The Green Page

Good Sense Design, LLC is the company behind Lunchsense lunchboxes. I’m Nancy Owen Myers, the individual behind Good Sense Design, LLC.

To call this company "my baby" would be a bit unfair to my three real-life children, but it is, in any other sense, my creation. Of course any undertaking like this couldn't occur without an abundance of love and support from friends and family, including (but not limited to) Mike my husband and one of the co-inventors, the three aforementioned kiddos, and the two other co-inventors Lisa and Peter.

I don't say it enough: Thanks, everybody.

So then, onward: What's so green about this lunchbox?


Environmental policies: the lunchboxes and food containers

Environmental policies: the lunchboxes and food containers

Company mission: to change the way people think about lunch.

Environmental mission: to change the way people think about lunch.
 
Let’s start with the materials in Lunchsense lunchboxes themselves. What's not in these lunchboxes? These lunchboxes are BPA-free, vinyl-free, and lead-free.

The lunchbox is made from:
  • Nylon or polyester packcloth. It’s the fabric most backpacks and messenger bags are made of.
  • High density polyethylene (HDPE, plastic #2) sheeting. It’s the same plastic used for gallon milk jugs, and keeps the lunchbox crisp and able to hold its box shape.
  • HDPE closed-cell foam. Made of the same type of plastic as the sheeting, this is just the “whipped” version, making a great insulating layer. “Closed cell” just means this foam won’t absorb anything that might be spilled on it.
  • Other stuff, namely stainless steel hardware, nylon and polypropylene webbing, and nylon buckles, all chosen for durability and rust-free service.

You may think that perhaps the ideal box would be made of recycled content; I would agree, but until I find substitutes that are able to withstand daily use and repeated machine washings and still look crisp and new, and aren’t prohibitively expensive, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

“Reduce Reuse Recycle” is a time-honored slogan, indeed. Note that we say these words in this order for a reason: before we even consider recycling an item, we need first to reduce and then to reuse that item. Therefore I use materials that will reduce the need for other containers, and will be reused for many years to come.


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Now let's look at the lunchbox food containers.

Lock&Lock food containers are made from polypropylene (PP, plastic #5) and have a silicone gasket. The salad dressing container and the sippy-top bottle are also polypropylene, and the screw-top bottle is polyethylene (plastic #2).
 
Why plastic food containers? Why not steel or glass or something biodegradable?
I must say that I never expected to be defending the use of plastic. It still makes me a little uncomfortable, but I have yet to find a better material for the lunchboxes. Here’s why: Glass: besides the risk of breakage (which is unacceptable in school cafeterias, so rules out glass in kid’s lunchboxes), the real issue comes down to weight. Given that a lunchbox is, essentially, luggage – it is meant to be filled one place and emptied someplace else – the “hidden cost” to glass is the extra petroleum necessary to move it from your kitchen to your workplace and back again, day after day. Here, plastic wins out.

Steel: I like steel – lighter than glass, durable, inert.  Unfortunately, it’s difficult to make it into a box shape, and it’s expensive.  I'll keep looking for just the right steel container, however. 

Biodegradable (like vegetable oil-based plastics): These are a wonderful alternative to other plastics for single-use servings, but as I am assuming that you’ll want to carry lunch every day for quite a bit longer than biodegradable containers will last, I suggest you use a container that gets made once, and will keep working for you for as long as you need it. As we know well, plastics will be around for a very long time, and I’m confident that Lock&Lock containers will be doing their job for as long as you wish.

Here's National Geographic's Green Guide synopsis of home plastics:


What about stuff leaching out of plastics into the food?
I use are BPA-free and phthalate-free food containers, and the plastics from which they are made (polyethylene and polypropylene) have a consistent, reliable track record for safe use. That said, I am not a chemist nor do I pretend to know which argument about food and plastics is the more compelling. I understand that some people feel that “better safe than sorry” is the way to go when it comes to food and plastics, and that’s fine with me.

Here’s the big secret: if you want other materials, and enough of you ask for them, and I can get reliable sources for them at a reasonable cost, I will use different materials. It’s that simple.

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Product Design

Product Design

Now what do I do with this thing?
"...the only thing worse than a PLASTIC container is a BROKEN plastic container."
But there’s more to Lunchsense than materials – here are some thoughts on design.

One element to good design is to use materials that fit the requirements of the finished product. A well-designed lunchbox should function for many years, so I have selected materials that will hold up to repeated use and washing. Likewise, I'm using plastic food containers, so I've chosen ones that are designed to operate reliably for a very long time.

Speaking of design, you might notice that there aren’t any zippers or hook & loop closures (one trade name for it is Velcro®) on Lunchsense lunchboxes. That also was a conscious design consideration, based on countless boxes and bags (and jackets and backpacks and pants) I’ve seen and used that are perfectly good…except for the broken zipper or worn out hook & loops.

Yes, I could rip out the seams and put in new fasteners, but I’d rather have an item that is designed to be 1) as nearly fail-proof as possible, and 2) easily repaired in the off chance a piece does give out. So if you use lunchboxes with replaceable hardware and any of the snaps or hardware on your lunchbox fails, they can all be easily replaced. Did your stretchy tab closure lose its stretch? Call me and I’ll drop a new one in the mail to you free of charge.
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Environmental policies: Good Sense Design, LLC Resource Use

Environmental policies: Good Sense Design, LLC Resource Use

Occasional Delivery Vehicle:

The main office – and only office – for Good Sense Design LLC is based out of my house, so I must admit I don’t quite know how to distinguish between what the company does and what my family does to be responsible stewards.

If:


  • my kids and my husband commute to school and work by bike, and

  • we compost our leftovers and grow a garden, and

  • we buy our eggs and meat from a local farmer, and

  • we recycle everything the trash collectors allow us to recycle, and

  • we replace our incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescents when they need replacing, and we just replaced our old water heater with a high efficiency model, and

  • we obtain 10% of our household electricity from windpower, and

  • we keep our home insulated, our thermostat turned down, our vehicles tuned up, and we turn off lights and computers when we aren’t using them,

does that mean the company does too? I’m tempted to say "yes, of course" but I’m willing to leave that up to you.

Of course, there are some resource uses here in the office that are unique to the biz:


  • I purchase carbon offsets for all travel (since I work from home most of my major travel is to trade shows) and shipping: target=_blank>www.nativeenergy.com/\\\\\\\\\">
  • target=_blank>www.nativeenergy.com/
  • Most of my correspondence is via email, but when I do print (on the only other piece of technology besides my laptop and cell phone, the multifunction printer/copier/scanner/fax machine) I use 100% post consumer recycled content paper for all in-house printing. The paper does cost more, but since I don’t print very much the added cost is an easy one to justify.

  • Cardboard cartons are usually re-used, and my fulfillment company often uses cartons from other companies to ship my lunchboxes.

  • All the other printing – brochures, business cards, shelf packaging – is on at least 30% post-consumer recycled content paper.


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Good Sense Design, LLC Labor Policies and Social Policies

Good Sense Design, LLC Labor Policies and Social Policies

Professional Services I use local labor for professional services like graphic design, website design, marketing, legal stuff and the like. I am strengthening my local community and thus fulfilling my own social policy goals by using these services – the wonderful people that were "contractors" at first are becoming friends and compatriots as we send our kids to the same schools, shop in the same grocery stores, and swim at the same city pool. Production and Distribution A busy corner of Oregon Sewn ProductsI’m often asked this, so I guess it’s worth stating: Yes, I started out by making the lunchboxes myself. The business quickly outgrew that arrangement, so I moved production to a couple of highly skilled local gals who offer contract sewing services: Oregon Sewn Products, located in Veneta, Oregon.  They have been a great resource, and if the tag inside the lunchbox box says “made in the USA” Dorene and Dottie are the ones who did the work.
 
My business has outgrown their operation as well, so I also contract with a Korean company to produce the balance of the lunchboxes. This company is SA8000 certified, an internationally recognized social accountability management system that ensures the ethical sourcing for production of goods and services, utilizing workplace norms and conventions established by International Labour Organisation, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Please look here for more information about SA8000 certification. 
 
The factory floor in Ho Chi Minh City.   The factory this company uses is just outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I visited the site and walked the factory floor. The professional staff is a mix of Korean nationals and Vietnamese locals. The production labor force is Vietnamese, who are paid wage rates that are established by the Vietnamese government.
 
I will keep production in both locations for the foreseeable future. They both meet different needs: Oregon Sewn Products can take my new ideas, colors, and designs and have a finished product to me in a matter of days; The Korean company can produce a good volume of finished lunchboxes at a reasonable cost. Furthermore, both operations support American businesses - the local production supports Oregon Sewn and Good Sense Design; the imported lunchboxes allow me to offer them in wholesale, supporting the many retail establishments that sell Lunchsense lunchboxes. 

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The Big Finish

The Big Finish

Why is US Postal the green choice?

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 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

Starting and running this company has been a wild, wild ride. I’ve learned more in the last couple years than I ever imagined possible. To wit: I have learned that when a web-based business owner says, “drop me a note! I’d love to hear your suggestions, thoughts, ideas, comments, anything!” they really, really mean it. I get it – now I am one! So here’s my plea: I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU. My favorite part of this whole undertaking is interacting with customers, so please do offer feedback.

If you have read all the way to this point, I commend you. If you think that I’m making good environmental choices, I humbly thank you. If you would like to suggest steps I can take to do better, please drop me at line on my contact page.

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