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The absolutely true story of a nine year old and his lunch
Sep 21st, 2011 by Nancy

iStock_000013297428SmallI scored big on the lunch-making front today.

I was prepping bits and pieces of lunch for my nine year old as I passed through the kitchen – mixing leftover turkey soup from last night with the last half cup of noodles from a few days back, getting it started in the microwave, locating the wide mouth thermos in the cabinet, that sort of thing.  I checked with Evan about the rest of the lunch as we passed in the hall:

“Do you want watermelon?”

“Nah.  Do we have any peaches?”

“I don’t think so, but I’ll check.  Plums…and yes! A peach.”

“Yay! I’ll have peach. And carrots too.”

In the medium (and large) lunchbox, the thermos fits nicely to one side, which leaves room for three side-dish-sized containers, or two containers and a drink.  I don’t put the ice pack in the lunchbox when I use the thermos – they sort of compete with each other, leaving us with cool-ish soup and warm-ish milk by lunchtime – so I don’t pack milk on thermos days either, and I let Evan either buy milk at school or carry water.

I chopped up a carrot (Insider’s tip: the most nutritional value is in the peel, so cut the carrot into many thin slivers and they won’t notice you didn’t peel it)(better yet, for boys chop them into arrowheads – they love that) and put it and half a peach into two little containers. I popped these into the lunchbox next to the thermos, and tossed in one of the unmatched spoons from the silverware drawer that I really hope he loses at school someday.

Evan noticed the empty spot and said, “hey, there’s room for one more thing.”

I never pack a treat in my kids’ lunches.  Have you ever emptied out a lunchbox at the end of the day to find that your child didn’t eat anything…except the cookie?  And you wondered why that kid was cranky and whiny after school?  Our house rule is this: eat your lunch, and you can have a treat when you get home.

So I was surprised and a little horrified to hear these words coming out of my mouth: “How ’bout a cookie?”

I guess I figured that homemade turkey soup, a peach and carrots was certainly a good enough meal to justify a cookie, but I was breaking my own house rule which every parent knows is a sure-fire way to lose all pretense of authority forever and ever.  I waited for Evan’s response.

“Okay!”

No surprise there.  But then the kicker:

“Oh, but wait, there’s no water.”

Trying really hard to mask my shock, I said as casually as I could muster, “You want water instead of a cookie???”

MAMA’S BIG WIN FOR THE DAY: “Yeah, water.”

And he trotted out the door to get his bike out of the garage.

HALLELUJAH! AND AMEN!

Finally! Personalize it!
Aug 2nd, 2011 by Nancy

Not quite what we offer, but this IS the ultimate in personalization!My son Noah ran into a problem in 3rd grade.  Most of his friends had Lunchsense lunchboxes, but they all seemed to be big fans of the blue color box in medium.  Since all the lunchboxes went into a bin at the start of the school day, were carried en masse to the cafeteria and returned to the bin after lunch, then left for all the kids to pick up before leaving at the end of the day, the kids often just grabbed the first blue lunchbox they found.  The result?  I washed out Jackson’s or Wesley’s lunchbox more often than not.  Mitchell always brought home the right box – his had a name tag – but we all reminded our kiddos to doublecheck before bringing home their lunchbox.

Fortunately, this will no longer be a problem.

We here at Lunchsense are proud to announce the arrival of a fresh new option for all the lunchboxes: Personalization!

As of today, for a smallish charge ($7.50) you can order up an embroidered lunchbox that’s just right for you and you alone.  We opted for embroidery over silk screening as it cleans up in the washing machine just as well as the lunchbox itself.

The details, in a nutshell:

  • Two fonts – block and script;
  • Four thread colors – black, electric blue, silver and gold;
  • Two locations (on the lunchbox) – on the top to the left of the closure button, and on the front. On the top, there’s room for 8 characters on the small, 10 on the medium, and 12 on the large; on the front, there’s a 15 character limit on any size lunchbox.

Don’t want your name on the lunchbox, but still want to say something?  That’s fine – you’re only limited by your imagination (and the character limits)…

  • Does the athlete in the family have a jersey number?  How about “Jackson #32″
  • Do you want to tell the world about your favorite hobby? How about “Love to Garden”
  • Does your lunch occasionally disappear from the office fridge?  Have your lunchbox tell the perps “Hands off!”
  • You can even write something in both locations: “That’s right…I’m a fan!”

With the combination of eight lunchbox colors and four thread colors, you can probably get almost any team color combination to boot.

So – what do YOU say (with your lunchbox)?

P.S. Just to make a big entrance with this new option, we will be offering FREE PERSONALIZATION to any order August 8 and 9, 2011.  No code necessary, it will be available to everyone lucky enough to order it or smart enough to read the blog!

Lunchsense Approved by Green America
Jul 28th, 2011 by Chris

You Decide - Two-Way Street Sign

Doing business without the benefit of eye-contact or a firm handshake requires a certain leap of faith.  Today’s international, web-based marketplace has created exciting opportunities for consumers and entrepreneurs alike, but who can you trust?  More and more online shoppers are learning to read the signs—looking for badges, seals or logos that indicate a product or service meets the specific standards of a respected accreditation authority.  Now, Lunchsense is proud to announce: we’ve been awarded the Green America Seal of Approval!  This widely recognized trustmark assures conscientious consumers that we are a socially and environmentally responsible business.

GreenBusinessSealofApprovalPMS370--updatedFINAL2010

Green America is a non-profit membership organization concerned with the promotion of ethical consumerism.  The group, originally called Co-Op America, formed in 1982 to “create an economy that works for people and the planet.”  A few of the projects they actively support include:

Green America (along with Global Exchange) has hosted the Green Festival for the last three years, and they also publish the National Green Pages.  This directory links values-driven consumers with like-minded, “Green” businesses in an effort to keep dollars working on the side of good.

Prospective members of Green America’s Green Business Network undergo a rigorous screening process before they receive the Seal of Approval and gain their listing in the Green Pages.

Qualifying businesses must demonstrate that they:

  • Actively use their business as tools for positive social change;
  • Run “values-driven” enterprises that operate according to principles of social justice and environmental sustainability;
  • Are socially and environmentally responsible in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their offices and factories;
  • Are committed to developing and employing extraordinary practices that benefit workers, customers, communities, and the environment; and
  • Are holistic, intentional, and transparent in their approach to social/environmental responsibility.

We thought, “That sounds like us,” and Lunchsense submitted the extensive application, detailing not only our own company’s practices, policies and principles, but also everything we knew about our vendors.  Green America next conducted a follow-up interview with Lunchsense founder and president, Nancy Myers.  They offered a few final recommendations, and after a favorable evaluation, we received their Seal of Approval.

Lunchsense has always been concerned about the earth, sustainability and improved living.  Our mission, “changing the way people think about lunch,” plainly states our focus on innovation—change.  “There’s got to be a better way!” was the impulse that launched Lunchsense.

Lunchsense practices complete openness regarding the choices we make in constructing and marketing our product.  We stand behind our combination of reliable performance, practicality and sustainability.  We sincerely believe Lunchsense offers a decided improvement over comparable alternatives.  As far as the fair trade, sweatshop, and industrial waste issues go, we actively support efforts to combat these social injustices.  We periodically use our FaceBook page, and this blog space to promote these interests.  Simply put, we care.

Our involvement with the Green Business Network is another opportunity to tell you about Lunchsense—who some of our friends are, and how we do business.  We want to help people get to know us better, because great minds think alike!  And, who wouldn’t shop at a groovy, green, progressive place rather than a pollution-spewing, profits-at-any-cost sweatshop, if given the choice?  It makes sense to read the signs.

Foodie Tuesday: Food Appreciation Day
Jul 26th, 2011 by Nancy

This came across my screen from EcoSalon, and it compelled me to echo Anna Brones’ sentiments about the the simple pleasures in simple fare.  I realized, however, that I could never write as well as she does, or travel to Sweden for inspiration, so it seems best to just pass along her words.  Here you go:

FOODIE UNDERGROUND: APPRECIATING SIMPLE FOOD stockholm-salad

by Anna Brones, July 20, 2011

I’ve been traveling for a few weeks, and in doing so have failed to keep up with the latest and greatest in food news that seems to inundate the blogosphere on a daily basis. But a girl needs a break every now and then, and so the computer has been off, and the brain partially so as well. Fortunately, we all need sustenance, and although I haven’t been keeping up to date on what’s new in food, I have been eating a lot of it.

This is relaxing eating. Summer enjoyment. Sitting down with friends and family and enjoying everything from basic open faced sandwiches to fancier fried chantrelles. Not fretting over what to throw in the stir fry for dinner because I’m exhausted after work. No, this is food for the sake of food.

Sometimes I will ask for a recipe and jot it down in my red Moleskine, sometimes I just sit and enjoy, not thinking about what went into making what I am eating, and sometimes I get riled up and launch into a diatribe on the failings of the American and global food system – trust me, it’s part of the dinner table charm.

I’ve also been scouring every daily newspaper that sits next to my cup of tea and skim through the food section where there’s always a new recipe. Really they just make me want to throw dinner parties. And then in the evening I feel a pang of jealousy as I watch trailers for the new television series by one of my favorite Swedish food personalities, Tina, thinking to myself, “I want a cooking show too.”

What I’ve come to realize is that even taking a break, I still can’t get away from food. None of us can. No matter where we are or who we’re with, we have to eat. You may be a freak about it as I am – every meal I eat I make a mental list of how easy it would be to make at home and how I could even tweak it – but when it comes down to it, food culture permeates all of our everyday lives.

Unfortunately, we often don’t take the time to enjoy it.

I read an article during one of my famed tea and morning newspaper sessions about the author of the new cookbook Mat Under Bar Himel (Food Under an Open Sky). Beyond the poetic name that seems to sing summer and vacation ( it’s on the shopping list for before I head home), the author Michael Krantz points out that eating outside is a way to better appreciate our food and our friends. “When you eat outside you’re forced to talk to each other in a different way. When you’re inside, there are a lot of other distractions,” he said to Dagens Nyheter.

Combine that idea with the fact that we know that eating is better for us when we’re in positive social settings, and it’s no wonder that summer fare tastes and feels so wonderful.

I won’t even attempt to make any arguments about how Swedes are more conscious about what they eat than Americans – they are also facing a staggering obesity epidemic, fast food burger chains are on the rise, and a trip to the grocery store tells you there are plenty of refrigerators stocked with prepared foods ready to be thrown into the microwave.

And yet, there’s a consciousness about food that hangs in the air, not what it is or where it comes from, but that it’s important to eat, three times a day, every day, and that sometimes, it’s worth investing a little time in making something good. Even those who don’t like to cook peruse cookbooks to put together respectable dinner parties. Food has a certain level of importance and deserves our attention. Which is why the Swedish refrigerator and pantry tends to be stocked with the essentials: hardtack, dense bread, yogurt, meat, cheese, butter, vegetables and most likely a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or table. Basic but essential.

And when it comes to eating that essential food, time is valued. Breakfast, even as small as coffee and a macka (open faced sandwich), is a must, lunch breaks are lunch breaks, to be had in the break room instead of in front of the computer, and on weekends, dinners often get a little glorified, if nothing else, to celebrate the days off.

There is nothing extraordinary or trendy about this approach to food, on the contrary, it’s very simple. This is what makes it so that food and the enjoyment of food plays an integral role in everyday life, instead of being a mere after thought. Which means there’s thought put into which sandwiches you make to take on your afternoon outing, and an insistence on finding a good spot to sit down with your coffee thermos and enjoy the sun. The time to eat, even when you’re not eating anything fancy, is not to be taken lightly.

So forget complex recipes, forget the latest gluten-free baked goods, just take some time to eat good, simple food with friends, maybe even throw in a bottle of wine for good measure, and give honor to the sustenance that your body needs.

Because if we all have to eat, every single day, why not make it an enjoyable routine?

Images: Anna Brones

Nancy here again…

EcoSalon points out that this is the latest installment of a weekly column, Foodie Underground, that I highly recommend.

Here’s hoping that this summer we all have the opportunity to share, with friends and family, food under an open sky.

Full disclosure: Summer Deals
Jul 15th, 2011 by Nancy
Did I mention that, starting in early August, we'll be able to customize your lunchbox?

Did I mention that, starting in early August, we'll be able to add names?

I like running a business.

I get to decide what goes on sale and when, and I get to tell you all about it.

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 2, everything on the Lunchsense website will be discounted 20% .  All you need is the code, and here it is: EBS201120

You’re not quite ready to buy? COME BACK IN AUGUST (don’t worry, we’ll remind you). From August 3 through August 24, everything on the Lunchsense website will be 10% off.  Here’s the code: PTS201110 (note that it won’t be live until August 3, though).

Wondering why you’d buy at 10% rather than 20%? Here’s why: two days – August 8 & 9, 2011 - of FREE PERSONALIZATION, and two days – August 15 & 16, 2011 – 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.

Why am I telling you this? Check out this post from last October 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.

Foodie Tuesday: smoothie livin'
Jun 14th, 2011 by Nancy

kfc-mugDistressing news today:

Kentucky Fried Chicken is running a promotion that, when you buy a half gallon of soda, will donate a buck to Juvenile Diabetes research.

Anyone for a big side order of irony with that?

Granted, sugary drinks are not contributors to type I diabetes (the focus of this research) but the plea to drink a hurking half gallon of soda in front of a diabetic kid who can’t have any, then toss a buck in their direction, is just too awkward to contemplate.  Without a doubt the sugar overload DOES contribute to type II diabetes, which although preventable is reaching epidemic levels, with the CDC predicting one third of the US population having diabetes by 2050.

Perhaps that buck can be considered prepaid health insurance.

Hence the smoothie today.   Every lunchbox has an 8 oz. drink bottle, and while water works just fine, a liquid treat really hits the spot sometimes and this has ample nutritional benefit to be a snack-unto-itself. It obviously isn’t sugar-free but it is vastly lower in sugar (in relative and absolute terms) than 64 ounces of carbonated sugar water.

Really, 8 ounces is enough.

SMOOTHIE FOR ONE

1/4 C plain yogurt (nonfat, lowfat, regular – it’s personal preference)

1/3 C fresh or frozen mixed berries (OR 1/4 fresh or frozen peach with skin + 6-12 berries)

1/4 C orange juice (OR pineapple, or whatever strikes your fancy)

If you’re drinking this goodness right away, add

a handful of ice cubes

If you’re packing this for a lunchtime treat, add

1/4 C milk

Toss it all in a blender and hit go.  Enjoy now, or save it for later – if you happen to pack the smoothie in a drink bottle, be sure to use an ice pack in your lunchbox, and give the bottle a good shake before you drink up!

Foodie Tuesday: Brazilian Black Bean Soup
May 17th, 2011 by Nancy

rain in eugene, thanks to travelpod.comThis past weekend the headliner in our local paper was this:

Not your imagination – it’s been a dreary year.”

Tells of this being the fifth coldest April on record. Tells of three forces – La Nina, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and high-altitude ash from the Icelandic volcano – conspiring to make us shiver and keep us that way at least through June.

I didn’t need the paper to tell me what I’ve already been through, thanks.  Springs run to the mild here in Eugene, but this has been ridiculous. When the Seattle native (me) starts complaining about the rain you know it’s been wet.

What’s this got to do with lunch?  I’ll tell you – it’s still soup-in-the-thermos season, that’s what.

Here’s a house favorite, gleaned from “Hotter than Hell” by Jane Butel (an extra-nice title for this hotter than hellparticular season).  Thankfully this soup isn’t what the book title implies – In fact it’s easy and rich, not so much “hot” as “warm”, like that “cayenne in cocoa” kind of warm.
(What? You’ve never added a dash of cayenne to cocoa? try it sometime – it will make you gasp with delight.)

BRAZILIAN BLACK BEAN SOUP

1 lb black beans
8 C water
3/4 C cooked ham, diced
1 ham bone, if you have it
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 t salt
1/2 C diced onion
2 whole cloves
1/2 t cumin ( or to taste)
1 t to 1 T red chile powder, or to taste
Juice of one lime (2 T)

Optional toppings:
1/4 C rum (Jamaican is preferred)
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 C grated Monterey jack cheese OR sour cream
Lime wedges

Rinse beans and soak overnight in water to cover. Alternately, you can place the beans in a large pan of water, bring to a boil, then turn off heat, cover and let stand for a couple hours.
After they’ve soaked, drain the beans, then place in a large saucepan with the 8 cups water, ham, ham bone (if using one), garlic, salt, dice onions, cloves, cumin, chile powder, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender and soup is thick.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Before serving remove ham bone.

If desired you can add the rum at this point, but I’ve made this many times without it and loved it anyway.  Top off each bowl of soup with cheese or sour cream and green onions and a lime wedge.  If you’re carrying this in a thermos, bring the toppings in the condiment jar and add them just before digging in.
If you do leave out the rum, maybe you’d rather raise a glass of it to offer a toast:
to better weather – wherever it may be.”
Foodie Tuesday: Weird but good - Kale chips
May 9th, 2011 by Nancy

That's Gabriel Gil, the local (and state) Iron Chef winner 2010, on the right

Last summer my family attended a local festival where the Iron Chef of Oregon regional cook off was underway.  My daughter looked on the chefs on the stage like they were rock stars!   As we were standing around watching the cleanup (my daughter thinks watching other people clean up from cooking is interesting, but doing it is not) one of the chefs offered us kale chips left behind from her plated masterpiece.  They sounded weird and looked the part as well, but were light, crispy, and absolutely delicious.


I found the recipe today at whatscookingwithkids.com from their Earth Day post, and it is slightly more difficult than ripping open a bag of junky chips.  Even that low level of difficulty is entirely offset by the lack of guilt borne of eating kale, rather than chips, by the handful.

A little more researched uncovered many recipes for these, and they’re all the same.  So are most of the comments, all variations on this – “Wow. Really. These are GREAT.”

Assuming they aren’t all gone, they pack up and travel well for lunch to boot.

Here is the recipe:


One bunch of kale, any kind

Olive oil

Salt (I used sea salt, but anything works)


Wash, if needed, and dry the kale. Note that it’s helpful for leaves be dry, as they may otherwise steam and not get crispy.

Hold each leaf by its thick stem. Pinch the base of the leaf with the fingers of the other hand and slide them up the stem. This will separate the leaves from the stem. Place the leaves in a large bowl, tearing the larger pieces into bite sized chunks as you go.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then toss them with clean hands until the pieces are coated.  Don’t over-salt like I did – use it only to enhance, not dominate.

Place the leaves in a single layer on a parchment- or silicone mat-covered baking sheet. Yes you may crowd them (they shrink with cooking) but no you may not overlap them much (they’ll stick together, then steam and not get crispy).

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.  They will look mostly flat and limp, but they will be light, crispy wonders.

Kale+recipes+healthy

Great photo of kale chips thanks to natalieskillercuisine.com

The weirdness continues: Kids LOVE these. They will eat more kale in one sitting than I’ve probably eaten in my lifetime, then ask for more.

Variations on a theme: Try them with cracked pepper; Seasoned salt of any kind (again only to enhance); Add a little apple cider or balsamic vinegar with the oil; How about minced garlic and/or red pepper? Try grated parmesan with the finished goods.  As with most good recipes, this one is infinitely versatile to suit your own tastes – let me know what you try!

Oh! gotta go – the oven timer’s going off…for my third sheet of chips today….

Foodie Tuesday: gluten-free "granola" bars
May 3rd, 2011 by Nancy

IMG00283-20110503-1225My husband was diagnosed as gluten intolerant about 11 years ago, which means that he is allergic to wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt.

Naturally, this topic often comes up when we’re dining with new acquaintances (as all our old ones already know), and we’ve found that it gets, um, awkward when they start asking about the symptoms of gluten intolerance.

The awkward part is that the symptoms of gluten intolerance aren’t something anyone would like to discuss over a meal with friends (much less new acquaintances), so we’ve come up with a few code words. 

When asked “what happens if you do eat gluten by accident?”, we reply,

“Intestinal distress. Sudden, acute, intestinal distress.”

Forks pause (if only briefly) as our new acquaintances grasp our meaning, and also grasp that they probably didn’t want to know that over a plate of something yummy.

Anyway, the up side to gluten intolerance (in our household, anyway) is that I can probably attribute to it my love and appreciation of all things food.  I’ve found a world of great recipes, tricks, and substitutions I never would have otherwise, and this week’s Foodie Tuesday is one of those finds.

Until recently, finding gluten free options in a regular grocery store was challenging.  It’s thankfully much easier now as food manufacturers are creating and releasing new GF products all the time, but we always return to this basic tenet:

Homemade

Tastes

Better.

In a pinch, we’ll get the packaged goods; our earthquake kit has lots of cans and boxes that we rarely see in the regular mealtime rotation.  The rest of the time, we start from scratch.

This “granola” bar is a riff off a no-bake peanut butter bar we found in a gluten-free cookbook that was, in the early days of gluten-free living, our bible: Gluten Free Gourmet, by Bette Hagman. 

the original recipe goes like this:

Combine and heat in a saucepan until bubbly:

1 C dark corn syrup

1 C chunky peanut butter

1 C sugar

Combine in a large bowl:

6 C gluten free puffed or crisped rice cereal

1 C raisins

Pour the hot mixture over the dry, combine thoroughly, and press into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Allow to cool, and cut into bars.

Simple, yes?  The base of the recipe looks just like a Rice Krispie square, i.e. sticky goo poured over dry cereal.  To turn this into “granola” bars, all you need to remember is the proportions, thusly:

3 C goo to 7 C dry

 

The goo:

1 C peanut, almond, or other nut butter   This is for protein, substance, heft, flavor, etc. for the finished bar.

1 C corn syrup   Light or dark, per your preference or your current inventory.

1 C sugar

Combine these three in a saucepan, and heat until bubbly.  You may add, if it works for you, seasonings:

1 t cinnamon,

1/2 t nutmeg,

1/4 t allspice, cloves, etc.

1/2 t vanilla, almond extract, maple flavoring, etc.

The dry stuff:

4 1/2 to 5 C cereal   We usually use a combination of Mesa Sunrise cereal (which I crush lightly so the flakes are about the size of dry oatmeal flakes), and Crispy Rice, a gluten free dry rice ceral.  Corn or Rice Chex also work.  The goal here is something dry with a nice crunch, as it will soften somewhat when combined with the goo.

2 to 2 1/2 C “add-ins”   This is entirely up to you and your cupboards.  I usually use about one to 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, cut into raisin-sized bits if necessary – raisins, cranberries, cherries, pineapple, banana, apple, mango, whatever suits your tastes.  The rest of the add-ins can be seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin), any nuts you like, coconut, chocolate chips (mini work well here).

Mix the dry and the add-ins, pour the goo over the dry mix and combine (it will get stiff pretty quickly), and press the mixture into a greased 9 by 13″ pan.  Allow it to cool to room temperature and slice into bars.

These travel like champs (especially in lunchboxes), will keep for ages in the freezer, and are a marvelous treat for the celiacs in your life, but I love most that this recipe allows me to use up the last of many things that lurk in little bags in the back of the kitchen cabinets.   I mean to try a few “thematic” combinations:

Dried mango, pineapple, and coconut, with pecans (a tropical bar) (Hey! how ’bout rum extract in this one!)

Chocolate chips, almonds, coconut (sounds like a familiar candy bar….)

cinnamon, nutmeg, dried apple, cranberry, walnut (autumn special)

Throw some suggestions on the wall (also known as “comments”) below!

 

p.s. Thanks, Mike.  You’re my inspiration.

Revisting Our R's
Apr 28th, 2011 by Chris
Photo uploaded to stock.xchng by hortongrou.

Photo uploaded to stock.xchng by hortongrou.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/ Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/because three/is a magic number.”

Jack Johnson’s “Schoolhouse Rock” mash-up underlines an important point about the New Age “R’s”—there are three!  While tremendous strides are being made in the areas of recycling AND reusing, not enough people are making a concentrated effort to reduce the amount of waste they create.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, the recovery rate for solid municipal waste (SMW = trash) through recycling (and composting) was up to 32% in 2005, a significant increase over the less than 10% recycled in 1980.  However, the creation of SMW has risen 60% since 1980.

The EPA estimates that each American still makes about 4.5 pounds of waste each day (most in the world), and that’s just not getting the job done.  No matter how much we recycle (or reuse), if we don’t reduce the amount of trash we’re producing, we’re going to rubbish our green Earth.

It’s true that we live in an age of increased environmental awareness, and more and more people are “going Green,” but these changes continue to occur primarily within our “comfort zone.”  It’s easier than ever before to recycle, and buzz-words like “vintage,” “antique” and “eBay” have given rise to an entire thrifting culture, but it takes a real effort and some humility to learn to make do with less.

Consider these facts:

  • Every year Americans use about one billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste (Clean Air Council).
  • In 2008, paper and cardboard accounted for 31% of municipal waste; plastics were 12% (EPA).
  • Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day an extra million tons of waste is generated each week (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, 2009).
  • Somewhere between 827,000 and 1.3 million PET water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil; and nearly 77% of them ended up in landfills (U.S. Accountability Office).
  • 30,900 tons of food scraps were discarded in 2008, or 18.6% of all materials going to landfills or incinerators (EPA).

In spite of our idiosyncrasies, we generally move in large groups over the smoothest path, and collectively share the suffering or the success of the passage.  I’m one to think that conditioning plays a larger role than nature in determining how we act, and we’re not born with some fundamental need to wreak havoc on Earth’s ecosystems.  On the contrary, our “survival instinct” should preclude irreparably trashing the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.  It’s obsolete consumerism that has conditioned us into irresponsible behavior patterns.  We continue to celebrate excess in the United States like it was 1955, and we still aspire to have more.

It has been standard corporate policy in our country to sell more stuff, therefore making more stuff and consequently convincing us to buy even more stuff.  We simply need to change our thinking.  We have to shift from “wanting more” to “needing less.”  We must favor products and industries designed to reduce waste.  And, we should demand responsibility from the companies we support.

Any change in our national psychology has to start with the adults, but must really take hold with our kids.  Education is always money in the bank, so we should rightfully start with the 3 R’s and reiterate the order of preference—“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!”

Most kids already have the hang of the recycling bit, and my own boys frequently trade toys with neighbors and even recently conducted a used toy sale (which netted an amazing $125).  They also make good use of second-hand clothes.  BUT, they still want the latest and greatest (evil commercials) a lot of the time, and as loving parents we frequently try to give it to them, caving in to “everyone else has one” pleas.

It’s important to remember “Reduce” comes first for a reason.  Admittedly, it takes a decided change in attitude to shrink our super-sized appetites, and it’s not easy to get by with less, but it is possible.

Lunchsense is committed to reducing food and packaging waste by providing an Earth-friendly, reusable lunch kit that puts the “R’s” in their proper place.  Recycling can’t do the job alone.  Reduce and reuse first, “because three is a magic number.”

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