Diary of a Street Sweeper – #1

7 Jun

Made in the USA. I nice idea. But lately it feels like those words are crumbling. And more and more it feels like we are powerless to stop it. But the good news is, that’s simply not true. Together, we are more powerful than any company, trade deal or piece of legislation. We are the consumer. All bow before us. And the simple fact is that we still make stuff in this country. Far more stuff than you might think. The question is, what are we going to do about it? UnumStreet is dedicated to rewarding those folks who have kept our mills and factories running — from the line workers to the CEOs. It’s about showcasing everyday opportunities we have to Buy American, and keep our country and communities strong.

Of course, I’d like to say UnumStreet was founded on some grand notion of patriotism or supporting my local economy. But it didn’t. The truth is, I had never been very good about acting upon grand notions.

No, this all started with a rake…

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KleerTemp Thermometer – Florida

15 Jun

Here’s a question one wonders from time to time: “What’s the temperature outside.” In theory, this should require a smartphone or a laptop to answer. No, in theory, you should have the ability to poke your head outside and say, oh, huh, that’s the temperature. Interesting. Another nice alternative, especially on days when it’s very warm, very cold, or you are very much opposed to getting dressed, is a thermometer. What’s nice about a thermometer is that it is location specific. In most situations one doesn’t care about weather projections for your zipcode. At least I don’t. I care what it’s like outside my front door. (Or, someday, what it’s like outside my RV. You know what doesn’t have a zipcode? The open road!)

Now as you might have guessed, most thermometers for sale at your local hardware store are made somewhere across the Pacific. Lucky for us, the good folks at Electro Optix are still making a wide variety of well made things right here in the USA. Funny thing, when industrial consumers, that is to say, when businesses themselves need to purchase high quality products made to precise calibration, they more often than not still prefer to purchase these products from domestic suppliers. Why? Because counter to pseduo-popular belief, we make precision equipment in this country as well, if not better, than anyone in the world. Our facilities are cleaner, our workers are better trained, and our products are not subject to nearly as much potentially damaging shipping. (For more on this, check out this great write up in a recent issue of The Atlantic.) So if American businesses still trust American workers to make precision goods, why shouldn’t we? The best part about the Kleertemp? It uses static electricity to stick to your window, so you can save your screwdriver for more important stuff, like making ice cubes.

To purchase your KleerTemp Thermometer, and no longer feel beholden to your wireless connection to answer the question “has it warmed up at all this afternoon?” you should be able to find this product at your local hardware store like we did. If not, you can go directly to the source: http://www.electro-optix.com/thermometers.html

Tell them you’ve just come from UnumStreet

Apache Ecomat – Georgia

14 Jun

One of the first steps of spring cleaning is sprucing up that cruddy front doormat. Sometimes, winter’s salt, sand and (because nothing else would work on the ice) kitty litter, demands you purchase a new one. Turns out, when you have twins, “spring” cleaning happens around the middle of June. Enter: the Apache Mills Ecomat. Procured for under $15 at our local hardware store, the Ecomat sports a backing of recycled rubber, hence the “eco”. The surface is a rugged polyester fiber. Our particular model is “Stonehenge Redstone”, which is the name I plan to assume if I am ever asked to become a superspy for the British government. My first mission will no doubt involve interrogating whoever came up with that horrible concept of spring cleaning.

The good folks of Apache Mills have been making the magic happen in Calhoun, Georgia since 1970. Their headquarters and manufacturing facility is over 750,000 square feet. That’s a lot of jobs. Let’s make sure they stay here.

Call your local brick and mortar to see if they carry the Ecomat, or get yourself a catalog at http://www.apachemills.com/Default.htm

Husky Drop Cloths – Texas

13 Jun

You’ve put it off as long as you can, but there’s no denying it. Time to dust off your crow bar and get going on that summer to-do list.

Today’s Good Get is the Husky 9′ x 12′ x .7 mil plastic drop cloth. 

With three to a pack, that’s 324 sq ft of keep your toddlers in the other room. (Note to new dads, everyone gets really annoyed when you let your 11 month old play in a giant suffocation hazard.) The drop cloth is, however, very useful when you grow tired of the walls in your house or apartment looking the color of sad.  Might we feel better about ourselves if we used a all-natural cloth drop cloth instead?  Maybe.  Then again, 324 sq ft of all-natural cloth drop cloth costs $400,000.  Sorry nature!  At least we can find some comfort in knowing we are supporting a product made in America when we buy Husky brand drop cloths, made by the good folks at Poly-America. We found them at our neighborhood hardware store.

By contrast, we discovered a popular rival of Husky drop cloths: Z-Pro’s GlobalGuard, made in Malaysia.  I say popular because we found it on a popular ecommerce site that we’ll call…hamazon.com.

Haha.  Hamazon.  A website for ham.

Husky drop cloths.  Made in the USA.

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Combat Ant Traps – Arizona

12 Jun

An ant is a marvel of the natural world. That’s great. That doesn’t mean it has to be the marvel of my living room floor.

Today’s item is the ant trap!

Some people purchase firearms.  Lots of firearms.  Some install security systems that affords them the benefit of an acne-scarred man in a windowless room monitoring their home’s perimeter from a remote location.  Some sleep with a wood-handled hammer under their bed.

Whatever the case may be, people like to feel like they are safe from the hustle and bustle of the outside world in their own home.  I suspect this is what is so alarming about watching a platoon of ants march across your living room floor.  First of all, they are invading your castle.  Second of all, they look so stinkin’ busy!  It’s 8:37pm and I am on the couch watching bad TV, and I plan to do so for the next three hours.  So what!  Stop making me feel guilty, ants!  I know you’re all busy looking for my food, the food I bought with the money I earned at my job where I don’t necessarily work as hard as you do, and no, you don’t even have to get to my kitchen to find food because there are crumbles all over the place because, I know, I know, I’m a slob — GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, ANTS!

So it’s summer and the ants are awake and we need to protect our castle.  (And our fragile self-worth.)

Of course the first thing we think when we think bugs in the house are those catchy animated commercials.  “Product: dies bugs killed.”  Or something like that. Of course, when we go to the store that’s what we want.  Hot death to the ants.  What’s more, when we get to the store we discover that “Product” is made by a company we recognize: a “family” company, if you will.  Just how I like my bug killing, with a slice of family.

Here’s the trouble.  Most of that company’s ant traps are Made in China. Bummer right?  

But not Combat Source Kill MAX A1.

Combat Insect Control Systems are based in Arizona and their ant traps are Made in the USA.  And they do their R&D in the USA.  And they work darn well.  And they cost the same price.

So why would you reward those other guys?  Because they used the money they saved on overseas production to invest in marketing? That’s what we thought… (Note, if someone actually knows where exactly in Arizona they make the ant traps, we would be grateful. For now, we are going with the secret bunker theory.)