During the summer months, dining al fresco with friends makes the perfect weekend plan. However, this often leads to a mass of plastic — left behind, or otherwise used in transit to the picnic spot.
Store-bought picnic foods create a plastic burden. They’re obviously convenient: easy, fresh, transportable, and they don’t make a mess in your bag. But these grab-and-go products contribute to a throw-away culture. Plastic bags, containers, straws, cutlery, and cups get thrown into overflowing bins (and sadly, on the grass), leaving our favorite spots looking a lot less beautiful. And of course, there’s the lasting impact on the planet.
With some planning, it’s possible to “picnic without plastic.” And make sure you pick up any mess (you or others) leave behind.
First, look in your fridge and see what you’ve already got on hand before you buy anything more. Consider this adage: “The most sustainable purchase is the one you didn’t buy.” If you can reduce the amount you need to buy, you’ve reduced the amount of plastic you’re going to use.
Are there veggies or fruits you can make into salads? Type your ingredients into Google and see what comes up. Do you have a tin of chickpeas? It’s really quick and easy to make hummus. The same goes for guacamole, salsa, and other dips. Pack your own sandwiches with your favorite fillings. Have fun making sweet treats as well; for example, banana bread from bananas that are a little past their prime.
Once you’ve worked with what you’ve got, head to the shops for a few picnic extras. Planning is key: write a list and stick to it so that you don’t get enticed by things you don’t need. Bring your own tote bag(s) so you don’t need to use plastic ones. Buy loose fruit and veggies where you can; check the deli counter to see if you can fill up your own Tupperware with fresh goods.
So you’ve made some tasty salads and sandwiches, and bought some loose bits from the supermarket – now how are you going to get it all to the picnic site?
Nope, not in plastic bags, bottles, and cellophane. Take a reusable bottle and fill it with your beverage of choice. For sandwiches, use beeswax wraps that can be washed and reused for other picnics. For dips, empty peanut butter and jelly jars are perfect. You can use reusable wooden cutlery and metal straws too.
Picking it up
If you’ve planned and packed effectively, then packing up will be a simple case of putting your tubs, jars, wraps, and bottles back in your bag to be cleaned and reused next time. But even once you’ve tidied your space, do something for the community and clean up after those who are less considerate.
Have a quick glance around for trash that can be recycled or binned, before you head off. But if you want to make even more of an impact, try gathering a group to go “litter picking” with you. There might already be community groups doing park clean-ups that you can help with – if not, it’s time to start your own. You just need litter pickers, bin bags (try to provide different options for recyclable and non-recyclable waste), protective gloves, and hand sanitizer.
Let’s keep our open spaces looking pretty… and picnic-perfect!