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

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How to Save Money and Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle


Energy Conservation and Efficiency in the Home

The reality is, that we aren’t always as energy conscious as we would like. We leave our cars running, don’t shut down our computers at night and sometimes forget to turn the lights off when we leave a room.

The first step on the path to being more sustainable is admitting this universal fact; we can all improve our energy efficiency. The suggestions listed below will cost you very little or nothing at all to implement. If you want to go further and attain dramatic energy reductions, the basic rule is that for every $1 you spend on making your home more energy efficient, you’ll save $3 to $5 on the cost of the renewable energy system.

Many people are not aware how wasteful their energy habits are. They are willing to pay large electric bills, without question, and do not even consider that reducing their energy usage will result in lower utility bills.

In this case, knowledge is power. Enter the Energy Calculators and Carbon Footprint Calculators, free for all to use. They have been created by industries and utility companies to help consumers realize where most of their energy is used and help to identify areas in which they can reduce their usage while saving on their bill.

To many this may seem like an ominous task. However, the process only takes minutes to evaluate, resulting in saving you money and enhancing our environment for future generations. This is a simple step you can take to creating a more sustainable lifestyle.

Consider that in the past 30 years, residential energy consumption from appliances and electronics in the US has approximately doubled, from 17% to 31%. This increase has essentially offset the gains from energy efficient appliances made possible through programs such as Energy Star. Efforts have been made by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) to educate citizens of where our energy is used; transportation, commercial, residential, and industrial sectors are the main sectors.

Over the past 25 years, energy use in residential dwellings has grown.  The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has on their website a list of ways homeowners can improve their home’s efficiency – items ranging from HVAC system replacement to purchasing of low energy usage electronics and appliances, lighting, and refrigeration.

For example, per ACEEE, water heating consumes 12% of residential energy.  To offset this, options such as solar hot water systems, recirculation pumps, geothermal, and gas and electric tank less systems exist.   Buyers are often directed to purchase items with the Energy Star logo on them – but what does that mean? Energy Star is a result of a cumulative effort between the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1992, and aims to inform consumers of how purchasing these rated items that will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emission and will ultimately reduce their energy usage and save them money in the long run. Energy efficient programs such as this are essential and allow us to accomplish the same tasks while using less energy.  Residential energy conservation will soon become a normal aspect of cost savings and will support a sustainable lifestyle.

“How can I reduce my home energy consumption without making drastic changes to my lifestyle?”

Begin by evaluating your energy usage by using an energy calculator and carbon footprint calculator.  Then, start to identify areas you can begin to conserve energy.

By exercising these suggested action items, you can lower the cost of your monthly utility bill and help protect the environment, right from your own home.

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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