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Shopping by Values

Not Your Mother's Underwear: THINX Launches on The Grommet

Posted by Caroline Fong January 9, 2014 12:00 PM

Today is an exciting day for The Grommet. We are launching THINX, a stylish and technologically-advanced leak and stain resistant underwear invented by three young women on a mission.

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Handcrafted Gifts for the Craft Fair Lover

Posted by Caroline Fong December 6, 2013 09:30 AM

We all have that one friend who eats only organic foods, enjoys yard sales and craft fairs, and makes her own beauty products. She's not exactly down-to-earth, but she sure is earth-loving. And we adore her to bits because not only does she make up for our less than environmentally-friendly habits, she's a true friend and makes you some darn good deodorant.

To celebrate your friendship, gift her a handcrafted item. If you don't have the time to make something yourself, support a local artisan so that your purchase will also go toward the preservation of craft.

FOR HER LOVELY SELF

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Evelyn Claude Designs (Cascade Earrings, $45) (Dominion Necklace, $41) -- These lacquered and gold leafed accessories are handmade, using a thousand-year-old Japanese antique paper-making technique called Kin-maki-e.

Scents and Feel Towel, Multi Fuchsia ($69.50) -- These lightweight Tunisian fouta towels are made of 100% handwoven cotton and are wonderfully versatile. They can be used as a shawl, bath or beach towel, picnic blanket, bed cover, or table cloth.

FOR HER CREATIVE DESK

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Moss & Stone Gardens Moss Rocks! (Starting at $14.99) -- Each moss garden is a work of art, pre-hand planted in a sculptural, stone-like container that contrasts with the tufted greenery. It's also very easy to care for due to the patent-pending reservoir system and the frost-resistant ceramic.

On The Hook Crochet Lace Bowl ($28.95) -- Looking for a modern fruit bowl or knick knack holder? Hand crocheted from 100% cotton thread, these seemingly delicate beauties are actually sturdy enough to store heavier items, such as apples and oranges.

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4 Meaningful Purchases You Can Make on Black Friday

Posted by Caroline Fong November 29, 2013 10:00 PM

With all the hustle and bustle of this notorious shopping holiday, it’s a great feeling scooping up deals on the latest flat screen TV or bringing home a new wardrobe of clothes. But if you’re still left feeling empty at the end of the day, why not check off some of your holiday shopping list with four meaningful purchases?

Here is a roundup of Grommets that are wallet-friendly and still wholly good for the heart:

1. Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty; $14.95

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Aaron Muderick is the founder of this putty, which he gave away fistfuls of for his friends to knead, tear, roll and bounce when they needed to relieve stress and get their creative juices flowing. Take a leaf out of his book and spread a little joy in the office this holiday season when the stress hits.

2. Arghand Cooperative Soap Pebble Assortment; $15

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Sarah Chayes was an NPR reporter who left her job to dedicate herself to changing the lives of underpaid Afghanis. Her social enterprise craft soap pebbles use age-old techniques and encourages farmers to plant crops like apricots, pomegranates, spices and herbs — instead of Afghanistan’s main crop, opium. Give each friend a pebble to share this Oprah-worthy cause.

3. BirdProject Hand Soap; $24

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Fifty percent of profits go to the environmental cleanup and care for affected animals of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster, Gulf Restoration Network, and International Bird Rescue. The black glycerin soap birds eventually wash away to reveal a clean white ceramic keepsake bird -- a great gift for a friend who’s an animal lover and environmentalist.

4. Haiti Projects Nightgowns; $48

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The Sewing Cooperative is a program of Haiti Projects, Inc, an organization that supports the economic livelihood of the people of Fonds des Blancs, Haiti. Give a loved one or friend one of these beautiful hand-embroidered nightgowns for a good and fulfilled night of sleep.

Enjoy the last few hours of Black Friday shopping and share your experience in the comments.

A Cut Above: All-American R. Murphy Knives

Posted by Caroline Fong November 22, 2013 11:30 AM

Last month, we sent three Grommeteers to visit the R. Murphy Knives factory in Ayer, Massachusetts.

Founded in 1850 as a cutlery business, the local company was family owned until 1954. Today, Mimi Younkins and her husband-business partner Mark Furman run the company, which still uses a handcrafted manufacturing process with machines about a century old.

“When I first walked in there, I was curious, very curious,” Bobby, our resident knife enthusiast, recounted to me. “I was blown away by the precision of everything -- and the thoughtfulness that went into the production of each knife.” He had watched the knives being prepped in the sea bath.

What’s more impressive is that the knives are made with local materials whenever possible (but the factory does go for regional and national when necessary). With its local factory, inclination for local materials, and local employees, I think R. Murphy Knives is a local treasure (with fans spanning both coasts) and very much a part of our local manufacturing history.

Here are some pictures taken by our wonderful Video Director Jesse during The Grommet's visit to the R. Murphy Knives local factory:

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3 Easy Ways to Select a Meaningful Holiday Gift

Posted by Caroline Fong November 11, 2013 01:30 PM

During a friend’s recent birthday, I noticed a mildly interesting pattern. Many of the gifts she received were of those ten-dollar teddy bears you can pick up at a CVS or supermarket.

It had only bothered me because I was contemplating minimalism later that weekend. I realized that if my friends were to give me such easy (read as lazy) gifts as the generic teddy bears, it’d be hard to keep my possessions at a meaningful minimum.

This holiday season, I challenge you to not give another hand lotion gift basket, teddy bear, or run-of-the-mill candle. Here are three ways you can select a meaningful gift for a friend or family member (or even a workmate).

LOCATION

Pick from a selection of Grommets that turns memorable landmarks, cities, towns, and even lakes into cherished keepsakes and works of art.

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Your Power as a Consumer

Posted by Caroline Fong November 1, 2013 03:00 PM

Amazon and Walmart are great for their purposes. But it is no longer enough to just hand over our money to a faceless entity in exchange for goods whose origin and story we have only a faint idea of.

Citizen Commerce is the idea that we seek, buy, and share products from companies that reflect our personal values. Every purchase is an act of citizenship, amplifying something in the world -- good, bad, or indifferent.

Increasingly, people are supporting what matters most to them: whether it’s technical innovation, green or social enterprises, the creation of jobs, domestic manufacturing, or the preservation of craft. In addition to The Grommet, here is a roundup of interesting companies and projects that are emerging to align with the power of a consumer’s personal choices.

“The people who buy stuff, not the people who make stuff, should choose what they want and how they want it.”

A beauty company named MY Eco Lips is letting its customers completely customize his or her own lip balm, from the base and flavor to the container color. The father and daughter duo believes in giving the customer control and supporting creativity.

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Sustainable Living: Moving Small Mountains with Our Individual Decisions

Posted by Caroline Fong September 27, 2013 10:00 AM

By now, I’m sure everyone has seen the Chipotle industrial ad, featuring a lonely scarecrow, who labors away for a company called Crow Foods. If you haven’t seen it yet, I have no idea where you found a rock big enough to live under. Watch it now:

Its message rings clear -- we should care about what we eat, and as individuals, we can make a difference. And it’s the second part of that message that really resonates with me. We can make a difference with our personal choices.

It’s been a somewhat slow, but interesting shift in the never-ending fight for a more sustainable society. The public relations campaigns of big companies used to focus on whatever green initiatives or corporate responsibility efforts were being reportedly implemented by the company.

Now, I’m tempted to say that the call for change has landed on the shoulders of individuals like ourselves. It’s not so much what companies “should” be doing (although they better have had an eye out for the environment already); it’s more of us telling companies what we want.

This is aligned with the concept of Citizen Commerce, the belief that we should seek, buy, and share products that reflect our own personal values. As consumers, there is power in our personal choices. And those choices can go towards supporting our values, including a more sustainable environment.

If helping the environment is important to you, here are three small steps you can adopt in your daily routine:

1. Walk More

If you must use the car, plan out your chores for the smartest route to save time and gas. But by staying off the road for just two days out of the week, you can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,590 pounds a year (source: EPA).

Your travel alternatives not only save gas money, they’re good for your health. Try taking public transportation, riding your bike, or walking, starting with one day a week and then upping it to two days a week.

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For biking to work or for a day trip: Quivvers ($39.95) for carrying the essentials hands-free, PackIt ($19.95) for keeping the perishables cool, and the Peterboro Basket Company Large Bicycle Basket ($39.95) for transporting things via bike.

2. Stop Buying Bottled Water

Bottled water actually generates a lot of waste. Our landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles and they take over 1,000 years to biodegrade (source: The Water Project).

By purchasing a reusable water bottle instead, you help prevent more plastic bottle waste and still get the same quality of water -- because tap water is actually subject to more stringent federal safety regulations than bottled water. Another upside? You save money. If you buy a five-dollar 24-pack of bottled water every two weeks, that’s $120 you could’ve saved in a year by just drinking tap or home-filtered water.

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For durable, BPA-free reusable bottles: Bubi Bottle (Starting at $14.95) and Vapur (2-pack at $17.95) for collapsible and lightweight bottles, or Eco Vessel ($24.95) for a stainless steel, triple-insulated bottle for cold or hot drinks.

3. Carry Groceries in Reusable Tote Bags

No, not just when you remember. According to Tree Hugger, you must use your reusable canvas bag 171 times or more to break even with the environmental impact of plastic bags. Or, if you use a reusable bag made from organically grown materials or recycled plastics, the usage number may drop to 10-20 times.

Still, not using plastic bags can help prevent the litter that finds its way into our landfills and the ocean. This means making an effort to place the bags in the car as soon as the groceries are put away or carrying extras in the purse or pockets.

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For sturdy shopping bags: MIXT Studio Tyvek Reversible Tote ($38) for machine-washable and recyclable, Torrain Large Tote ($32) for natural and recycled fabrics, or 24-7 ($12) for lightweight nylon easy to carry in the purse.

How We Work Together for Citizen Commerce -- and You Can, Too

Posted by Caroline Fong August 30, 2013 11:30 AM

Earlier this month, I wrote about Citizen Commerce™, the concept that we should buy what reflects our values. The idea also encompasses sharing and suggesting products that align with those same interests and values -- contributing to the commerce experience for everyone.



Watch the ladies behind 3greenmoms of LunchSkins chat about mindful shopping.


If you’ve already gotten the first part down either through shopping at farmer’s markets, buying American-made products, or supporting eco-conscious businesses, then you should give the second part a try; share your finds with other people or suggest products for companies to adopt and carry.

Today, I want to feature three products that were adopted by The Grommet at the suggestion of the community. The Citizen Gallery is where people share their finds and submit products that they think we should carry. (Check it out; there could be some wonderful products there that may pique your interest even though we don't carry them.)

Here are three Grommets that came through as product suggestions:

1. rollnband: Space-Saving Packing Aid

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Have you ever gotten the advice of rolling (not folding) your clothes for effective travel packing? Well, if you’ve tried it, you know that it’s hard to keep your clothes from coming undone without packing them in tightly. With rollnbands, you can keep all your outfits organized and even label your dirty clothes by reversing the band to gray. When this product was submitted, we knew it’d be a great Grommet for anyone on the go.

2. speeCup: Voice-Enabled Bluetooth Speaker

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This portable Bluetooth speaker features a noise-canceling microphone and AUX line-out jack for use with a car’s audio system (or other speakers). Its shape is perfect because every car comes with a cup holder, but not every car has a built-in Bluetooth speaker. Just place it in a spare cup holder and enjoy hands-free control with Siri or S voice. Who doesn't get excited about gadgets that make our lives easier?

3. MagneButton: Magnet Closure Accessory

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As handy as safety pins may be, I recognize that they may not be the best accessory for styling and fastening clothing. The MagneButton, on the other hand, doesn’t damage clothing and consists of just two beautiful parts that look like buttons to pull together whatever pieces of clothing you’re styling.

Do you have a product that you've been a loyal supporter of? Tell me about it in the comments, or submit it to the Citizen Gallery.

Made in the USA: Are Shoppers Returning to American Goods?

Posted by Caroline Fong August 7, 2013 10:00 AM

There is something agreeable about a ‘Made in USA’ tag. In my mind, those three words cast a subtle aura of reliability and strength on any product they grace. And I’m not the only one who may think so. More than half of Americans who were polled by Boston Consulting Group would rather buy an American-made product over an alternative.

With the recent celebration of America’s 237th birthday, I’ve been thinking about American-made goods. It seems that big companies are returning production to American shores, and innovators right here in our backyards are taking advantage of the recent developments in technology and funding to realize their product dreams.

At The Grommet, we pay homage to the shift in offshore manufacturing to local manufacturing by choosing Somerville as our official address (our back door is in Somerville, but our front door is in Cambridge). This is because Somerville is one of two places -- the other being Brooklyn -- where the highest concentration of Grommets are being created in the US.

Here is a curated snapshot of Grommets from our Made in the USA Collection:

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From Left to Right: Fisher Blacksmithing Handmade Garden Tools; Melissa Borrell 3D Printed Jewelry; OneLogFire Tabletop Camp Fire; Rustico Leather Logbooks & Journal.

What are some of your favorite American-made products?

Join our Citizen Commerce Movement

Posted by Caroline Fong August 2, 2013 09:30 AM

We’ve all heard of participatory journalism or “citizen journalism.” With 89% of smartphone users using their phones throughout the day, it’s no wonder that we hear about airplane incidents through social media before the official news sources even report the story.

When I first got a smartphone, I was an avid “journalist” of every event I went to and every interesting item I came across -- whether it was in a store, at an art fair or local market, or out on the streets. I emailed and texted my family and friends about interesting or off-the-radar products, like flexible water bottles, cheese kits, cute notebooks, and even steampunk lamps.

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From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Machine Lights The Series No.06 by Frank Buchwald; AquaFarm; Craft Paper Jungle Story NoteBook with Fabric Linen Cover; Tulpi Chair by Marco Manders; Molecule-R Cuisine R-Evolution Kit; Watch Sculptures by Dominic Wilcox; Vapur; and Aquapac.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was practicing Citizen Commerce™ (a philosophy happily created by The Grommet). What is it? You’ve guessed it. Regular people are the “journalists” of commerce, sharing and suggesting products that reflect their interests and values.

Increasingly, we are voicing what kind of products we want. Crowdfunding is an awesome example of this: We literally vote with our dollars what kind of products we want to support and what we want to see be produced. It’s a very different way of sharing, influencing, and buying products compared to our traditional shopping approach.

Kite Stack.pngJust recently, I’ve been thinking of supporting Kite Patch, a patch that claims to make me invisible to mosquitoes. As someone who rarely escapes the wrath of those little blood-sucking buggers, I don’t mind supporting a product that will help me be happier as well as help the people of Uganda by decreasing the spread of disease carried by mosquitos.

So, what products are you passionate about? What do you want to be able to buy? Let me know in the comments, or better yet, submit it in the Citizens’ Gallery.

About The Grommet

We launch undiscovered products and help them succeed; we call them Grommets. Grommets aren't just things. Grommets are products with a purpose invented by people with stories. More »
SPONSORED BLOG
Buy Differently is a sponsored blog powered by The Grommet, and part of Boston.com Finds, a site you can count on to bring you the best discoveries around Boston and beyond. This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or Finds. The author is solely responsible for the content.
CONTRIBUTOR
Caroline Fong
Caroline hails from a tiny tropical island originally, but calls Boston home. A curious bird, she spent a spring trekking all over Ireland, has been an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet, and worked at Disney World as a merchandising intern. With a love for all things interesting, she found herself at The Grommet, where she gets to eat, sleep, and breathe innovative undiscovered products. Say hello to her on Twitter.
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