Have an Eco-friendly Picnic

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Reusable plates, utensils and a basket make for the perfect low-waste picnic. Photo: Flickr/langalex

A chance to enjoy food and get back to nature – what’s there not to love about a picnic? But before you head out to enjoy sun-warmed strawberries and sandwiches beneath a blue sky, consider packing in the same eco-friendly habits you practice at home.

Here are a few steps to follow so that all you leave behind are the prints on the soles of your sandals.

Where to find your picnic supplies

1. Your own home
For toting your food, use your canvas grocery bags, backpacks or even an old Easter basket. The perfect picnic blanket or sheet may be hiding in the closet. Consider packing your hard plastic dishware, inexpensive stainless steel utensils and cloth napkins, and bring reusable mugs and tumblers.

2. Yard sale or second hand store
You may discover some unique picnic stock, like a vintage picnic basket or an old-school checkered tablecloth. It’s usually inexpensive going secondhand, so you won’t have to worry as much if your “new” picnic blanket gets stained. Finding supplies at home or secondhand also means you cut back on waste, spending and carbon emissions that come with every new product!

3. The Internet
Skip the driving and look for reusable products online made from recycled, organic materials. Green Dining offers an eco-picnic basket with bamboo plates, cutlery and recycled wine glasses included.

What to buy for your picnic

Can’t imagine a picnic without disposables?  Look for compostable options. EcoProducts is one good place to start, and the company sells everything from compostable cold cups, to cutlery, to food containers. Biodegradable Palm Leaf Plates are a distinctive choice, and if you handle them properly, they can be used more than once.

The environmental benefits of compostable products are numerous. They break down naturally and safely, divert waste from the landfill, reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and prevent pollution. But keep in mind that these products only biodegrade in commercial composting systems as they need higher heat to break down.

But there is one product on the market that is both picnic-friendly and revolutionary. The new SunChips bag is compostable in home piles – a concept yet to be achieved by any other packaging product.

But if there isn’t a commercial compost in your area, or you haven’t gotten started on your own pile, another green choice is to “close the loop” by purchasing products made from recycled materials.

When creating your menu, opt for foods that don't require utensils, such as sandwiches and fresh fruit. (The picture makes us hungry too!) Photo: Flickr/digiyesica

Creating your menu

Search for a farmer’s market in your area and support local farms. According to VegNews, “For every $100 spent in a local store, approximately $68 is reinvested in the community. Buying locally comes other ethical feel-goods, such as less harm on the environment and a source for jobs.”

Plus, picked at the peak of the season, the vegetables and fruits will be packed with more nutrition. Most local farmers grow organically, which reduces the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. You may also be able to find locally made bread, cheese and a bottle of wine at your farmer’s market.

If you don’t have time for the farmer’s market, look for organic and locally grown foods in the grocery store aisles. If you’re shopping on a budget and can’t afford to buy all organic, make sure you are familiar with the must-have organics.

When creating your menu, think simple. Finger foods don’t require eating utensils. Nuts, grapes, honey and peanut butter sandwiches anyone? Also, some cheeses, like Brie and Camembert, will actually taste better melted in the sun.

Finally! Have your picnic

1. Getting there
Don’t look much further than your own backyard for a picnic spot. Why sit in the car on a beautiful day? Build up an appetite, and hike or bike to your picnic spot. If hiking or biking isn’t an option, take public transportation or carpool with another family.

2. Fun activities after the meal
Picnics are more than just a meal. Bring a football and Frisbee, or relax with a book. Take along a nature and wildlife field guide for exploring hiking trails and to learn the names of native flowers, trees and animals. Instead of picking flowers, check with local authorities to see if you can plant seeds native to the area. If there is a river or lake nearby, rather than rent a motorboat, look into kayaking, sailing or fishing.

3. When it’s time to leave
Don’t leave anything behind. The picnic spot should look the same as when you arrived. If others left behind trash, scoop it up as you clean up your own. Recycle and compost what you can. Consider using the melted ice in the cooler to rinse your picnic dishes and for watering plants and flowers. Leave with a full belly and a better appreciation for Mother Nature.

Read more
8 Ways to Green a Dinner Party
Ditch Your Disposables
How Organic is Organic Food?

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