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Full disclosure, 2012 version: summer deals
Jul 25th, 2012 by Nancy

What's that? You say you'd like to customize your lunchbox?

As I said about this time last summer, I like running a business.

I especially enjoy letting you know about the upcoming deals.  Here’s what’s coming to a Lunchsense website near you:

You want the best possible deal and you want to get this off your back-to-school “to-do” list? BUY NOW. From today through August 6, everything on the Lunchsense website will be discounted 20% .  All you need is the code, which you can receive one of two ways:

1. Sign up on our mailing list*.  The code will come right back to you.

2. If you’re already on the mailing list, read the email we sent out earlier today!  You’ll find the code in it.

You’re not quite ready to buy? COME BACK IN AUGUST (don’t worry, we’ll remind you). From August 7 through August 26, everything on the Lunchsense website will be 10% off.  Again, to get that discount code you’ll have to see steps 1 & 2, above.

Wondering why you’d buy when the discount is at 10% rather than 20%? Here’s why: two days – August 10 & 11, 2012 - of FREE PERSONALIZATION, and two days – August 16 & 17, 2012 – of FREE SHIPPING.  Neither of these deals needs a code, they’ll just magically apply to everyone on those days.

Either of these deals MIGHT meet or beat 20% off, depending on your location and whether you want a name on that lunchbox.  Which one is better for you?  It all depends on where you live and what you want to order.  I’d suggest you go to the website, figure out what you’d like, then figure out when it makes the most sense for you to place your order.

Note well:

  • Saturday August 18 is the last day you can order a personalized lunchbox and guarantee delivery of it by Saturday September 1, so don’t put that off until the last minute!
  • Friday August 24th is your last day to order not-personalized lunchboxes using regular delivery to receive it by Saturday September 1st, and
  • Tuesday August 28th is your last day to order not-personalized lunchboxes using 2-day delivery to receive it by Saturday September 1st.
  • Yes, you can order a personalized lunchbox on the free shipping days (August 16th or 17th), and it will be delivered, for free, by the 1st.

Why am I telling you this? Check out this post from way back for my opinions about discounts, but in a nutshell:

1. I prefer transparency and forthrightness over obfuscation and sneakiness any day.

2. Offering the best deal early helps smooth out an otherwise chaotic month of back-to-school selling, and ensures that everyone will get their order with plenty of time to spare.

3. Because I can.  It’s my business.

*If you hesitate to sign up for mailing lists, I hear ya. Don’t worry, we here at Lunchsense dislike spam as much as the other guy, so I only send out a very small handful of emails a year.  If you don’t think you – or your coworker, or niece, or the really sweet kid next door – will be needing a great new lunchbox when we write to you, please understand that we believe that if we can’t be useful, we should at least to be entertaining, so please read the email anyway.

Exploring Earth Day's Origins
Apr 22nd, 2012 by Chris
Growing together

Growing together.

Scientists estimate Earth to be about 4.5 billion years old and yet today (April 22, 2012) marks just the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, which obviously means that we have a few billion years of neglect to overcome.

Rectifying such an oversight with an annual observance is a noble gesture, but it seems much of the general public has yet to totally embrace the concept.  In fact, most people know very little about Earth Day’s history or true purpose.

By American standards, Earth Day is certainly not a traditional holiday.  There’s no time-off from work or school, for one thing; and the typical excesses connected with such festivities seem counter-intuitive to appreciating our exhausted Earth.  Decorations, fireworks, holiday spending sprees, even feasts appear wildly inappropriate.

There’s also no jolly elf, magic bunny, winged cherub, or leprechaun to sell the story of Earth Day to our kids.  And, what exactly is the story of Earth Day?  Shouldn’t it have some sort of folk-tale or myth to explain its creation and convey its true meaning—something to build our traditions around?

The real story of Earth Day involves student activism in the 1960’s, the city of San Francisco, a maverick U.S. senator, and a “luminary with a major passion for peace, religion and science.” It also contains a small measure of controversy.

There are actually two dates officially recognized as “Earth Day.”  Two men are credited with creating separate Earth Days at approximately the same time, and their unique, competing visions of the same concern both shaped the sentiments and practices commonly associated with the event held today.

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

John McConnell (1915- ) is an intriguing, American character—a New Age, Christian peacenik with traces of counter-culture bohemian marbling his earthy righteousness.  He developed a concern for ecology while working for an early plastics laboratory (1939).  During WWII, McConnell delivered religious services aboard Merchant Marine vessels, taking the position that “prayer and love could be more powerful than bombs.”  Since then, McConnell has dedicated his life to “relieving human suffering and promoting the common good.”

McConnell’s philanthropic activities, which included the highly successful “Meals for Millions” campaign, eventually led him to the 1969 National UNESCO conference in San Francisco.  It was in this historic city, named for St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, that McConnell unveiled his idea for an “Earth Day—to celebrate Earth’s life and beauty and to alert earthlings to the need for preserving and renewing the threatened ecological balances upon which all life on Earth depends.”

McConnell proposed Earth Day to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which eventually issued an “Earth Day Proclamation.”  McConnell drafted his own Earth Day Proclamation for worldwide use which quickly gained the support of the United Nations, and the initial event was celebrated in San Francisco (and other cities) on March 21, 1970.

If there is a spiritual element to how we view or celebrate Earth Day, it most certainly originates from McConnell.  In his interesting (and visionary) essay, 77 Theses, McConnell outlines a path toward a utopian global village where citizens serve as “Trustees of the Earth.”  He combines religious sensibilities with an idealistic faith in humanity’s ability to liberate itself from its seemingly unenlightened existence.  While acknowledging tremendous challenges, he suggests a possibility for redemption by embracing an “inner point of unity”—a collective concern for the Earth and each other.  “The greatest challenge in history,” he writes, “is the present challenge of destiny involving all humanity; a challenge to reclaim the Earth for all peoples and to free them from the fear of war and want.”

Clearly, Earth Day’s overriding sense of community, inclusiveness and shared responsibility for the well-being of the planet comes largely from McConnell’s passionate vision, but what about the other guy?

Gaylord Nelson was known as The Man from Clear Lake.  He was a U.S. senator from Wisconsin at a time (1963-81) when being a Democrat with liberal leanings wasn’t considered such a bad thing.  Born in 1916, he fought in WW II and served as the 35th governor of his home state before becoming a senator.  He was largely responsible for side-effect warnings on birth control pills (“Nelson Pill Hearings”), in addition to being a strong advocate for small business and, of course, initiating his own Earth Day.

He was said to have been motivated to create an “environmental teach-in at university campuses” after witnessing the devastating effects of a 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.  The original concept was shaped in a large part by the protest movement blazing across college campuses throughout the turbulent 60’s.  Nelson, considered a conservation activist, envisioned an event similar to the highly effective Vietnam War teach-ins going on at that time.

“I am convinced,” he said, “that all we need to do to bring an overwhelming insistence of the new generation that we stem the tide of environmental disaster is to present the facts clearly and dramatically.”

Nelson announced his intentions at a couple of 1969 speeches including a meeting of the United Auto Workers (which donated $2000 to the cause!).  He invited Republican representative, Pete McCloskey, to serve as the co-chair of a non-profit organization, Environmental Teach-In, Inc., and a front-page article in the New York Times (September 29, 1969) declared, “Rising concern about the ‘environmental crisis’ is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam.”

Nelson recruited a Harvard graduate student, Denis Hayes, to organize their first Earth Day (April 22, 1970) on a nationwide scale.  Nelson claims the name “Earth Day” was suggested by “a number of people,” but whether intentionally lifted from McConnell or not, the mass media preferred it to “Environmental Teach-In Day.”  Hayes, who became an influential leader in the environmental movement, did an excellent job as approximately 20 million Americans participated in this first Earth Day, and it has been called “the beginning of the modern environmental movement.”

Nelson receives credit for using his government muscle to increase Earth Day’s visibility across the United States.  He made public education, awareness and youth involvement key elements in the Earth Day Movement.  Nelson’s outline for Earth Day also suggests a 60’s-style “stick it to the man” kind of militant edge,  or a “We’re not going to take it!” reaction to environmental concerns.  His Earth Day certainly contains a solid streak of social activism.

Both of these pioneering environmentalists contributed equal measures toward the establishment of not just an Earth Day, but an Earth Day Movement; and both should be simultaneously acknowledged for their efforts.  Nelson’s approach, strongly rooted to democratic principles of free speech and public assembly, compliments nicely with McConnell’s ideas about mankind’s collective discovery of the inner point of unity.

So, what’s the deal with the dates?  Nelson carefully selected his date to maximize collegiate involvement.  With spring break, Easter and any other holidays out of the way, most universities would be in session.  McConnell chose his date to coincide with the March Equinox, calling it “nature’s special day of equilibrium.”  His motivation was once again a unification of public interest and concern.  By choosing the vernal Equinox, when the length of night and day is equal in all parts of the Earth, McConnell hoped to show “no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another.”

While McConnell’s choice undoubtedly makes more sense symbolically, Nelson’s political clout made the April date stick.  Many still prefer to observe the more metaphysically-aligned “Equinox Earth Day” instead.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

So, now that we know the story, have we gained a better understanding of what comprises a proper Earth Day?  Should we go all “Age of Aquarius” and act like we’re in the Broadway musical Hair?  Should we attend a protest march or a lecture?  Perhaps we should think more practically and organize a nature walk with neighborhood kids, or maybe a clean-up crew?

Whether it’s March 21 or April 22, we’re still talking about spring, and that’s the traditional time to bust out the dust-brooms, shake off the winter lethargy and start cleaning things up.  Lunchsense would like to mark the occasion by reminding everyone that “Reduce” comes first, even before “Reuse” and “Recycle,” so how about celebrating Earth Day by clearing out some of your old, unused stuff?  Why not spend the afternoon making your own little part of Earth a cleaner, happier place?  Simplify your life and for the good of the planet, keep only what you need.  Start becoming an environmental activist in your own home.

Here’s Walter Cronkite’s 1970 commentary on the event … Happy Earth Day!

Adding Lunch to the Lesson Plan
Apr 13th, 2012 by Chris

classroom cafeteria 2

Darn near every moment is a “teaching moment” for me and my kids.  In fact, my boys will tell you that I’m pretty much teaching them something all day long, except they call it “yelling.”  Seriously though, the first time Junior says, “#$@!” and everyone giggles and looks at Dad, we all realize that behavioral modeling is a huge factor in shaping our children’s lives.  My sons watch me, and they listen closer when I’m not even talking to them.  The see how I work, how I play, how I dress, how I interact with my friends and my wife, how I maintain our household, what my priorities are, and yes—even how I eat.

In a recently published interview on Nourish, Cook for America co-founder, Kate Adamick, suggests we view school cafeteria staff as Lunch Teachers, reminding everyone that “what students are fed at school teaches them how to think about food, what to think of as food, and how to behave while consuming it—all lessons that they will carry with them for the remainder of their lives.”

While not exactly a revelation, Adamick’s statement is still, for many, a necessary prompt.  Each meal is an opportunity to show our children how to live.  Proper nutrition is a fundamental skill that is essential for enduring health and well-being.  The kitchen and the school-cafeteria are classrooms where kids learn (or don’t learn) how to select, prepare and eat the right kinds of food.  And yet, as Adamick notes, “frequently, school administrators appear to have forgotten that students don’t stop learning just because it’s lunchtime.”

While a good school-lunch program is imperative and can make a difference for many poorly nourished kids, I believe that I’m in the best position to teach my children the importance of proper eating.  Parents are overwhelmed much of the time and can make a habit of depending on schools to cover the gaps and keep their kids well-directed.  For the most part, given their limited resources, public educators do a wonderful job, but considering the litany of concerns regarding most school-lunch programs (in the U.S.) this is one subject where Father/Mother probably knows best.

Eating, cooking and even shopping together provides wonderful opportunities for shoulder-to-shoulder activities that can positively shape a child’s development.  Health, creativity, earth-consciousness and self-assuredness are just a few of the traits that can be nurtured by sharing good eats.

Preparing home-packed lunches for my boys ensures that they’ll be taking a piece of me along with them to school.  It enables me to influence them at a critical (under-supervised) point in their day without even being there.  It’s this type of unobtrusive, indirect instruction (modeling really) that makes the biggest impact on my kids, and there’s no “yelling.”

If you’re looking to home-school the “lunch” portion of your kids’ curriculum, Lunchsense provides the perfect platform—pack a lesson plan in every box:

  • Easy to use, encourages kid involvement, interactive learning.
  • Portion-sized food containers simplify balanced nutrition.
  • Clever design supports bento-style, eye-catching creativity.
  • Waste-reducing, reusable; promotes sustainability.
Lunchsense Leaps to Seattle for NW Women's Show
Mar 2nd, 2012 by Chris

For Immediate Release

February 29, 2012

Nancy

Lunchsense Creator to Appear at NW Women’s Show

Seattle native, mother of three and D.I.Y. entrepreneur, Nancy Owen Myers will be “changing the way people think about lunch” at this weekend’s NW Women’s Show.

Eugene, Ore. – For many working women (and men), lunch has become more of a nuisance than a nourishing noontime respite.  Options are limited; time is short; fast-food is bad.  But, that doesn’t have to mean another cup of coffee and a breath mint—Nancy Owen Myers has designed a lunchbox that’s so easy to use, it practically packs itself!

Myers will be demonstrating and discussing Lunchsense, her intuitive, cleverly conceived creation, at Seattle’s annual NW Women’s Show, held at CenturyLink Event Center, March 2-4.

An Eco-Accessory with a Side Salad

Lunchsense lunchboxes are durable, reusable, reduce waste, and they do it all with infectious style.  In addition to their remarkable usefulness, Myers is promoting their smart, attention-grabbing appearance at this weekend’s event.  “Lunchsense is more than food luggage,” Myers relates, “Our boxes are eco-accessories that compliment everyone.”  Purpose and personality converge in the Lunchsense look to create a simple statement of sensibility.  While her primary interest is improving lunch-packing, Myers has designed a box that comfortably kicks around a cafeteria with a clutch of kinders, or sachets from the shoulder of a business exec.

Business Model by Mom

Lunchsense typifies a refreshing trend seen among many web-based, Mom/Pop businesses—a modern, values-driven ethic.  Focused from the start on innovative thinking, the impulse that launched Lunchsense and Myers’ overriding principle has been—there’s got to be a better way! “Healthy, easy and cool” became the framework for Myers’ product design, but her concern for social and environmental responsibility created a business that’s determined to inspire positive change.

An opinionated businesswoman and articulate spokeswoman for her product and the lifestyle it represents, Myers is available for interviews and product demonstrations at the NW Women’s Show.  Lunchsense products have been featured in The Washington Post, The Oregonian, The Eugene Register-Guard, and in the new book “Vegan Lunch Box around the World.”  Myers has also appeared on the cover of Mom Magazine.  Media inquiries can be made at 541-515-0089.

About Lunchsense

Based in Eugene, Ore., Lunchsense offers a line of durable, machine-washable lunchboxes that are designed with both kids and adults in mind.  Each lunchbox folds out into a placemat and comes complete with dishwasher-safe food containers, ice pack and drink bottle, and all pieces are free of BPA, lead, phthalates and vinyl.  Available in three sizes and eight colors, Lunchsense lunchboxes are designed around the containers, ensuring a perfect fit.  Lunchsense has received the Green America Seal of Approval and a STELLA Service “star.”  For more information, visit www.lunchsense.com.

Contact: Nancy Owen Myers, (541) 515-0089, nancy@lunchsense.com; Chris Naugle, cnaugle@comcast.net

###

Can't Buy Me Love
Feb 14th, 2012 by Chris

cupid1With quiver loaded, Cupid is taking careful aim, but don’t let the barrage of blush-shaded marketing prompts caress you into breaking your heart-shaped budget.  Valentine’s Day has, like so many holidays, evolved into a manufactured excuse to consume more stuff in greater quantities.  We are encouraged by smiling, hugging and kissing couples to purchase jewelry, flowers, candies and all manner of amorous enticement.  It is suggested that we solidify and reaffirm our affections by opening our wallets, yet I maintain that an expression of love need not come with a price-tag attached.

If your sweetheart requires an emailed reminder from FTD to say “I love you” and that sentiment is shared only once a year, your relationship is no bouquet of roses.  The real currency of love is sincerity, shared not on single, date-book occasions but always, and mostly without sparkling accoutrement.  True expressions of devotion are rarely found on racks of greeting cards.  Affection is displayed in showy flourishes, but love distinguishes itself steadily, in all seasons.

I’m not totally frowning on gifts—if you’re feeling flush, by all means, share the wealth.  But you don’t have to buy-buy-buy just because a cut-out Cupid offers alluring promises at 20% off.  No perfume, trinket or charm can adequately prove love (though many jewelers will swear a diamond comes close).  If you want to impress your feelings upon someone special, carefully consider what they might actually need before bringing out the bankcard.  Caring means providing what your significant other really wants without them ever requesting it.  Most importantly, remember that your sentiments are more sincere when accompanied by acts of kindness.

Of course, Lunchsense suggests…lunch.  Perhaps a Chicken Caesar Salad, wedge of French bread, orange slices and chocolate truffle.  Make it any day, include a sweet note and you’re positively proving how much someone is loved.

Foodie Tuesday: 24 Days, 24 Cookie recipes
Jan 31st, 2012 by Nancy

1, 2, 3...23, 24 different Christmas cookies

I was looking for something different for the Christmas season last year.

Inspiration struck in the form of the Cookie Advent Calendar provided to me by Saveur magazine. Yes, it really was just that: 24 days and 24 cookie recipes.  And we made every single recipe.*

As if baking a new batch of cookies every day for 3 1/2 weeks (or just HAVING that many cookies in harm’s way) wasn’t foolish enough, I also converted them to gluten-free versions (my husband is gluten intolerant).  If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, no, I don’t have too much time on my hands.  I DO have a splendid assistant in the person of my 13 year old daughter-with-aspirations-to-be-a-chef, so between the two of us:

  • she filled in on the days I was just tapped out;
  • I admit that we both bailed out on a couple of days, which we made up on the weekend;
  • we often cut recipes in half or even in thirds, with the goal being no more than 24 cookies in a day (or no more than two trays, so we could get them all in and out of the oven in one pass).

And the effort, while significant, was manageable.

Without a doubt best part – really truly even better than eating them – was the immense pleasure I found in knowing that at some point in the day, every day, we’d be dropping everything…and baking cookies.

Another treat:  Each recipe would be posted at midnight, but as the mag is in Eastern Standard Time my girl and I would check every evening at 9 pm here on the West Coast and find our next day’s offering ready and waiting.

All the cookies were good, but there was indeed a range of results that traveled from, “hmm, tasty sand, that one,” to “wow! oh wow! greatgreatgreat!”  Many (though not all) were of a European lineage, and they were the most interesting.  We all agreed that traditionally American cookies, while good, are by comparison pretty bland, generally being dominated by one flavor: peanut butter, or cinnamon, or chocolate, for example.

The down sides:

We did our best to be true to the original recipe (gluten-free conversions notwithstanding), but at times the ingredients were challenging.  Among other things I now have all but a few ounces of a rather expensive, very strong, very weird liqeuer which as far as I can tell will only go for future batches of those specific cookies they’re used in…which is, thankfully, a pretty darn good cookie.  If you’re in the Eugene area and want to give them a try, call me.  I’ll share.  I also bailed out when the recipe called for a cookie mold that I could only find on eBay for $40.  THAT crossed deep into “well this is just silly” territory.

There were too dang many versions of shortbread cookies.  How may riffs on a theme can there be for butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla? Quite a few, we found.  On that note, and on the upside…

Converting all the recipes to gluten free might be considered ‘above and beyond the call’ but it wasn’t impossible, and I’d been on the hunt for a really great shortbread cookie that worked in GF flour.  I’m pleased to report that I found one!  Mention in the comments if you’d like to know how I converted it. It turned out crisp, tasty, and didn’t spread a whit, which had been the recurring issue with all the other GF cookie-cutter cookies I’d tried.

After the best part, above, the next best part was that we always had something to bring to friends’ houses all month long: “What’s that you say? Laura’s having a few people over tonight? Hey, we’ll bring cookies!!”  In fact, I think that’s where most of them went, in the final tally.

The last best part: We still have a freezer full of cookies.  Only a few remain of each of maybe half the cookie recipes, but it’s enough to know that a sweet treat – not much, but just enough – is only a few steps away.

Stay tuned: Next Tuesday I’ll post the hands-down favorite cookie of the whole season.

*Disclaimer: Okay, fine.  There were actually 25 recipes.  We didn’t make the last one.  It was yet another shortbread cookie, and we didn’t have the right ingredients, and it was CHRISTMAS DAY, for cryin’ out loud.  We all agreed that all the Advent Calendars we knew had 24 days, not 25, so we called it a wrap at 9:15pm on Christmas Eve.  Mea culpa.

Did I mention free shipping?
Jan 27th, 2012 by Nancy

Our Postal service logoOh, my United States Postal Service. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I seriously do love the USPS, and although it’s a little embarrassing, and I occasionally feel a bit coy about this affection, it’s high time I step forth and proclaim it.

I run an internet-based business, which means I spend (as do all the rest of the internet businesses, from me up to Amazon.com) a very large chunk of my time and attention into the logistics of getting your order from my warehouse to your doorstep.  After we select and fill the appropriate carton with the ordered items, we all have to consider the need for packing materials; the size; the weight; the distance to travel; the desired speed of travel; whether the recipient will be present when the order arrives, and what to do if he/she is not; whether to insure the shipment; how to track the shipment; what to do if it doesn’t arrive.  It’s really pretty breathtaking, when you think about it, what goes on between that “click here to complete your order” and finding a box on your doorstep.

The USPS has been going through a rough patch lately, I know, and if it’s been difficult to understand why, I’ll try to summarize the issues, which were also mentioned here.  You might have heard that the PO is looking squarely at an almost $10 billion deficit.  It has come about in part because of the drop in First Class mail service thanks to the increasing popularity of online bill-paying services, the weakened economy, and competition among package delivery services.  However, some of that deficit is the result of a 2006 law that required the Postal Service to prepay retiree health benefits.  It is the only agency, public or private, that has been required to do so at this level – the Postal Service was required to prepay 75 years of health care coverage in 10 years’ time.  Further, the USPS overpaid the pension obligations from 1972 to 2009 and has requested (but not received) a refund on their overpayment.  Their deficit would become a $1.5 billion surplus if these issues would corrected; Congress is looking at bills to address them.  In the meantime we face the prospect of slower service, shuttered facilities, and thousands of layoffs.

I find this heartbreaking.

So: why do I love them?

First and foremost, they are the green team of shipping.

Think about it – the postal carrier comes to your address just about every day anyway, yes? Remember that the other services have to make a special trip to deliver your package. Besides that obvious green advantage, here are a few more:

  • A third of all postal deliveries are made on foot
  • The USPS delivery fleet includes electric, hybrid, and biodiesel vehicles
  • The USPS uses water-based inks for its stamps
  • Priority and Express envelopes and boxes have been Cradle-to-Cradle certified for meeting high environmental standards from manufacture to disposal
  • The USPS has been working to reduce energy use and incorporate green design elements in its buildings
  • Postal workers are unionized

As if that’s not enough, some other things you may not have known about them:

They hire more veterans than any other civilian employer:  135,800 of their 570,000+ person workforce, according the the American Postal Workers Union.

It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the US Constitution, and does not receive a cent of tax money – all its operations are funded by the revenues it generates.  It is also obligated to deliver to every single U.S. Postal address, and in many rural areas the post office is the de facto community center.

Only the items shipped via the US Postal Service have federal law enforcement protection. If you are leery of  online monetary transactions and banking, there’s no safer way to deliver your personal checks.

Their annual food drive, “Stamp Out Hunger,” surpassed 1 billion lbs. of food collected in 2010 after 18 years of this annual event. Held every year on the second Saturday in May (May 12 this year) it has become a major source of non-perishables for food banks across the country.

Personally, I like the US Postal Service because I like their website better than the website of those guys in brown shorts.

And the postal carriers are the underrated masters of navigation in your neighborhood. If I’m ever in a new part of town and I’m lost, or I’m unable to find a business or a house, or if I want to find the homes for sale in a particular neighborhood, or I want to know where I can get a cup of coffee, or my gas tank is about to hit empty, I KNOW that I can ask the postal carrier and he or she will set me straight, every single time.

How can you help remedy the sorry situation the Postal Service finds itself?

First of all, use the postal service to ship packages when you can.  For cross-country shipping they may be a day or two slower than the other guys for the standard, every day, ground shipping option (parcel post in USPS parlance) but you’ll probably find they are cheaper in many cases.  If you’re shipping within about a 500 mile radius, you might even find the faster service (Priority Mail) is cheaper, not to mention faster than the other ground services, and their flat-rate cartons are free!

Second, buy your postage online.  Besides the fact that you’ll avoid the lines at the P.O., you’ll get a bit of a discount.  What’s more, it’s really easy, and even kind of thrilling to see postage come out of the printer.  Even though you’ve paid for it, it feels a bit like printing money, or at least what I think printing money would feel like if I did that.  The down side of printing your postage is that you may get cold stares from the unfortunates that are waiting in line at the P.O. when you breeze past them to the counter and drop off your packages.

Third, contact your congressional representative and let them know that you do care to keep the Postal Service operating at its current level of service.

So, in honor of the mighty men and women in blue stripey shirts and black socks with shorts and whatnot, I’m offering free shipping all the time to orders of $80.00 or more. That’s two lunchboxes, in most cases (for two smalls you’d have to throw in a couple extra food containers, which is usually a good idea anyway – have one at work, have one in the dishwasher). It’s the least I can do to keep those fine men and women going!

Revisiting Thanks
Nov 23rd, 2011 by Nancy

Bucket of Coal

Hello my lovely blog readers,

Here’s a re-post of a wonderful bit Chris wrote for last Thanksgiving.  I thought it just as timely this year as last.

Many thanks to everyone that has made this website and my life so much fun, and I’m looking forward to many more years of sensible lunches and happy customers.  Here’s to hoping you all have full tables, full attendance, and full bellies tomorrow!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Nancy

Chris, take it away….

In response to a perceived discourtesy, November’s holiday-spirit, simply referred to as “Thanks,” is sending December’s patron saint, Santa Claus, a bucket of coal for Christmas this year.

Disturbed by Santa’s increasing intrusion on the month of November, Thanks feels forgotten and rudely ignored.  “It’s just so inconsiderate,” she said.  “We used to share the parade with him, but now he’s coming with the full-color newspaper inserts, direct-mailings and television ads before the turkeys even reach the stores.”

Public concern over Santa’s expansion appears to be mixed.  “I wish it was Christmas every day,” one seven-year-old boy confided.

Thanks, however, is convinced “St. Nicholas” has committed an egregious mistake.  “That fat, old elf is finally going senile,” she said.  “He doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s confusing the kids.”

The facts suggest Claus did start the Christmas campaign earlier than usual this year.  Toy catalogs began trickling into mailboxes almost as soon as the trees surrendered their leaves, and electronic solicitors began flooding email accounts just after the recent elections.

When questioned, Claus admitted to a misunderstanding, though he blamed it on the complexities of varying international customs.  “I might have gotten a little mixed-up,” he confessed.  “The Canadians have their thankful thingy in October, and the missus is always nagging me about needing to ‘check the list twice’ and everything, so I didn’t want to dawdle this year.”

Is it merely an accident, or instead, a growing trend?  Ever since Kris Kringle endorsed “Black Friday” as the unofficial start to the Christmas season, retailers have been utilizing his likeness earlier and earlier to promote their sales.

“Santa is good business,” one store-manager concluded succinctly.

Statistical analysis indicates consumers, in turn, are beginning to shift their attentions to the Christmas season sooner than ever before.

“Thanksgiving?” one mother of four shrugged, “I’m thankful when my shopping’s done and all the presents are wrapped.”

In the U.S., Thanksgiving has legally controlled the fourth Thursday in November since December 26, 1941 (the day after Christmas).  Traditionally, the holiday has occurred on this date since 1863, however a source close to the Ministry of Christmas contends, “Nobody has ever said anything about the following Friday, or any of the weeks prior, for that matter.”

This same source, in an exclusive interview, revealed that Santa is no longer solely in charge of the Ministry, and that he is most likely not the one responsible for the increased promotional effort.  Tech-hungry consumer demands have allowed corporate retailers and manufacturers to muscle in on the North Pole’s operation.

“Kids don’t just want dollies, tin soldiers or BB guns anymore,” the source instructed, “they want an iTouch, an X-Box or a Nintendo DS.  Who do you think makes those, the elves?”

For her part, Thanks is unwilling to let Kringle off the hook.  Interviewed in a grocery store parking-lot, next to a row of leaning fir trees, she confirmed that she had heard the rumors but added, “Santa not in charge anymore?  I simply won’t believe it.”

Regardless of who’s to blame, Thanksgiving has clearly been slighted, and the effects of this negligence have yet to be fully realized.

“I don’t mean to seem ungrateful,” Thanks explained.  “Everybody loves Santa, especially the children, but I just think we need to stop and appreciate what we already have, before we begin asking for something new.”

When asked what she hoped to accomplish by her symbolic gesture, Thanks replied, “Gratitude should precede bounty in action and acknowledgment; it is the parent of all other virtues.  Santa should understand.”

The Plastic Files: Episode One
Nov 5th, 2011 by Chris

The Truth Is Out There …

We’re about to embark on a gripping adventure.  A confounding mystery has thrust itself into the offices of Lunchsense World Headquarters, and we, driven by an unyielding determination to shed light on any dim corner of obscurity, feel obligated to inveDetective-with-smoke-flippedstigate.  It’s a bewildering complexity that involves multinational corporations, government agencies, public health groups, environmentalists and possibly even mad scientists.  The wellness of the planet and the sustenance of our species could hang in the balance.

The story begins with the kind of woman you cross the floor and light a cigarette for (if people still smoked).  “Hey, I kinda like your lunchboxes,” she says off-handedly before shooting me one of those straight-to-the-gut stares that suggests more than it delivers.  “But,”—there’s always a hangnail, a stickler, some pain to snap me out of it—“are these plastic food containers safe?”

Ah, there’s the rub; the stopping point for many potential lady-friends and forward-thinking fellas alike.  It seems plastic has recently transitioned from its gilded, “better living” period to a much darker phase of skepticism and mistrust.  Who crashed the Tupperware party?  Do we have good reason to be afraid?  Is plastic another asbestos—a toxic substance that surrounds us, masquerading as modern convenience?  Or has public anxiety been heightened egregiously by the rampant spread of misinformation via nefarious, unqualified sources?  Who can be trusted?

Since selling plastic food containers is a part of our business, and since we’re human and live here too, Lunchsense has decided to put our considerable resources (this blog space) toward determining exactly where the truth lies.  Combining Nancy’s scientific/research background with my own journalist’s instincts (shaded by a gumshoed-sleuth persona), we’re certain to crack the case.  We’ll leave no stone unturned in our quest to discover what is known and unknown about this seductive, synthetic substance.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be featuring a series of blog posts related to the safety of plastic food containers, and we’ll be looking at the most viable alternative (for our purposes), stainless steel.  We’ll outline and weigh their environmental impact, both in the manufacturing process and in the post-consumer period.  We’ll also examine any health risks involved with using plastic (or stainless) food containers.  Finally, we’ll discuss what qualities consumers use to determine “good” from “bad,” how those impressions are influenced, and where (we think) our food containers rate on that scale.

It’s sure to be a heart-pounding thrill, so stay tuned for our next installment, a short, historical primer entitled: Plastic Fantastic? We’ll explain what plastic is and how it’s produced.  We’ll describe the different types of plastics and discuss the chemicals used in the manufacture of these types, including their toxicity and any associated health risks.

The truth is out there, so don’t you dare miss a single upcoming episode of our revealing series: The Plastic Files!

Lunchsense Lands a Star
Oct 17th, 2011 by Chris

This is the Stella Star.  Look for it on the best websites!Online shopping has become everyone’s favorite way of finding what they need.  It has never been easier to locate products and comparison-shop for the lowest prices, yet how do we choose between multiple sites that offer the exact same deal?  More often than not, great customer service makes the difference, but who wants to find out the hard way that a site isn’t up to snuff?  Consumers can now look to the stars for guideposts to the web’s best retailers.

STELLAService rates the customer service of online stores – anonymously, and rigorously – and issues their distinctive trust marks to those that make the grade and receive an “elite” or “excellent” score.

We’re happy to announce: Lunchsense has been awarded a STELLAService star for “excellent” customer service.

STELLA’s anonymous evaluation process stress tests more than 300 elements of the online customer experience.  They navigate sites, conduct usability tests, order AND return products, interacting with companies via phone, email and (when applicable) online chat.  It’s all done undercover (we had no idea we were being tested), so the results are unbiased and “true to the experience.”

“The beauty is we don’t need their permission to do it,” STELLA CEO, Jordy Leiser says.  “We just go and become customers.”

While the preponderance of customer-generated, online reviews can prove helpful, STELLA recognized a need for independent, third-party evaluations done by professionals.  “The crowd-sourcing idea is very important because you want to know what the community thinks,” Leiser says.  “But they capture a very small percentage of the market, often only the extreme experiences.”

STELLA is serious about the business of evaluating customer service and they’ve convinced some big players to buy-in, securing $1.75 million in venture funding from key Wall Street investors.   And fifty of the top online retailers are already displaying the STELLA trust mark including big names like Diapers.com, Zappos.com, and 1-800 Flowers.com.  Only stores that receive an “elite” or “excellent” rating are entitled to display the STELLA star.  According to the STELLA site,

This seal is the only trust mark on the Web that objectively and credibly communicates to shoppers that a store is truly dedicated to providing great customer service.

Passing the test once is only the beginning. STELLA evaluates stores repeatedly – at least once a year – so we have to keep meeting their “elite” or “excellent” benchmarks, or we’ll lose our star.  And, because the reviews are conducted anonymously, we never know when we are being scored.  Getting the star is a fabulous feather, but keeping it means maintaining a consistent track record of outstanding customer service.

Lunchsense has always taken a “keep it simple” approach to customer service.  We want you to be completely satisfied with your lunchbox purchase, and we do everything we can to insure that you are.  First and foremost, we’re real people.  We strive to be accessible, friendly and accommodating, and we want our site to be as well.  Shopping at Lunchsense should be a comfortable, agreeable experience—it wouldn’t be sensible any other way.  If you find that we haven’t met your expectations, PLEASE tell us – we’ll listen, and we’ll try our best to make things right.

We’re extremely proud of our “excellent” customer service rating from STELLAService.  It feels great to be counted among the web’s stars!

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