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How to Picnic Plastic-Free

 

"For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it."

-- Jacques-Yues Cousteau


We can’t all be called Jacques. Nor do we all have a wet suit, expertise in oceanography, photography and other impressive talents.

Yet this moving quote by Jacques-Yves Cousteau can still inspire us to make change in humble ways that will steer humanity toward a more sustainable future: “For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”

Thankfully, the tides are turning and humanity is now striving to save – with acts big and small — what we once sought to destroy.

As summertime begins and families head to the great outdoors to relish the summer months of fun, there are easy and fun ways to celebrate our love of Mother Nature by revising and reconsidering our habits. No act is too small to make a difference!

Picnics and barbecues, which often result in excessive waste that is difficult to recycle, can be a great change-making opportunity.

As Gandhi said succinctly, “Action expresses priorities.” So let’s challenge ourselves to host the greenest outdoor celebrations we can this summer. This is a great way to be a quotidian crusader for nature!

Step 1: Ditch the Car!

Pick a picnic spot you can walk, bike, boat or you can get to with public transit. If that’s not possible, carpool with friends.

Step 2: Shop Local! 

Shop at your local Farmer’s Market or produce stand for a local and organically grown menu. Studies show that if $100 is spent at a national chain or “big-box store”, only $43 is recirculated into our local economy. However, for every $100 spent at an independently-owned small business, approximately $68 is reinvested into our community’s economy.

Great produce makes the chef’s job super easy! Think simple. Finger foods like cut fruits, nuts, local honey and peanut butter sandwiches are simple and nourishing for all ages. Also, some cheeses, like Brie and Camembert, are lovely softened in the sun over fresh baked bread.

Make your own beverage and serve in a pitcher. That way you don’t have to deal with all the cans and bottles.

Step 3: No excuse for Single-use!

Say goodbye to throw-aways and plastics. Too often outdoor celebrations generate excessive waste because organizers are concerned about using breakable tableware outdoors and the hassle of cleaning up reusable.

One idea is to ask picnickers to BYO- dishes, water bottles, utensils, etc… This can be done tastefully if you explain you’re hosting a zero waste party and need some help to accomplish this in the great outdoors.

If that’s not your style, pack a sturdy cardboard box with reusables to share with your invitees, such asstainless steel picnic plates, assorted reusable utensils, cotton washable napkins, mason jars for sturdy plastic-free cups, etc… You’ll have some washing afterwards, but you’ll be feeling so happy with the money you’ve saved by not buying expensive throw-aways and the feel-great reduction of your trash, you probably won’t care there’s extra work.

Avoid plastic as much as possible since it’s not biodegradable and less than 1 percent of plastics are diverted to recycling. The remaining 99 percent of plastics go to the landfill or the environment, like our oceans where accumulations of debris are collecting in devastating “garbage patches.”

Step 4: Pack reusable!

Bring reusable picnic blankets and decorate tables with washable tablecloths – instead of disposables. To bring extra joy to your celebration, add fresh-cut flowers or found objects from nature to your table arrangement.

Step 5: Clean up responsibly!

Have bins for recycling, compost and waste clearly marked and available for use by your guests. Pack out your waste and put to the curb at home where garbage service is offered for recycling and waste and in some areas even compost. Often at parks, commercial waste cannot be segregated and even if left in a marked bag as “recycling” or “compost” it will be thrown out as trash.

Step 6: Make it Happen!

Celebrate the joy of making a difference and knowing, as Gandhi said, “Action expresses priorities.” Let’s be green – and act green while picnicking!

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