FREE e-Newsletter. Receive menus, photos, recipes & lunch ideas.

Follow Us on Pinterest Visit Us on Facebook View Our Photos Follow Us on Twitter Read Our Blog Weekly Lunch Menus

Newsletter Archive


May 2006

Laptop Lunch Times: May 2006

The Laptop Lunch Times Cool-iscious
May 2006

The Whole Children Whole Planet Expo was a huge success!

A big thanks to those of you who stopped by our booth to say hello, to purchase Laptop Lunches, to sign up for our newsletter, and to chat. It was great to learn about what so many of you are doing to improve the lives of our children and our planet. And remember...if you purchased Laptop Lunch products at the show, you are entitled to a 40% discount on The Visual Guide's Make a Healthy Lunch for Kids DVD. To take advantage of this offer, use the following discount code: WCWP-LAPTOP.

Got a favorite photo to share?

Email it to us at [email protected], and we'll publish it here!
  • Peanut butter and apricot jam on matzah
  • Fennel salad
  • Popcorn
  • Dried pears, dried cranberries, and cashews

To our UK readers...

We are thinking about expanding our presence in the UK, and we'd like to know your thoughts: Would you (or would your friends/family members) order Laptop Lunch products from an online store in the UK? Do you think Laptop Lunches would do well in the UK? Please email your response to us at [email protected]. Thanks! We look forward to hearing from you!

Amy and Tammy

In this issue, you'll find:

  • Monthly Menu
  • Sensational Smoothies
  • Green Opportunities
  • New Retailers
  • Laptop Lunches in the News
  • Featured Web site:
  • What works...Success Stories
Nutritious, waste-free lunches for the whole family

Monthly Menu

Sensational Smoothies

#1: Banana Simplicity

Makes 4 servings.

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups soy milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp flax oil
  • 2 cups ice

  • 1. Place all ingredients in a blender with the bananas on the bottom.
    2. Blend until smooth.

    #2: Orange Creamsicle

    Makes 4 servings.

    • 1/2 cup steamed cauliflower, coarsely chopped
    • 1/2 cup steamed peeled carrots, coarsely chopped
    • 1 1/2 fresh-squeezed orange juice
    • 1 1/2 cup soy milk
    • 1 tsp flax oil
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 2 cups ice

    Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

    Green Opportunities

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

    • LARABAR--We tasted all flavors of these great fruit bars at the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo. They're uncooked, unprocessed, non-GMO, Gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, kosher and contain no added sugar. What more could you ask for? Check out their flavor selection--Cherry Pie, Apple Pie, Cashew Cookie, Banana Cookie, and Chocolate Coconut Chew--on their Web site at
      If you're looking for fresh ideas for meals on the go, be sure to check out

      Or...if you'd like to share your own Laptop Lunch photos or comment on photos that others have posted, sign up for a free account.

      It's amazing to see so many talented lunch makers out there! So inspirational!


    • THE HEALTH TEA WAND – A hand crafted, glass straw that brews and filters tea leaves, herbs, and infusions through specially designed strainer holes in the convenience of a cup. Simply add hot water to tea, steep, build flavor and sip to the very last drop through the Health Tea Wand. The portable wand is packaged in a carry case that contains a secret compartment to transport or introduce loose teas. For more information, visit

    • HOW GREEN IS YOUR LAWN? Consumers are forcing the $35 billion per year lawn & garden care industry to make space for organics. Stores that have sold only synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in the past, are selling record amounts of organic soils and fertilizers this year. A recent survey from the National Gardening Association found that, while only 5% of U.S. households now use all-organic methods in their yards, some 21% said they would likely do so in the future.
    Studies have linked common lawn and garden chemicals with cancer and kidney and liver damage, particularly in children and pets. For more information, visit

    New Retailers

    Jackson's Hardware
    62 Woodland Avenue
    San Rafael, CA 94901

    Telephone: (415) 454-6452

    Credible Edibles
    106 Hamilton Avenue
    North Ottawa, Ontario

    Laptop Lunches in the News

    Neither Paper nor Plastic: Eating outside the Box

    By Dan Imhoff

    The stuff of our lives — perishable and processed, luxurious and essential, mass-marketed and handcrafted, manufactured and farmed — arrives safely and conveniently, thanks to a complex web of wraps, packs, and pallets. Yet this packaged world also comes to us at an undeniable cost. In the U.S., containers and packaging materials constitute 32 percent of the municipal solid waste stream, over 800 pounds per person annually. To keep goods moving, 500 million new wooden transport pallets (enough material on a volume basis to frame 300,000 houses) are added each year. More than 80 percent of these pallets are used once before being ground up, incinerated, or thrown away.

    School lunches contribute significantly to the waste stream. An average elementary school student eating homemade lunches is estimated to generate between 45 and 90 pounds of Ziploc™ bags, foil pouches, and other packaging waste each year, roughly equivalent to the body weight of a third- to sixth-grader. The 29 million meals provided daily by the National School Lunch Program often arrive preprocessed and packaged. They are shipped over long distances, accompanied by individually sealed disposable plastic fork, spoon, and paper napkin sets, industrially lathed carrot nubs in handy pouches, or syrupy medleys of fruit in plastic cups with foil caps. Studies suggest that the food and packaging that kids throw away can be as much as 60 percent by weight and volume of what they are served.

    Upstream in the waste stream. Overloaded landfills aren’t the only issue. The environmental costs of disposing of packaging are dwarfed by the costs of making it in the first place. Plastics, the fastest growing segment of the packaging industry, use shrinking fossil fuel reserves. Their manufacture and incineration can release cancer-causing dioxins. But choosing paper over plastic doesn’t solve the problem. Pulp and paper industries are among the most polluting. Overall, about 60 percent of modern packaging materials, including paper and cardboard, are made of wood, from forests that we’re depleting faster than they can renew themselves.

    Just because it has a recycling symbol doesn’t mean it will be recycled. Delivering recyclables to the curbside or collection center is no guarantee that they will be reborn as useful products. When the costs of recovering and transporting materials exceed those of using nonrecycled ones, items from curbside bins and collection centers often end up in landfills. Especially plastics: only Numbers 1 (PET, polyethylene terephthalate) and 2 (HDPE, high-density polyethylene) have significant recycling rates.

    Market dynamics shouldn’t deter us from avid recycling. "A tray that successfully enters a recycling loop will return to a store shelf within three months and save significant amounts of materials and energy over virgin aluminum," says Marissa Juhler, an educational spokesperson for Waste Management Inc. in Davis, California. But even when efficient, the recycling of paper, glass, aluminum, and plastic requires boatloads of energy and releases byproducts into the air, water, and ground. The true challenge lies in minimizing or eliminating packaging in the first place—before it becomes waste.

    Some Strategies for Reducing Packaging

    Emphasize Reusables. The single-serving container is primarily a post-World War II phenomenon, but only in recent decades has disposability become the norm. Americans now purchase and throw away over 300 million hot and cold take-out beverage containers each day. One out of every three servings of water is taken from a plastic bottle. While a prepackaged meal is consumed in minutes, the Styrofoam™ container, coated paperboard tray, foil-coated wrapper, and shrink-wrapped plastic fork could stick around for decades or even centuries.

    Kids can make a small but meaningful dent in the 45 million water bottles purchased every day — 90 percent of which are thrown away — by hydrating themselves from the school water fountain and using it to fill their personal reusable water bottle. Many schools have undertaken the repair of fountains in order to encourage a switch from sodas to water. It’s also a reasonable way to provide free liquid refreshment to all students and to reduce the use of throwaway containers. Small things add up. When they carry their own mugs, thermoses, or cups, or use the cafeteria’s glass or ceramic cups, kids can eliminate between 80 and 99 percent of the harmful emissions associated with the manufacture of disposable paper or foam cups.

    Buy in bulk. "The amount of packaging used per unit of product is substantially more for smaller products," writes Nancy Hirschberg, vice president of natural resources for Stonyfield Farm. Their lifecycle study on yogurt containers revealed that switching to 32-ounce containers from the single-use 8-ounce cups normally packed in school lunches and served at school would save 12,000 barrels of oil per year. Parents can purchase food in larger containers and pack individual servings in reusable cups. Bulk purchasing usually saves money, too.

    Buy fresh. Fresh foods sold at farmers’ markets are usually offered free of packaging. Shoppers can bring their own reusable shopping bags from home. Preparing school meals from local and sustainably grown foods saves on packaging — and improves the freshness, nutritional quality, and taste of the food. Supporting a vital local farm economy also helps to keep land in agriculture and provides a lifelong appreciation for and understanding of how food reaches the table.

    Put your money where your mouth is. Over 1,000 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm programs now sell advance "shares" in their harvests, guaranteeing weekly deliveries of a variety just-picked fruits and vegetables, which are typically grown organically, throughout the growing season <>. Just as farm-to-school meal programs reduce waste and increase quality, a CSA share is the ideally integrated household-scale product and package. It strengthens the relationship between producer and customer and revolves around a refillable delivery system: a simple cardboard bushel box.

    Develop a packaging policy for school lunches. The Edna Maguire School in Mill Valley, California instituted a "Pack - In, Pack - Out" program requiring students to take all their lunch packaging home. Packing it out subsequently generated tremendous savings through reduced dumpster charges. In Santa Cruz, entrepreneurs Amy Hemmert and Tammy Pelstring created a compartmentalized, interlocking, reusable Laptop Lunch System based on the Japanese bento box <>. They then teamed up with parents, students, and teachers in their local school and founded the Waste-Free Lunch Program <>. This is now a national movement that includes composting, recycling, and other steps toward less wasteful and more satisfying lunches.

    Turn the waste stream into a resource. For nearly a decade, woodshop students at Merced High School in California have been engaged in a unique repackaging effort. Organized as an entrepreneurship class, the students salvage plywood from fruit bins destined for the landfill. They then turn the recovered materials into homes for barn owls, kestrels, wood ducks, bluebirds, and other creatures whose habitats have been depleted. This has a direct benefit to the farms that use the fruit bins in the first place. Barn owls provide a natural biological defense against pocket gophers and other rodents that attack crops. The program, started by now-retired woodshop teacher Steve Simmons, has produced upwards of 8,000 birdhouses purchased by farmers, generating over $150,000 in scholarship money for students.

    Keep the Faith. All packages have impacts, regardless of whether they’re refillable, contain recycled materials, or not. They’re also indicators of our attitudes toward issues with broader implications — for instance, food quality, public health, and our connection or disconnection with nature. What we do about packaging serves as one measure of how closely our consumption patterns match our values and aspirations for ourselves, our children, and the planet. When paying attention to everyday personal and institutional choices becomes a positive and enjoyable part of self-reflective and engaged living, decisions about seemingly mundane objects — boxes and bottles and bags — take on new meaning.

    Dan Imhoff is an author, nonprofit publisher, and small-scale farmer. He is the author of numerous essays, articles, and books, including Fat Tire: A Celebration of the Mountain Bike(1999), Building with Vision: Optimizing and Finding Alternatives to Wood (University of California Press, 2001), Farming with the Wild: Enhancing Biodiversity on Farms and Ranches(Sierra Club Books, 2003), and Paper or Plastic: Searching for Solutions to an Overpackaged World (Sierra Club Books, 2005). He currently serves as president of two NGOs, Watershed Media ( and the Wild Farm Alliance (, and co-hosts a monthly radio show on agriculture on Mendocino Public Broadcasting.

    This essay is part of Thinking outside the Lunchbox, an ongoing series of essays connected to the Center for Ecoliteracy's Rethinking School Lunch program. Read all the essays at

    No part of this article may be reproduced without permission. Please contact the Center for Ecoliteracy to obtain permission.

    What Works...Success Stories

    • "A friend and I bought each other a Laptop Lunch to encourage us to bring healthier lunches to work. We're both incredibly happy with them!"
    •        --Erica Anderson, Pittsburgh, PA

    • "My 2 sons and I have been using your Laptop Lunches for several weeks and are really enjoying them. My kids like the bright colors and snazzy-looking bag, and I love the reduced waste & cost of lunches...and the fact that it's really getting me to re-think how we've been doing things. Thank you!"

              --Miriam Duman Goldberg, Los Angeles, CA

    • "The Laptop Lunch is working out so well for my son that I want to get one for everyone in the family."

             --Nikelle Murphy, Brisbane, Australia

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

    Featured Web Site: is run by Action Without Borders, a nonprofit organization based in New York, NY, with offices in Philadelphia, PA; Charlottesville, VA; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    Their mission is to help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives in a healthy environment. is a tool that helps people find the resources and support they need to help themselves and their communities.

    What kids and teens can do on this site:

    • Explore Idealist Kids & Teens to find areas of interest.
    • Learn more about the nonprofit organizations working in their community.
    • Volunteer: Get involved with the work of a local nonprofit.
    • Take the Lead: Start a project that will address a problem in their community.

    Over 45,000 nonprofit organizations from around the world use Idealist to list information about the work they do. This information includes their mission and how to contact them, volunteer opportunities, internships, resources, and services that they provide.

    June Highlights

    Garden Recipes , Green Opportunities, Obentec Interview, and New Laptop Lunch Products.


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

    Want to subscribe to this newsletter?

    First Name:        Last Name:


    HTML Text Don't know         

    This monthly newsletter is archived at

    © May 2006 Obentec, Inc.

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


    Feel free to reprint or forward this newsletter with the following acknowledgment and contact information clearly visible: "Thank you to Obentec, Inc. for permission to use this copyrighted material. For more information, contact Obentec, Inc. by email at [email protected] or by phone at 831-457-0301, or visit their Web site at Reprint permission granted with this full notice included."