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November 2005

Laptop Lunch Times: November 2005

The Laptop Lunch Times

November 2005

November News...

The Green Festival was an amazing sucess!

The Green Festival was a huge success this year! Thanks for stopping by to say hello and a big welcome to our new subscribers.

New products available soon!

Our new products were very well received at the Green Festival this month! Look for them on our Web site around December 1st.

Amy and Tammy

In this issue, you'll find:

  • Monthly Menu
  • Fun with Fruit
  • Green Opportunities
  • New Retailers
  • CAN Community Agroecology Network
  • The 21st Century Lunchbox
  • Featured Web site:
  • What works...Success Stories
NOTE: The "Truth about Plastics" article has been moved to the December issue. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Laptop Lunch Photo with Food

Monthly Menu

Fun with Fruit

With summer coming to an end, finding fresh seasonal fruits may be a bit more challenging. Here are a few suggestions for easily incorporating a serving of fruit into your daily lunch menu.

#1: Kiwi

"When you're cutting kiwi, instead of peeling and slicing, you can cut it in half and eat it with a spoon." (Dana, age 9)

#2: Cinnamon Spice Apples

  • Peel and cut a medium-size apple into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Place in a small pot and add enough water to prevent burning.
  • Simmer on medium until tender but not mushy. (About 5 minutes.)
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and stir to mix thoroughly.
  • Serve warm or cold.

Variation: Slice apples instead of cubing and add a small amount of butter with the cinnamon.

"My daughter has enjoyed eating apples since she began eating solid foods at 6 months. I used to steam them so they would be softer to eat. She absolutely loved them. When she started school, she would tell me that she liked the crunchy apples I cut for her lunch. So when the sliced apples started coming home uneaten in 2nd grade, I thought she no longer liked them. When questioned, it became clear that she no longer would eat apples that had started to turn color. Remembering how I used to cook the apples for her, I began to cook them again but this time with some butter (Earth Balance) and cinnamon. The container always comes home empty. I love the way I can quickly put them in a pot to cook while I make the rest of her lunch."

      --Wendy Siegel, Scotts Valley, CA

#3 Yogurt with Frozen Berries & Granola

"If you're looking for a creamy, crunchy berry treat this winter, but fresh berries at a reasonable price are hard to come by, try some vanilla yogurt topped with frozen berries and granola. The frozen berries will help the yogurt stay fresh through the morning. Pack some extra granola on the side so your child can add a bit more topping--just for fun!"

Green Opportunities

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

  • Don't forget that November 15th is AMERICA RECYCLES DAY. To find out what's going on in your area, visit

  • Seek out ALTERNATIVE GIFT FAIRS this holiday season. Take "Simplify the Holidays" materials to your church bazaar or community event to promote fun, fulfilling, and affordable alternatives to commercialized holidays. New Dream's Holiday Organizers' Kits, consisting of "Ten Ways to Give More of What Matters" flyers, sample gift of time certificates, and other New American Dream materials are available on the New Dream Web site at

    To learn more about how to organize an Alternative Gift Fair, visit

    To find an Alternative Gift Fair near you, check out the New Dream Community events calendar at

    Promote your Alternative Gift Fair for free here.

  • RECYCLED PAPER PRODUCTS: According to Greenpeace, Americans use 8.2 million tons of tissue paper products every year-- 55 pounds per person. If every household in the United States replaced just one 70-sheet paper towel roll made from virgin fiber, with one made from 100 percent recycled towels, they would save 544,000 old-growth trees. If every U.S. household replaced just one box of 175-sheet virgin fiber tissue with 100 percent recycled ones, they could save 163,000 ancient trees.
  • Consider switching to these tissue alternatives:

    This effort supports environmental education projects that promote environmental stewardship and help develop aware and responsible students, teachers, and citizens. This grant program provides financial support for projects which design, demonstrate, or disseminate environmental education practices, methods, or techniques as described in this notice. Maximum Award: $79,000. Eligibility: Any local education agency, college or university, state education or environmental agency, not-for-profit organization as described in Section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or noncommercial educational broadcasting entity may submit a proposal. A teacher's school district, an educator's nonprofit organization, or a faculty member's college or university may apply, but an individual teacher or faculty member may not apply. Deadline: November 23, 2005.

    Due to the overuse of antibacterial soaps, bacteria are developing resistance to important antimicrobial disinfectants and medicines. A panel of U.S. health experts and scientists recommended that antibacterial soaps only be used in medical facilities or in homes of the elderly and sick. As a related note, USDA Certified Organic soaps are now available at your local natural products store. For more information, visit

  • FROM THE ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION: In 2000, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) urged Starbucks stores around the world to support family farmers by purchasing fair trade coffee. Starbucks eventually responded and officially announced it would make fair trade coffee available "upon request" in all of its Starbucks stores. Now, five years have gone by and a group of bloggers from around the world are working to find out if Starbucks is really living up to its claim. Join them by visiting your local Starbucks, asking for Fair Trade coffee, documenting the response, and posting the results online. The OCA is joining the challenge on its own Web forum. Please take a moment to share your Starbucks fair trade experience with others at:

New Retailers

Nutrition Magician
2300 Packard Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 994-5549

Community Agroecology Network

Tammy Pelstring talks with CAN (Community Agroecology Network) founder Robbie Jaffe.

T: Hi Robbie. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Can you tell us a little bit about CAN?

RJ: CAN, or Community Agroecology Network, is a U.S.-based not-for-profit organization affiliated with the University of California Santa Cruz. CAN links five communities in Central America and Mexico with one another and with consumers in the U.S. We are an international network committed to sustaining rural livelihoods and environments by integrating coffee research, education, and direct marketing.

T: What inspired you to start CAN?

RJ: In 2000 my husband, Steve Gliessman, and I were on sabbatical in Mexico and Central America. Steve teaches agroecology (the use of ecology for designing and managing sustainable food systems) in the Environmental Studies Department at UCSC. In our travels we visited coffee growing communities in the heart of what has become known as 'the coffee crisis,' a crisis that continues today. Farm families were receiving less that 40 cents per pound for the coffee they grew, which wasn't enough to live on. Thus, they were being forced off their land, migrating to cities, and emigrating to the U.S. Families were being split apart. In some communities people were starving.

A note from Tammy: I purchased a subscription for my husband's birthday (an espresso aficionado) almost a year ago. I have been so satisfied with the quality and convenience. I love knowing that my purchase is making a direct and immediate difference to family farmers....and I love receiving a package of coffee in my mailbox every month direct from Costa Rica!

When we returned to Santa Cruz, we wanted to do something that would both support the farm families and help protect the tropical rainforest ecosystems where coffee is often grown. We got together with a group of researchers working with rural communities in Mexico and Central America and formed CAN. This created a network between the coffee-growing communities and coffee drinkers in the U.S.

T: Can you tell me a bit about your background?

RJ: I founded the Life Lab-a program which helps schools create gardens for science and nutrition education. I have long been involved in environmental education and believe it is important for all of us to learn to be environmental stewards and that learning through the environment provides a motivational context for learning in schools.

T: Why is it important to buy fair trade and shade grown coffee?

RJ: When you buy coffee at a supermarket or café, you can look for various certifications that tell you about how the coffee is grown and whether the growers receive a guaranteed payment. Looking for certification gives consumers more information. Fair Trade means that farmers belong to a cooperative and receive a minimum guaranteed price for their coffee. Shade grown coffees are grown under trees which helps protect soils on steep slopes. Looking and asking for Fair Trade coffee is one way that consumers can support fair pay to farmers.

T: How is CAN different from other fair trade, shade grown coffee that I buy at the store?

RJ: CAN is moving beyond fair trade. We're setting up a 'global farmers market.' Through CAN you can have coffee shipped directly to you from a coffee cooperative in Costa Rica. The farmer and consumer are in a 'direct relationship,' which eliminates many of the intermediary steps. The farmers receive 2-3 times as much as they do from Fair Trade certified coffees that you buy in the store. This provides them with the income they need to remain in their communities. They're committed to protecting their environment by using sustainable farming practices.

T: Tell us a little about the community it benefits.

RJ: CAN's fair trade direct coffee comes from Agua Buena, Costa Rica, a community In the mountains of southeast Costa Rica near the Panama border. 50 farm families have formed Coopepueblos, a cooperative that supports farmers using sustainable practices.

Fifty years ago, Agua Buena and the region surrounding it was entirely tropical rainforest. As the area was opened for settlement, trees were cut and replaced with farms. Now farmers are working in collaboration with researchers at UCSC to replant many of the forest species. University students also have the opportunity to do field internships in the community. They live with one of the farm families and engage in community-based projects. CAN is working toward enhancing this relationship and understanding between farmers and consumers so we can all work together to connect sustainable livelihoods with environmental protection.

T: How can our readers sign up?

RJ: It's easy! Visit our Web site at You can order online or download an order form. You'll also find stories about the CAN partner communities. We offer several different roasts. The cost of shipping is included so there are no additional costs. Using the order form, you can buy quality coffee for $8.50/pound, 100% of which goes to the cooperative. (Online ordering costs a bit more because of the added costs involved.) You can send in a one time order, or you can order coffee to be delivered on a monthly basis. Also, you can contact us for wholesale orders for organizations, workplaces, and stores. (UCSC dining hall serves CAN coffee.)

T: The holidays are coming. Can I buy gift subscriptions?

RJ: CAN coffee makes a great gift! Imagine your friends and family receiving a package of wonderfully, rich coffee while you know that you are directly benefiting a coffee growers cooperative. Just click on the holiday order form on our Web site: Receive a special discount when you order more than 5 pounds for the holidays. Allow four weeks for delivery. For more information, call

In the News: Body + Soul Magazine

December 2005

The 21st-Century Lunchbox

The tally of all the Ziploc bags, juice boxes, yogurt cups, and accoutrements of "homemade" school lunches adds up to 45 to 90 pounds of packaging waste per child over a typical school year, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. This led Amy Hemmert and Tammy Pelstring of Santa Cruz, California, to create their innovative Laptop Lunch System. Based on the Japanese bento box, the kit comes with utensils, a drink bottle, and containers that fit together ( Hemmert and Pelstring also teamed up with eco-minded parents, students, and faculty in their local school system to create the Waste-Free Lunch Program--now a national movement ( includes composting, recycling, and other steps toward less-wasteful and more-satisfying lunches.

From: Outside of the Box, by Daniel Imhoff

What Works...Success Stories

  • "Thank you for all that you have done and are doing! I received your September e-newsletter ahead of a full laptop lunch kit and I've already linked to several of your recommended sites for greener living. Thanks for all the research; please offer more info on the safety of your plastic containers in a future enewsletter. I'm a 64 year old grandmother of four who works in a county government building where my new Laptop Lunch kit will be seen by almost twenty people in the first week of its use! I have recommended your products to my family and have forwarded your e-newsletter to my daughters, one of whom has already indicated an interest in the Laptop Lunch system for her husband and 3 year old! The first thing that I realized as I was opening my new Laptop Lunch kit was that I could continue with my personal resolve to eat smaller portions for overall health and well-being."

       -- Gudrun, Cedaredge, CO

  • "My son loves his Laptop Lunch box. My sister who lives near San Jose, CA got it for him. She heard about your company when a friend bought one for her son as a birthday gift. I’m also thrilled that a store in my town (Burlington, Vermont) called Kiss the Cook sells your stuff. Your User’s Guide has really helped me think more about my impact on the environment and how I can help just by sending my kid to school with Laptop Lunches. Thanks for all you do! "

       -- Laura, Burlington, VT

  • "A good friend gave my little boy a Laptop Lunch lunchbox a few years ago, and he uses it all the time. I bought a gift pack for my sister, who has a toddler with food allergies, and she has to pack food for him every time she leaves the house. It's a wonderful product -- and so great that it comes with the recipe book. It has made me some new friends, because when other moms see my son's Laptop Lunch kit, they go wild with delight and always introduce themselves to ask about it."

       --Catherine Thomas, Lawrenceville, NJ

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

Featured Web Site:

Not long ago, the only beauty products available were ordinary soaps for our hair and bodies, toothpastes, and a few simple cosmetics. Today, in the United States alone, personal care products represent a $20 billion a year industry—and one that has changed dramatically in recent decades. The potions and lotions lining our shelves have morphed into chemical powerhouses pumped with dyes, preservatives, detergents, and antimicrobials, to name just a few of the agents promising cleaner, brighter, and disease-free living.

Many of these products, however, can damage our health, our water, and wildlife. Some harmful effects occur during use, particularly to young children and to people with more sensitive bodies. Other consequences occur after the products are flushed down the drain. And then there's the extensive single-use packaging that is discarded and must be incinerated or landfilled.

To find out what's in your personal care products and how you can minimize your risk to toxic chemicals, visit

December Highlights

Hot Lunch Soups, Green Opportunities, and The Truth About Plastics.

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

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