Sustainable Business Spotlight: Keeper Sacks

Company: Keeper Sacks | Products: Reusable food bags and covers

Keeper Sacks is the creation of Kristine Lebow, the mother of two children, who found a fashionable and sustainable solution to an everyday problem.

Keeper Sacks is the creation of Kristine Lebow.

The idea is elegant as it is simple – design attractive replacements to green our habit of using plastic to cover food. The result is a colorful snack bag that’s processed and shipped with recycled materials.

Kristine has a love of the environment and runs her company looking for ways to make it more sustainable. Keeper Sacks reuses boxes from neighboring businesses, keeps paperless records, and is constantly looking for new ways to reduce waste and consumption.

A large aspect of her company’s sustainability is that all of her products are made in the U.S. She also insists on using U.S. made materials because, as she puts it –

“Being a sustainable business is only possible if the materials used and the people making them come from close to where you live.”

After forming in October 2009, her company has developed four operating guidelines that are integral to her core sustainable business practices:

  • Design layouts must use 95 – 98 % of fabric to optimize material usage
  • Use 100% domestic materials and labor
  • Reuse existing shipping cartons whenever possible
  • Ship products efficiently to reduce materials and cost

Focusing on the problem of plastics in the environment is a big concern. Globally we generate 300 million tons of plastic waste each year. American used an estimated 380 billion sandwich bags in 2008 alone.

According to Lisa Kaas Boyle, co-founder and Director of Legal Policy for the Plastic Pollution Coalition, disposable plastics compose the largest percentage of all ocean pollution.

Keeper Sacks bowl cover.

After being laid off, Ms. Lebow, a former swimsuit designer at Jantzen Inc. and Reebok Swimwear took her daughter’s advice to start her own business. Having seen a similar product on the shelves, she thought her mommy could do better. And she did.

Keeper Sacks’ line of reusable bowl and plate covers are made of ripstop nylon and are machine and dishwasher safe.  One sustainable aspect of all Keeper Sacks products is that they are well made and use a minimum of resources and energy to produce. When the consumer gets hundreds or thousands of uses out of it, as opposed to just one, their environmental impact is greatly minimized.

Ms. Lebow cleverly pursued New Seasons Market, a local health food store in her hometown of Portland, Oregon to carry her Keeper Sacks. They had similar products as hers, but were open to carrying another brand and were impressed by her designs and commitment to sustainability. Sales took off and they have been a huge supporter ever since.

By building her brand locally, she has cultivated strong sales from people living in her community and from neighboring cities.

Her current efforts are focused on expanding distribution to stores beyond the Pacific Northwest. If you would like to see Keeper Sacks sold where you live, make your suggestion to a supermarket or kitchen supply store near you today.

Suggested Reading:

Plastic Waste: More Dangerous than Global Warming
Plastic Bags – Whole Foods Pledges to Stop Using Plastic Bags

Reusable Bags – Why do you choose to carry, or not carry, reusable shopping…

What’s in a Shopping Bag? – The Environment for Kids


Winter Squash Apple Sage Lasagna

Winter Squash Apple Sage Lasagna
Makes 8-10 servings; Prep time 45 min. Perfect for freezing!

I’ve come up with a healthy, meatless alternative to the basic marinara sauce lasagna with a uniquely savory taste. Perfect when you get those winter-time cravings for comfort foods. This recipe combines the subtle flavors of apple, sage and nutmeg bathed in a rich white sauce. Try with white wine and a side salad for an elegant, easy to heat up meal idea.

1 pkg No Boil TJ’s Lasagna Noodles
1 12 oz. Jar TJ’s Alfredo Pasta Sauce
6 cups steamed Kabasha squash sliced into small, flat pieces
2 cups thinly sliced white mushrooms
1 cup or two small thinly sliced zucchinis
1 small thinly sliced yellow onion
1 bunch thinly sliced and washed Swiss chard
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground sage
1 tbs brown sugar
4 tbs Earth Balance Butter Spread
3 tbs olive oil
6.5 oz. Field Roast Vegetarian Smoked Apple Sage Sausages (2)
16 oz. TJ’s Mozzarella
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Add 3 tbs butter spread to large pan on medium heat until melted. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of each nutmeg and sage. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn stove top to low and stir for 1 minute. Add garlic and stir additional minute. Toss in Swiss chard and cook until reduced in size by 1/2 (about 5 min.) Set aside.

In same pan, add 1 tbs olive oil and saute onion over medium-low heat until translucent but, not yet caramelized. (about 5 min.) Set aside.

Continue this process with mushrooms and zucchini with remaining olive oil.

Add 1 tbs butter spread to the pan over medium heat and add the remaining nutmeg, sage and salt\pepper to taste. Stir briefly and add contents of Alfredo sauce. Pour 2/3 cup water to jar, tighten lid and shake vigorously, then add to pan. Heat well just before simmering and set aside.

In an 11 x 9 inch oven safe lasagna dish, add enough Alfredo sauce to just cover bottom and layer with half of steamed squash. Then continue as follows;
Layer 1: Pasta, sauce, squash & crumbled sausage, both cheeses, sauce.
Layer 2: Pasta, sauce, mushrooms, zucchini, both cheeses, sauce.
Layer 3: Pasta, sauce, Swiss chard & onions, both cheeses, sauce.
Add final layer of pasta and spread remaining sauce and cheeses to completely cover top layer of pasta. Areas not covered will turn dark brown or could burn.

Place in preheated 375 degree oven. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 min. or until bubbling. Remove foil and bake for 5 minutes more, just until cheese is melted and slightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

It's All In The Broth

Veggie Broth – A Step-By-Step Recipe

How many of you out there have made your own veggie broth from scratch?
Hmmmmm, I don’t see many hands. Okay then, let’s get started!

First, I’d like to preface by saying that when I first made my own broth from scratch, it was only because someone whom I trusted in the kitchen had made hers and swore by it. So, I can tell you that this is your foundation to great soups and other dishes.

For your veggie broth to be successful, you’ll need to have – well, um… veggies of course. As you make your meals for the week a’choppin’ up broccoli, carrots, onions and the like save – don’t compost those end pieces. Place them in a bag and keep them in the fridge (up to a week) until you’re ready.

Ideally you want to have a mixture of the following;

  • onions
  • carrots
  • celery
  • zucchini
  • brocolli

But, actually any veggies you have on hand will do the trick. I do recommend that you add onion AND garlic to your broth. Why? Well, it just adds so much flavor! So, if you’re shy one or two ingredients, you can suppliment from your fridge. Just cut off the ends of any of your veggies and chop real small.

2 parts water to 1 part veggies

When your done chopping veggies, get an 8 qt. pot and place the veggies and water inside and bring to a boil.

I like to add my dried herbs at this point. You can go crazy but, I usually add a tsp. each of the following;

  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Celery Seed

Salt and pepper to taste (for a benchmark I would add 1 tsp. of each)

Turn down immediately and place a tight fitting lid on top, reduce head to low. Set timer for 1 hour and walk away. Nothing to see here!

The lid will be suctioned tight to the pot. Lift off and pour everything into a fine mesh strainer over a pot. Take a wooden spoon and mash the cooked veggies against the mesh. This extracts the broth and some of the pulp into the pot. Scrape from underneath the mesh strainer and add to the broth.

If you have a compost add the leftover veggie mash to it now. Otherwise you can throw it out in the garden or if you must in the trash.

Now the veggie broth is finished and you can go ahead and make your soup or other dish that calls for broth or, what I like to do, is pour it into a container and freeze it for later use.

Next post I’ll cover making chicken and fish stock.

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