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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.

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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.

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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 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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