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April 2005


The Laptop Lunch Times

April 2005

Happy Earth Day!

Don't forget that April 22nd is Earth Day. Scroll down to see what you can do to celebrate. If you don't do so already, consider making a pledge to pack waste-free lunches this year. Educate others about the benefits of packing a waste-free lunch by printing off and passing out our new Waste-free Lunchbox Pamphlet, available for free download at

Amy and Tammy




In this issue, you'll find:

    • Savory Salsas
  • Earth Day Discount!
  • Green Opportunities
  • Green Shopping
  • Baseball is Back--and so is the Snack
  • Waste-free Lunches: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You
  • Featured Web site:
  • What works...Success Stories
Laptop Lunch Photo with Food


Savory Salsa!

        In 2000, some Mexican immigrant women and their teacher at Anderson Valley Adult School compiled a unique bilingual salsa cookbook with 25 original recipes so they could earn enough money for a class field trip. Through this project-based learning program, the women learned not only how to count, measure, and speak English, they gained self-confidence, problem-solving and organizational skills, and experience in the greater community. The entire community came together through inter-cultural recipe testing, book signing, and salsa-tasting events. Over 22,000 copies of the book have now been sold!

        In 2004, two retired professional filmmakers and the Salsitas made a documentary film depicting the empowerment the salsa project has given the women and the community. In 2001, Secrets of Salsa received the California Human Development Corporation award for community organization. In 2002, they received the Tabasco Sauce Western Regional award. For more information, visit their Web site at, email [email protected], or call the school at 707-895-2953. All book and DVD proceeds support the literacy program at Anderson Valley Adult School.

#1: Citrus Salsa (Mild-Medium)

  • 1 lb. tomatillos (husked)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2-3 jalapenos
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 oranges
  • salt to taste
Dice tomatoes, jalapenos, and onions into very small pieces and put into a bowl. Add chopped cilantro and the juice of three oranges. Salt to taste. Peel the remaining orange and cut into small pieces. Add to salsa.

#2: Traditional Fresh Salsa (Mild-Medium)

  • 5 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 lime
  • 2-3 serrano chilies
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 tsp. salt

Finely chop onion and chilies and put into a bowl. Add lime juice, sugar, salt, and finely chopped cilantro. Dice very finely tomatoes, (discard any juice), and add to mixture just before serving. Tomatoes should always be added last as the salt draws out the juice. This salsa should be eaten soon after prepared.  


#3: Mango Jicama Salsa (Mild)

  • 1 1/2 cups diced jicama
  • 1 1/2 cups diced mango
  • 2 medium-sized oranges
  • 2 limes
  • 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
  • salt to taste

Peel and chop the jicama, mango, and orange into 1/4-inch pieces. Mix well. Add salt, cilantro, and the juice of two limes. Serve.  



Earth Day Discount!

Order Laptop Lunch products online during April and receive a 10% discount! This offer is being publicized through our newsletter only, so feel free to pass it on to friends, family, and other non-subscribers.

To take advantage of this offer, type "ed906" (no quotes) in the discount code field when checking out.

Offer expires April 30, 2005.

Green Opportunities

Some earth-friendly tidbits that have landed in our office in recent weeks...

  • Looking for an Earth Day event in your area or are you involved with an event that you want publicized? Visit the Earth Day Network's Web site at for searchable Earth Day listings. You can also measure your ecological footprint, find out what's in your drinking water, and sign up to receive emails with important Earth Day information. The Earth Day Network also provides teachers with environmental education curricula.
    • Do you want to know where to find nutritious meals when you're on the road? Or are you looking for a vegetarian restaurant or health food store in your area? Check out Vegetarian Guide, a worldwide, searchable database of vegetarian restaurants and natural health food stores. You'll also find nutrition & health tips, recipes, information on raw foods, travel, and veganism.
  • If you're looking for step-by-step instructions for starting a composting program at your school, visit for a free downloadable school composting manual put together by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

Green Shopping

Think about these GREEN PURCHASING PRINCIPLES from the National Green Pages before making purchasing decisions.

When you buy from green companies, you're "voting with your dollars" for a new way of doing business that respects the environment, fosters social and economic justice, cares for customers and workers, and builds communities. Adopt the following practices and start putting your purchases to work creating an economy that works for all.



Commit to making at least one type of sustainable purchase, for example, coffee, blue jeans, or laundry soap. Use the National Green Pages to track down sources. Increase your socially responsible purchasing by adding a new category each year.


Purchase staples--beverages, organic pasta, all-natural body care products, and recycled toilet paper--by the case and carton from green businesses. You'll save money, reduce wasteful packaging, and always have the items you use most on hand.


Make a list of the gifts you'll give this year for birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. Commit to buying all your gifts from green businesses and help spread the word about green companies.


If you can't find the green products you need locally, order them by mail. Nearly every category in the National Green Pages includes businesses with mail-order options.


When you are planning a trip, use the National Green Pages to find responsible restaurants, hotels, and other businesses at your destination. Order an extra copy to keep in your car or suitcase.


Make a list of the green online and local businesses where you shop. Help sustain these companies with repeat purchasing.


If you'd like to see your local business included in the National Green Pages, nominate them by email ([email protected]) by phone (800-58-GREEN or 202-872-5307) or by mail (Co-op America Business Network, 1612 K Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20006) or visit their Web site at


At work, school, or your place of worship, encourage friends and associates to patronize businesses listed in the National Green Pages. Order an extra copy to bring to the office, and send friends and associates to the Green Pages Online:


Ask the stores in your area to carry green products. Take the National Green Pages with you and point out all the businesses that sell wholesale--denoted by the "W" in the listings section. Order extra copies to give to local business members.

Excerpted from the 2005 National Green Pages.


Baseball is Back...and so is the Snack


"I'm coaching my son's baseball team (first practice today). Somewhere someone got the idea that every team had to be rewarded with a "snack" that usually turns out to be something like Oreo cookies. Since many of our games (and all our practices) take place right before dinner, the prospect of letting them eat junk is especially disturbing. Since healthy eating habits and waste reduction are your bailiwick, and knowing you're baseball moms, I'm wondering if you've got anything on this."

    --Dave Hurst, Mountain View, CA


Good to hear from you, Dave. As many of our friends will tell you, the baseball snack is one of our pet peeves. We're concerned not only with the overconsumption of junk food, but also with the not-so-hidden messages that we're conveying. We're telling our kids that there's little intrinsic reward in playing baseball. Play for the snack, not because it's fun, builds skills, feels good, and and provides opportunities to try your best. We're also saying, "Eat something sweet after engaging in physical activity." With childhood obesity at an all-time high, and more children being diagnosed with diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, this is something to be concerned about. So what can we do?

1. Make noise. Let the other parents and the league know that kids don't need to eat junk food after games and practices. Provide them with obesity rates and let them know that obese children are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. They may tell you that eating junk food is part of the baseball experience, but remind them that many families are looking for ways to improve their eating habits. Why not make it easier for them?

2. Ask the coaches, team parent, or league president to eliminate the team snack or to send out a note encouraging parents to provide healthy snacks of fresh fruit and water instead of cookies, candy, chips, and sugary drinks.

3. If all else fails, set a good example by providing fresh fruit when it's your turn. Kids love fresh sliced watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, and orange wedges. Make it waste free. Cut up the fruit and pack it in a food storage container. When the kids have finished, collect the rinds or peels and take them home to the compost pile.

4. When other parents bring snacks that you'd rather your child not have, save them for after dinner. (When our kids were younger they used to forget all about their snacks, and we could throw them away, but those days are over!) Together read the ingredients on the package and decide what you want to do with it. Consider offering a healthier alternative like some fresh berries, trail mix, a low-sugar homemade dessert, or a dessert or snack made without hydrogenated fat.

Remind your children that they're on the field to have fun and to do their best. Exercise is great for the body and soul, but if you eat a big ol' sugary snack when the game is over, what's the point? When our children become adults, will they continue to hanker for a snack every time they exercise? Let's hope not!


Waste-free Lunches:

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

by Amy Hemmert, March 2005

I must admit that I was utterly shocked last year when I found out that our county landfill will likely reach capacity in just 15 years. I was equally surprised a few months later when the map of potential new landfill sites was unvailed, and the NIMBY (not in my backyard) battles began.

It was no surprise, of course, that few county residents relished a new landfill in their neighborhood. After all, who wants the added traffic, noise, air pollution, and dust, not to mention the smell? No, what surprised me was that very few discussions centered around finding ways to reduce the amount of waste we send to the landfill—either in our own backyard or in someone else’s. And the possibilities are virtually endless.

Take the school lunchroom, for example. If you’ve taken a peek at the typical “homemade” school lunch recently, you know what I’m talking about—a lunchbox (or single-use plastic bag) filled with processed, prepackaged, single-serve items, like squeeze yogurts, fruit-flavored candy ribbons, cheese sticks, bags of chips, and the ubiquitous drink boxes, pouches, cartons, and cans.

Parents love these items because they’re convenient, can be purchased in large quantities, and have a long shelf life. Kids love the clever packaging and the sweet or salty taste of these high-sugar, high-fat treats, but with landfill space in short supply, packing this type of lunch is clearly unsustainable.

School Programs

Fortunately, many schools across North America have figured this out and have responded by implementing waste-free lunch programs. In a waste-free lunch program, the school community—teachers, students, parents, administrators, and custodial staff—all work together to reduce lunch waste.

Some schools focus on lunches brought from home. Some completely revamp their hot lunch program. The most ambitious tackle both. The first step in any program involves communicating the benefits of the program to families and staff, and obtaining a commitment from as many people as possible. Usually this involves meetings, letters to families, memos to staff, and of course enlisting the help of volunteers.

Schools that strive to eliminate disposables from homemade lunches often provide strategies and incentives (either intrinsic or extrinsic) for participating in the program. Many provide families with reusable food containers and drink bottles or cups.

Some schools conduct waste audits to educate families and to measure program success. Others implement or expand existing composting, recycling, and garden programs. Still others obtain funding to provide students and staff with reusable food and drink containers. Many coordinate field trips to the local landfill and recycling center.

Waste-free lunch programs that center around the hot lunch program often eliminate disposables by switching to reusable or compostable plates, cups, and utensils. They also find ways to reduce the amount of food waste that ends up in trash cans, for example, by switching to self-serve salad bars.

What Families Can Do

If you’re not yet packing waste-free lunches and would like to make the switch, it’s easy to do. First of all, you’ll need to find a set of sturdy reusable food containers that will accommodate the type of food you like to eat. Old yogurt and cottage cheese containers work well as do stylish Japanese-style bento boxes. Make sure you have a refillable drink bottle instead of relying on disposables. (The American Plastics Council estimates that 620,000 tons of soft drink bottles end up in landfills each year, not including juice boxes, pouches, and cans.) To further reduce landfill waste, pack a cloth napkin instead of paper and reusable utensils instead of disposables.

A few additional tips for families on the go include packing lunches the night before and storing them in the refrigerator overnight, preparing extra food for dinner and packing the leftovers for lunch when you’re doing your dinner clean up, buying in bulk whenever possible (reuse your produce bags and tubs), and keeping plenty of dried fruit and nuts on hand. Finally, consider purchasing a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share or shopping at farmers' markets.

In addition to reducing landfill waste, waste-free lunch programs educate students about the impact of their food and packaging choices, and demonstrate that making small changes in their daily routine can have widespread effects. In fact, the New York Department of Conservation estimates that a child taking a disposable lunch to school will generate 67 pounds of trash annually—and that’s just one person’s trash from one meal of the day. So the next time you hear someone complain about a landfill coming to a neighborhood near them, make sure you ask them what they’re doing to reduce the amount of waste they’re sending to the landfill and be sure to tell them about the benefits of packing waste-free lunches!

For more information on waste-free lunches, visit

What Works...Success Stories


  • "I first saw your Laptop Lunches about a year and a half ago at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. I liked them so much I bought three: two for my granddaughters and one for me. Now I'm planning to go to New York with one of my sons and decided to get another so that we can have a meal on the plane. Since the airlines no longer serve meals, Laptop Lunches are a very good solution. Thank you for developing them."

       -- Libby Byers, San Rafael, CA


  • "My three-year-old loves her new lunchbox. She is pretty fussy and hates when different foods touch each other, so this is a godsend."

    -- Janice Thompson, Ashland, MA


  • "My daughter and I had so much fun last week making the calzones from your newsletter. It was fun and the calzones were yummy. We stuffed them with a tofu and veggie stir fry that I made, and it didn't even take us too long. We had guests for dinner that night and we all enjoyed them. So thanks for passing that on."

    -- Wendy Siegel, Scotts Valley, CA


Do you have a success story or photo to share? Email it to us at [email protected].





Featured Web Site:


The Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national nonprofit organization, provides services in research, consulting, education, marketing and community organizing. The GRA utilizes a collaborative strategy that involves restaurants, manufacturers, vendors, grassroots organizations, government, media, and restaurant customers. Their mission is to provide a convenient way for all sectors of the restaurant industry to become more environmentally sustainable. Visit to find a green restaurant near you.



May Highlights

Nutritious desserts and treats, green opportunities, and yard sale strategies!

Comments, questions, concerns? Please email us at [email protected].

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© April 2005 Obentec, Inc.

849 Almar Ave., Suite C-323
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


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