful crudité.

Do you have a can’t miss book club pick? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting @UncommonGoods!

The Uncommon Life

How is UncommonGoods Becoming a Better Business?

August 29, 2014

As a company, we’ve always been passionate about sustainability. To us, sustainability is about more than how we impact the environment. It’s also about how what we do as a company affects individuals and our community. In 2007 we took an important step and turned our commitment to being a better business from a passion to a pledge when we became a founding B Corporation. This year, we made another stride toward becoming a better business by earning our B Corp recertification, and coming out with our best score yet!

We’re proud to be a Certified B Corporation because the B Corp Community is changing the way people think about business. According to the official B Corporation website, “Certified B Corporations are leading a global movement to redefine success in business. By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.”

Those “higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance” are evaluated on several levels, so becoming a B Corp does take time and effort. Companies must receive at least 80 out of 200 points on the B Corp assessment form, and they have to have the documentation to back up that score.

“One of the cool things about B Corp certification is that we get to back up [sustainability] claims with actual research. We can look at our numbers to see what we’re really doing,” said Rachel Foley, UncommonGoods Project Manager and a member of our sustainability committee. “You see so many products and companies out there that say they are ‘green,’ but by becoming a B Corp, you’re doing more than just talking.”

B Lab, the non-profit behind B Corp, provides an overall score and they break those numbers down into a scorecard so companies and their customers can get a quick look at the result of the assessment.

UncommonGoods B Corp Scorecard

We earned 111.4 points this time around. That’s a 13% increase over our 2012 score of 99 points. While some of the extra points were thanks to improvements to our work environment and green initiatives, we saw the greatest improvement in our “Community” score.

The Community section of the impact assessment evaluates how a company influences its community, from relationships with vendors, to diversity among employees, to charitable giving and involvement with the local community.

By hiring employees from chronically underemployed populations and communities, paying seasonal workers 50% more than minimum wage, putting in employee volunteer hours, and making donations to our Better to Give partners, our Community score is now 47% above the median B Corp score.

“We received points not only because of the things we do year-round, but also because our seasonal team is so large and diverse,” said Area Operations Manager and sustainability committee member Jason Gomer.

Jason also explained that small changes can make a big difference, and small changes are achieved when a company keeps the “triple bottom line” in mind. He explained that the triple bottom lines, or “3 Ps,” are the three facets of sustainability in business: people, planet, and profit. Our goal is to not only do good for people and for the planet, but to succeed as a business so we can continue to do good for years to come.

B Lab re-evaluates each certified company every two years, so our next recertification is coming in 2016. We hope that the next assessment brings an even better score, and we’re laying the foundation to achieve it.

“We had to reach out to many different departments [at UncommonGoods] to get all of the information we needed this time around, but once all of the information is in order we’ll be able to keep up with our internal evaluation,” said another member of our sustainability committee, ITC Coordinator Christopher McRae.

Christopher explained that going forward, our sustainability committee is working to impose company-wide criteria to not only make sure we maintain high standards in the areas where we currently excel, but also set new standards to meet attainable goals in areas where we can use improvement.

B the Change

Currently, we’re focusing on increasing awareness about B Corp initiatives to get more team members involved in composting and taking advantage of paid volunteer days. In the upcoming months, our sustainability committee will partner with teams across the company to offer resources to help them meet department-specific goals.

We’re certainly happy to be off to a good start when it comes to reaching those standards, and the 13% increase in our B Corp impact assessment score is encouraging. We’re on our way to, as Christopher puts it, “exponentially improving our overall positive impact on the triple bottom line.”

The Uncommon Life

Outtakes from Our Winter Accessories Photo Shoot

November 13, 2013

Winter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoodsA couple weeks before the temperatures started dropping, we held a photo shoot for our brand new winter accessories. Instead of bringing models in, we kept it in the family photographing our staff members adorned in these new styles. Senior Merchandising Coordinator Heather came out to help style the shoot.

Winter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoods Rocky was a little confused as to how the mittens matched his t-shirt.

Winter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoodsCassie was, well she was just Cassie.

Winter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoodsMelissa pulled out some serious poses.

Winter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoodsRachel let her hair down. Literally. We didn’t recognize her without her hair pulled back.

Winter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoodsAnd Zack brought his A-game.

Winter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoodsWinter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoodsWinter Accessories Photo Shoot Outtakes | UncommonGoods

Do you have a hot look in one of our winter accessories? Be sure to tag @UncommonGoods in your Instagram shot so we can see!

The Uncommon Life

Celebrating International Shipping with our 6 Favorite Foods from Around the World

July 26, 2013

We’re always getting questions from fans of our products from around the world wondering when they’ll be able to make purchases and have them shipped from our home in Brooklyn to their homes outside of the United States. For a few years, the answer was “we’re working on it.” It took some time to work out the details, but it’s important to us to be able to get our goods across the pond (any pond) to those who want them. Now, we’re thrilled to announce that international shipping is finally here!

Our team is super excited to share our designs around the globe, so we had to do something fun to celebrate. In honor of the special occasion, team members brought foods from their favorite countries. Some brought dishes to represent their heritage, some contributed the cuisine of lands they’d like to visit, and others made the choice simply based on the food’s deliciousness!


Our HR team made our international foods potluck even more special by decorating our break room and busting out a Scratch Map to mark the places from where our food “traveled.”


We loved devouring these tasty treats, so while we’re spreading the word about our new shipping options we decided to share the love and spread the recipes for our favorite potluck foods.


Alisha, or Director of Purchasing rolled up some scrumptious Swedish chocolate balls, AKA Chokladbollar.

Sarah, our Senior Product Development Associate, also contributed a Scandinavian favorite, Lefse.


HR Manager Mindy whipped up a batch of fantastic Eggplant Caponata.


Transportation Manager Victoria (who worked hard to make international shipping happen!) supplied us with a big batch of Hamentashen.


Summer Analytics Intern Andrew got in on the fun with his homemade Haitian-style Macaroni Au Gratin.


And the last delicious dish in our roundup of festive foods from near and far, Senior Merchandising Manager Heather’s strawberry shortcake was the icing on the cake. Actually, her cake was complete with homemade whipped cream, which made it extra delectable.

These are just a few of our favorites from the celebration. What’s your favorite international food?

The Uncommon Life

Our Homemade Beer Tasting Brew-haha

June 13, 2013

Some believe that Plato said, “It was a wise man who invented beer.” While Plato probably never actually said that, and we don’t know who exactly came up with the ingenious idea to turn cereal into booze, we do know how to make beer. Or I should say, we learned, thanks to our exclusive Craft a Brew Beer Brewing Kits.

To make sure our educational experience was comprehensive, we decided to test each of our new home brew flavors by comparing them during an in-office beer tasting; but first, we had to wrangle some brewers.

The Brewers

Warehouse Operations Coordinator Bradley cooked up a batch of Southern Bourbon Stout, Product Development Associate Sarah celebrated her home state with the Texas Chipotle Amber, Marketing Analyst Kira revisited beer making by giving the West Coast IPA a try, and Marketing Analyst Matt tapped into his inner lumberjack by bottling some Vermont Maple Porter.

The goal was to keep this competition fair and balanced, but Brad did make an attempt to pick up some bonus points by adding a personal touch to his finished product. Kira went another route and, knowing that the way to a beer judge’s heart is through the stomach, brought some homemade pretzels. (She insists that these were for the purpose of palate cleansing between sips, and were no way intended as a bribe.)

There is also some suspicion that two of the contestants may have been in cahoots.

While it wasn’t too hard to get the brewers on board, recruiting judges was almost too easy. (Apparently, people jump at product testing opportunities when they involve delicious adult beverages.)

The Judges

Copywriter Stephanie, Director of Marketing Brian, and Systems Administrator Paul agreed to sample the goods.

With beer flavor checklists in hand, the judges tried each carbonated creation. Here are some beer basics discovered during the tasting.

West Coast IPA
Kira’s brewing tip: “Be Tall. It’s hard to pour things!” You have to place the strainer on top of a funnel on top of the carboy, so a step stool (or a short table) may be required to help shorter folks make beer with ease.

Judges’ Notes: Stephanie said “it definitely smells like an IPA,” but upon tasting said that this IPA “isn’t super hoppy.” She commented on notes of “citrus” and described the flavor as “75 degrees and sunny.” The beer was served cold, though. Just for clarification, the IPA could be described as tasting like a summer’s day.

Brian agreed that the beer “tastes like California,” and said that it may be a good choice for someone who doesn’t love IPAs, since it’s not too “IPA-ie.”

Texas Chipotle Amber
Sarah’s Brewing Tip: “It’s a weekend project, because it does take a while to set up.”

Judges’ Notes: Brian called this brew “ridiculously good,” “smokey and spicy,” and “interesting.” Paul agreed with the interesting comment, and added that it was “fresh,” and had “a hook…not a gimmick.”

Stephanie also called out the unique spiciness of the beer, and said she was a fan of the “big, bold Texas flavor.”

Southern Bourbon Stout
Bradley’s Brewing Tip: “Malt, grains, and patience.” He also reminded us that his kit took a little longer to brew, on account of the extra step of soaking oak chips in bourbon to infuse the beer.

Judges’ Notes: Paul was near-ecstatic about the subtle, unexpected sweetness of this stout. He described it as “almost like eating cookie dough.” Brian agreed that it was sweeter than expected, but said that though the smell was intense, like a “shot of vanilla,” the actual taste held a “multitude of flavors.”

The judges agreed that the bourbon taste was there, but it wasn’t overpowering.

Vermont Maple Porter

Matt’s Brewing Tip: “Read the instructions before you start, and make sure to sanitize everything.” Matt’s tip came about after a bit of a brewing faux pas. It turns out, that his inner lumberjack was actually neglected–he forgot to add the maple syrup.

Judges’ Notes: “It’s hard to judge accurately without the syrup,” said Stephanie. But, despite the porter’s syrup-less-ness, she called it “creamy,” “very malty,” and “smooth drinking.”

Brian didn’t appreciate the deviation from the recipe. “Matt’s renegade style often gets him in trouble,” he said. “This is another example of that.”

Paul was also unhappy with the not-maple porter, and decided to add some syrup after the fact. This improvisation is not recommended.

When the flights were finally empty, the judges all agreed on a favorite. While the Bourbon stout was a close second and “equally as good [taste-wise as the winner],” according to Brian, the champion was the Texas Chipotle Amber, which is “more memorable.”

Sarah took home the prize (which is the knowledge that she chose the beer kit the judges liked best) and all involved in our brew-haha finished the remaining spicy chipotle, (sans) maple porter, subtly sweet stout, and refreshing IPA.