From the beginning, Goodbyn has been guided by several principles that we strive to achieve as a company: safe & sustainable products, high levels of usability, loveable design... but one of our most important principles has been domestic manufacturing.
We knew up front that producing Goodbyns in the USA would be more expensive than producing them overseas. The point we were out to prove was that most other lunch products, as with any other consumer product market, are primarily produced overseas. Here are a few reasons why we chose to buck the system and support manufacturing in the USA:
Fair Labor & Quality of Living: Many overseas manufacturing facilities lack the ability to offer their workers a wage that permits them to live at a similar level to what Americans have the luxury of living. Our questions have always been: Was the product made by workers who make a fair wage? Do the workers and their families live on the factory grounds, or do they own their own home? Do they own a car? Do they have access to healthcare? Can they get a day off work to take their child to the doctor? Do they have an insurance policy that helps cover health expenses for themselves, their children, and, not to mention, their elderly relatives?
Product Quality / Oversight: Beyond the importance of a worker's life, when you produce overseas, a small company like ours has difficulty managing the quality of products produced. Materials become inconsistent, colors don't match, and some of the products shipped back to you (across the ocean) could potentially be defective. Also, all children’s and toy products sold in the USA now have to (thankfully) meet or exceed regulated, specified levels of chemicals under federal law. And, producing overseas requires massive oversight, just to ensure that all regulations are being consistently met. Don’t forget about the news stories over the past decade regarding foreign materials placed in kids' products, baby formulas, dog food and toothpaste.
Carbon Footprint: We chose to produce and ship Goodbyns in/from the Midwest. This is important, especially if you add up the resources needed to produce overseas. Overseas production directs that all goods ship on a barge from their port of origin to their US location. While this is the least expensive choice, its carbon footprint is large, and adds significant time to the delivery process. To keep our footprint to the minimum and our timing swift, we chose to keep it domestic and small: produce in Grand Rapids, ship 30 miles to Grand Haven, and pack and ship via USPS, UPS and FedEx directly to you.
Safety Standards: In the US, factories and the employees who work in them have the advantage of federal safety standards (ISO, OSHA, etc.). Most overseas facilities do not have to abide by these standards that we take for granted. What you're left with is an overseas business proprietor making his/her own rules, guided only by his/her belief in the satisfaction of their employees. Our fear is that in most cases, the proprietor's bottom line is king, and the facility's safety standards, well-being of workers, etc. trickle down from how they can cut a profit.
Sustainable Economy: Outsourcing is a questionable business practice, period. The decision to outsource is to reign in and reduce profit margins for the company's bottom line, as a whole. It is obvious that producing overseas (even though it travels for weeks or months across the ocean) allows companies to make more money. But what are the effects on the US economy? The truth is: when we were searching for manufacturers—even though we found a fantastic partner—the choices were very limited. We as American consumers have supported the basic idea of outsourcing because of bottom-of-the-barrel pricing. We've been taught to shop and choose items that are the cheapest on shelf.
Supporting the idea of fostering more manufacturing jobs, more fulfillment jobs, and more US business in general is where our minds go. The more manufacturing jobs return to the US, the more demand there is for US products. With more demand, the more competitive US manufacturing becomes in regards to costs. With lower costs, it becomes cheaper for our company to produce goods. And with cheaper costs of goods, the US-made lunchbox on the shelf wears a price tag that is much closer to the overseas-made lunchbox sitting next to it.
It's not about criticizing or infringing on other companies' beliefs, but rather what we feel in our heart-of-hearts is the right way to conduct business. Some people write us asking the basic question of price, and why in some stores our lunchbox costs more than the one next to it. We entirely understand that for most people, the checkbook determines what one can afford to buy for his/her child. We as a company do not benefit from a large profit margin; we usually find ourselves taking less in order to lower the final cost on the shelves.
What we ask is that consumers put on their inspection glasses, and really consider where a product was made. It may be, if it was made in the US, it might have a higher price tag than its imported counterpart.
Benefitting from a giant profit margin isn't as important as knowing that everyone involved in creating Goodbyn's products, as well as the people who buy them, enjoy the benefits of our choices as a company. We are proud of these choices, and we hope you are too.
I’m writing this blog to bring you up-to-date, but also to share some of my own experiences with the Goodbyn lunchbox. Yes, we do have two in our home now…they aren’t the final product but they are eliminating our need for baggies –awesome!!!
We know that everyone is anticipating the arrival of the Goodbyns… Our team (Cascade Engineering, Emerald City Graphics, Rob, Miguel, Soni and myself…) is working as hard as possible to bring the best product we can to market and we really appreciate your patience and enthusiasm.
The night that I brought the babies (Goodbyns) home the girls were super thrilled. They have been waiting for a year-and-a-half to get these things. Last fall I wouldn’t let them get new lunchboxes, saying, “The Goodbyn is coming!!!” You can imagine how pleased they were when the two arrived via Fed Ex.
I wanted to share some photos from our first shopping where we were specifically thinking about putting food in the Goodbyn. I’ll provide captions to explain what’s going on and share insights that I had and that I believe most people will have when they experience the shift of going from baggies to Goodbyn!
I love this image. "Can we take watermelon in our Goodbyn?!" Yes!
How about cucumber? Sure. As we walked around the produce section the girls were really excited thinking about the new items that we'd be able to pack in their lunches.
Previously we had been buying small, individual sized yogurt containers. When we got to the section the girls asked if they could get their usual, Yoplait Key Lime... The answer was no. I told them about the extra packaging waste, extra cost and how, now that they have a Goodbyn, we can make our own flavors of yogurt. We can add honey, blueberries, strawberries... They quickly got it and chose a large container of vanilla. Of course, because they are so close to this project they are already aware of the benefits of the Goodbyn but I noticed how much they were learning while deciding what choices were the right ones...
I swear I didn't put her up to this, just took the picture. Like I said, the girls have been living this idea for a while now. They get it. Your kids will too. I think it's great.
When we got to the cheese section we talked about how we don't really need to buy cheese-sticks anymore. The weird thing is that most of the time the cheese-sticks came home unwrapped, warm and gross anyways. So I suggested maybe we should buy a larger, single package of cheese that we could cut up and send with crackers or on a sandwich too. And maybe, it'll get eaten from now on instead of ending up in the trash?!
"Mom, can we take hot dogs in our lunch???" Hmm, probably not the smartest food choice, but what the heck, why not once, for the inaugural lunch?
This shopping experience was really fun. The girls were very much engaged in making the choices would be the smartest and most environmental. They were walking around looking at things we would previously buy and saying, "oooh, too much packaging..." and I would ask them what our other options could be. They totally get it and were proud to be a part of the good-decision-making process.
I have to say that we did buy drink boxes. The bottle is still being finessed over the next week so we don't yet have one for the girls' Goodbyns. We designed the Goodbyn with the busy consumer in mind. While it has a drink bottle, we realized that sometimes you just might not want to use the drink bottle...who knows, but the section for the drink bottle also fits most standard drink boxes. We went with Juicy Juice this week. Hopefully one of the last times I'll have to buy these...
Another post coming on the decorating process...
We haven't written too much about the business lately, but I thought I'd clue you in to an issue that's affecting a lot of small business owners that create, manufacture, or even resell items that will be handled by children.
In 2008, Congress passed an extremely broad bill entitled the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), under the direction of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. This bill was written hurriedly in response to scares directly related to toy manufacturing and lead content in 2007 (many imported from China). It requires all materials being used to make children's products be tested by their end creator for lead content in both materials and paint, as well as phthalates (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity). Sounds logical, right?
We know that regulation is necessary, but there's a few giant, hidden, unresolved issues here:
1) All certifications must be done by a third-party lab accredited by the CPSC. These labs use specific testing methods approved by our government, including gas chromatography, that requires the destruction and pulverization of said materials in order to be tested. This means you will not get your product back (and you'll need to eat the costs).
2) Because of it's sweeping conformity requirements that all materials be tested, it applies to not only people like us, but also to people making handmade things in their home. A person crafting mobiles for children's cribs, for example, needs to get every ribbon, string, metal or fabric swatch tested by these labs... not to mention those materials will be destroyed.
3) The cost of these third-party labs vary, however, it can easily run into the thousands of dollars. These costs are simply prohibitive for anyone making handmade items. Remember, the law also applies to resale, which means that (technically) the Goodwill, Salvation Army, and resale clothing stores are also required to comply.
4) The fines are massive. Up to $100,000 per incident and/or jail time.
5) The financial implications for mom-and-pop operations is absurd, but imagine what the larger manufacturers will end up doing with all of the existing inventory on their shelves if the materials used don't comply with the law? I would venture to say, in the end, most of this will end up in the landfill.
6) There are options for testing that cost much less money, one of which is XRF (X-Ray Flourescence). It's essentially a tiny X-ray gun that measures the chemical and mineral content. It does not test for phthalates, unfortunately, but does test for lead and gets most business owners moving in the right direction—for a lot less money ($5 per substrate), and does not destroy the product. You get it back, to keep it in a safe place with your test results in case anyone comes to question your conformity.
7) A lot of people are asking the same question: why aren't the makers of the original materials (i.e. the ribbon maker, the fabric manufacturer, the plastic pellet factory) required to do this up-front? There's no clear answer here, but the result is a reverse funnel, wherein making the crafters, manufacturers and retailers absorb the entire cost of testing. The case could be made that the people at the end of the chain alter these materials, and therefore are responsible for the make-up of their products, but I would also argue that much of the legwork could be done at the top of the chain. If you look at it like a funnel, all of us are required to test the same materials thousands of times, whereas the material manufacturers could do it once.
8) The really sad part of all of this is two-fold: first, there are currently no regulators, besides rogue organizations going into stores and publicly identifying "bad" products. In terms of the CPSIA laws, no one is enforcing them. Secondly, many of the third-party labs accredited by the CPSC are, guess where... China! Isn't it our problem to solve, and to regulate?
Byndoo's lucky. We are on the initial cusp of launching a product as these laws have begun to be enforced. We are also lucky to have the foresight to be making a simple product made out of one material, #5 polypropylene. We did it for reasons of easy, responsible disposal at the end of the lunchbox's life. As long as the company is aware of it's materials' chemical and elemental properties, as we are, it makes the process much easier and less expensive in the long haul.
We've had our materials tested with a local XRF facility ($25 total!), and are pleased with the results (we'll publish on our new website once it's live). We will still need to subject to destructive testing for phthalates, which will have to be done after the first products come off the assembly line in Michigan, but we should know ahead of time from the plastic specifications that there will be no phthalates present.
We're thankful that we've chosen to produce domestically... I can't imagine having to navigate all of these issues with an overseas manufacturing firm, much less finding the materials that we have chosen to use and validate.
There's surely more to come. Specific laws are being slowly rolled into the larger CPSIA, at different times over the next three years. Our hope is that Congress recognizes these smaller shops, and decides to enforce (and regulate) from the top-down, instead of making all of us absorb the costs of useless, duplicitous testing.
In a 20-minute video, “The Story of Stuff,” Annie Leonard gives an animated talk exposing the true lifecycle of American consumerism from production to consumption and the pollutants and social costs that come along with it. She highlights the linearity of the consumption pattern: from extraction, production, consumption to disposal and demonstrates that it cannot go on forever with informative statistics and clever diagrams. The website provides a wealth of information on how to get involved and ‘green your routine.’ Yesterday, The New York Times ran a cover story on “The Story of Stuff” and how it is being used by teachers across the United States to teach about climate change because there isn’t information in our text books. They are currently accepting contributions of any level to put together more resources for teachers. So check it out and tell a friend!
American mom’s were able to celebrate this Mother’s Day with a little relief, as it seems the threat of swine flu that temporarily took 172,000 children out of school has passed. With all these bombastic news titles, we thought mom’s and families might appreciate some news to celebrate, specifically, with regard to children’s health. Among a laundry list of accomplishments on part of Obama in his first 100 days were a few paramount steps for children’s health. The current list includes an extension and expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), increase in federal tobacco tax, movements towards safer food system, and a re-expansion of the 2010 budget for family planning. Collectively, these movements symbolize a reprioritization of the U.S. Government toward our collective future and a movement away from the bombastic, egocentric legislation from the days of yore (hopefully). So, take a moment to sit back and celebrate the small victories for children’s health!
We kicked off the year with a great leap for children’s health with the passing of the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-Chip). Originally created in 1997 to reduce the population of uninsured American children by providing subsidized insurance to children of the working poor. As of January 2009, this program will continue to cover these children and be expanded to cover another four million uninsured children. This round’s passing also eliminated a highly debated five-year waiting period imposed on immigrant children. This bill has been sitting on Capitol Hill for over two years… GOBAMA!
Ironically (and quite intelligently), we are paying for the extension and expansion of the S-CHIP with an increase in taxes on cigarettes. This Federal tobacco tax increase is projected to generate $31. 2 billion over the next four years. And just maybe, if we are really lucky, this tax will also discourage the purchasing of cigarettes by minors, and decrease children’s exposure to second hand smoke via decrease in use on part of their parents and relatives.
When it comes to healthier and safer foodways for kids, we are coming at it from two angles. The first being a general revamping of FDA and USDA food regulation bodies, which will hopefully have a tighter grasp on where, how, and by what safety measures our food is being produced. And second being the proposal of several bills to re-evaluate our nutritional standards that haven’t been reviewed since the 1960’s. These steps will not only decrease the chances of possible exposure to contaminated food, which can be especially dangerous for children, but will also bring about health promoting nutritional guidelines for schools to combat obesity.
As for expansion of family planning funding, the proposed budget for 2010 ends funding of ineffective abstinence-only programs, while also providing $178 million for evidence-based comprehensive sex education programs that will prevent teen pregnancy. Imagine that? Research based sex education. Who would have thunk it?
In honor of Mother’s Day, it’s nice to sit back and celebrate our victories as mothers, tax-payers, and good citizens. It’s a breath of fresh air for mom’s, families, and the general public, when we look back on the somewhat backwards politics of the past eight years. But, seeing as it is now Monday, we must get back to paying close attention to how we can enable future generations to thrive. After all, what is good for one child is good for the future of all of society. If we take this proverb a little further, the health dangers facing children globally, such as war, tuberculosis, malaria, access to clean food and water must not be forgotten. Disparities in health and health-care become even more apparent when threats of pandemics arise —as we just experienced in the case of Swine Flu. And in this global age, for better or for worse, one nation’s vulnerability is a vulnerability (and cause for concern) to us all.
In our previous entry Americans and Their Food, we discussed the possibility of having the price of food reflect its health, environmental, and social impact. One obvious way to do this would be through taxation. We tax cigarettes and alcohol; why can’t we tax junk food? According to a New York Times story, we aren’t too far off from this pipe dream becoming reality. In this story, Zeke Emanuel (Rahm Emanuel’s older brother), who is joining the Obama team under the title Special Advisor for Health Policy, “has expressed interest in the idea of taxing junk food or banning it from schools to combat obesity.” Although this seems like a no-brainer, politically speaking it’s a difficult plight to take on (especially when we hear about food giants taking in profits of $120 billion annually). With such profits these companies may have a few more bargaining chips than the “Special Advisor for Health Policy.”
The guidelines for such taxation could follow something akin to the “Rule of 1900.” This rule proposes that anything containing something we would not recognize as food in the year 1900 should not be eaten. Therefore, processed foods containing ingredients listed as “TBHQ” would be subject to taxation. To demonstrate this rule, we have decided to unpack the pre-packaged lunch, which is by far the greatest violation of the Rule of 1900. To illustrate just how far this product is from the rule of 1900, we have listed some of the ingredients below and done our best to describe what they actually are. In general, food additives are either completely man-made through a combination of once-natural chemical extractions, or extractions and altered byproducts of edible oils or plant matter.
Just reading the ingredients doesn’t really help you if you haven’t taken a course (or twelve) in chemistry, so we’ve asked a chemist to help us out with a few of the highlighted winners… here are descriptions of some of the more unidentifiable ingredients:
High Fructose Corn Syrup: Corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic processing to increase its fructose content, and then it is mixed with more pure corn syrup (100% glucose). So basically, high fructose corn syrup is refined corn sugar with corn sugar extract sauce.
Pear Juice Concentrate: Aside from not being the most ideal way to get your vitamins, all concentrated juice is derived from an energy intensive process. Juice is commonly concentrated with a piece of equipment known as a Thermally Accelerated Short-Time Evaporator, or TASTE for short. TASTE uses steam to heat the juice under vacuum and force water to be evaporated. Concentrated juice is discharged to a vacuum flash cooler. The pulp is separated from the juice by ultra-filtration and pasteurized. The clarified juice containing the ‘flavorings’ is concentrated by reverse osmosis and the concentrate and the pulp are recombined to produce the appropriate juice concentration. It's then stored in refrigerated stainless steel bulk tanks until is ready to be packaged or reconstituted. That’s a lot of heating, cooling, transporting and storing for something that doesn’t really taste anything like it did originally, or provide even close to the same amount of nutrients it may have at one time contained.
Calcium Disodium EDTA: Man-made salt product. ZING!
Modified Cornstarch: Cornstarch is, by nature, starchy and sticky. But when you extract the starch from corn and use it as a food ingredient, it quickly loses that stickiness and can actually cause bakery products to become stale. So they have to chemically modify it to keep things "together".
Sodium Lactate: Produced by chemically modifying (neutralizing) lactic acid (which is produced by fermentation from a sugar source). Sodium lactate is commonly used in meat and poultry products to extend shelf life and increase food safety because it is effective at inhibiting most spoilage and development of pathogenic bacteria.
Sodium Phosphate: Added to foods as an emulsifier to prevent oil separation. Or, in layman’s terms: keeps your food from becoming a gloopy mess-o-funk.
Potassium Lactate: Commonly used in meat to extend shelf life and increase food safety due to its potent antimicrobial action that inhibits spoilage and pathogenic bacteria. This stuff won’t break down in nature so what do you think happens when you put it in your body? Why bother with the refrigerator?
Sodium Acetate: May be added to foods as a seasoning, and to alcoholic beverages to decrease the risk of a hangover.
Sodium Erythorbate (made from sugar): When used in processed meat such as hot dogs and beef sticks, it reduces the rate at which nitrate reduces to nitric oxide, thus retaining the pink coloring. Oink Oink!
Sodium Nitrate: Serves a dual purpose in the food industry since it both alters the color of meats and also prevents growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria which causes botulism. Important, but c’mon, do we really need more salt with our modified salty sauce?
Sodium Citrate: Really, more salt? Sodium citrate is used in ice cream to keep the fat globules from sticking together. It’s apparently slightly flammable and handled with gloves, goggles, and a coat in the lab. Talk about titillating texture!
Paprika Oleoresin: A color additive that is “exempt from certification." While it may occur naturally, oleoresin is also used in tear gas.
Annatto: Very common color additive to cheese, butter, margarine, rice, smoked fish, and microwave popcorn. It is often used as a substitute for the expensive herb saffron. And guess what? It’s imported all the way from Central and South America!
Lactic Acid Esters: Produced from monoglycerides reacted with lactic acid. They improve aeration and stability of products. Two thumbs up for aeration!
Palm Oil: Saturated Fat! Saturated fat = heart attack. Many packaged cookies now boast that they contain zero grams of trans fat. However, this may not be the great news that it seems to be. In order to minimize or eliminate the use of trans fat-laden partially hydrogenated oil, some food manufacturers have replaced it with saturated fat-laden palm oil and palm kernel oil—which may not be much better for you! Numerous health authorities have warned against the use of palm oil in packaged foods which put people at risk for heart attack or stroke.
Soy Lecithin: An additive emulsifier that keeps things from separating.
TBHQ: tert-hydrobutylquinone! You know that delicious prepackaged meat smell? Right here baby… this stuff is aromatic. And it's a phenol—often a precursor to unhealthy estrogen release. It’s technically considered an antioxidant, but not the good kind. It keeps fats from going rancid, so you see it in a lot of foods requiring a long shelf life. You can also find it in varnish!
Sodium Nitrite: Same as above, keeping meat lookin’ fresh. A super preservative, preventing the loss of electrons and subsequent degeneration involved in aging meat.
Sodium Phosphate(s): Just another preservative. Notice how much sodium is being metabolized?
BLUE 1: Any blue or green food on the U.S. market gets its coloring from certifiable colors FD&C Blue No. 1 (Brilliant Blue), Blue No. 2 (Indigotine), or Green No. 3 (Fast Green). Blue No. 1 and Green No. 3 are petroleum-derived triphenylmethanes.
Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil: Trans Fat!!! The heating process (hydrogenation) brings about isomers (tasty fats) of this molecule. The big problem with Trans Fats is that they have a much higher melting point than regular unsaturated fats. Structurally speaking, they are straight molecules, which have a higher propensity to stack on top of each other oh-so-nicely IN YOUR ARTERIES. But to humans it's oh-so-delicious. F.Y.I., the
Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC): MPC is not an approved food ingredient because there is not enough research for it to be classified “generally regarded as safe.” The FDA does minimal monitoring of MPC as it enters the U.S. because MPC is imported from around the world (read: countries where food regulations are iffy). Big food processing companies save money by buying the less expensive MPC and using it instead of real milk. God forbid they use real milk and would be able to call their product “cheese” instead of “American cheese product.”
Aside from the unbelievable number of hands, cooled storage facilities, and processing this lunch item needs to pass through in order to get it to its edible form, it only costs $2.50, and is awful for children. The sodium content alone consumes 75% of the recommended intake per day (based on a 2000-calorie diet). Some days, it may be the only option, but its cost should better reflect it’s ecological and health impact. Let’s be honest: it’s cheaper to buy these ingredients and pack a lunch than it is to buy it pre-made.
What we're really buying here is convenience. But convenience at what cost, especially for kids? It seems if we all take a deep breath, and examine more closely what we consider food, especially for our kids, we may ponder to live closer to the Rule of 1900. It would save us money, drastically reduce the expenditure of fuels, carbon and waste—and certainly make us all appreciate the food with which we've chosen to sustain our bodies.
The fight for sustainable and healthier foodways is happening in our very own backyard or, to be more specific, the Fishman’s Terminal near the Ballard Bridge on the Westside of Seattle.
Pete Knutson, a local fisherman with a doctorate who teaches Anthropology at Seattle Central Community College has been fighting to keep developers out of the Fisherman’s Port for years. This time around the Port commission is threatening to impose a $25 daily tax (read: $750 a month) on businesses like Knutson’s Loki Fish for selling fish directly out of the terminal, and has threatened to disrupt business by removing valuable storage space for port fisherman, under the guise that the buildings aren’t fire-safe.
The Port and its commissioners should support local industry and culture instead of posing a threat. These fishermen, already competing with farmed salmon (a much less sustainable, but cheaper source of salmon), are being faced with potential fees and sanctions that discourage and disrupt the healthy flow of businesses. These fees not only discourage the growth of sustainable food industry as whole, but this slow shifting of priorities away from the fisherman threatens a precious livelihood to which Seattle owes much of its charm and appeal. Suspicions about the Port slowly being turned over to developers may seem a little far-fetched, but as the fisherman are the only stakeholders left in the Port who are preventing further development, it can easily be seen why inching them out slowly over time through lack of support could look a little—dare I say—fishy.
Unfortunately the effects have been showing for years. Fourteen years ago, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife issued 1,132 salmon gill-net licenses for Puget Sound. The number dropped to 204 in 2004. The Port is one of the last remaining homes in the state for these fishermen. Supporting local businesses as well as sustainable agriculture should be a priority for all major cities. It is apparent that new policies are needed to simultaneously promote environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity—not discourage it. This change occurs when we get involved in our local politics.
I must admit, having tasted the superior quality of the salmon from Knutson Family-owned company Loki Fish, I am pretty biased. But I’ll let you be the judge of the issue:
Click here for an interview with Pete Knutson.
For information published in Seattle Times, Seattle P-I, and other local Seattle Papers go to the scrapbook at Loki Fish website click here.
It’s simply delicious, sustainably caught salmon from a family-owned business that makes you feel good, is good for you, and is good for the earth…sound familiar?