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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Planet-Friendly Picnicking: Strategies for a Plastic-Free Outing

Plastic-free picnic set up outdoors with basket, small grill, blanket, serve wear and food

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Summer is the ideal time to break bread with loved ones, toss a Frisbee and celebrate the great outdoors, but too many of us believe that picnics require single-use plastics. In the name of convenience and easy cleanup, we bring plastic plates and cutlery, a stack of disposable cups and even a plastic tablecloth. When our fun in the sun is over, an avalanche of non-biodegradable offenders ends up in landfills to pollute our environment and waterways. 

It’s time to level up our picnicking game by going plastic-free. With a little planning, simple swap-outs are easy and less costly in the long run. Here are a few tips.

Serve Homemade and Bulk Foods: Instead of processed goodies like chips and candy that come in plastic packaging, guests will love Mom’s gluten-free brownies and mixed nuts from the bulk aisle. Bring a chef’s knife and portable cutting board to slice fresh vegetables and a watermelon from the farmers market rather than precutting and stowing them in Ziploc bags.

Employ Reusable Containers and Bags: The same eco-friendly carriers we use at home can be taken to picnics, including cloth shopping bags, stainless steel food containers, beeswax wraps, Mason jars, resealable silicone pouches and cloth or knit drawstring bags for bulk items. Everything comes home and gets thrown into the washer for easy cleanup.

Get Ice Cubes from Home: Stopping for a plastic bag of ice from a convenience store seems synonymous with a picnic, but it’s time to break that bad habit. Put ice cubes from the freezer into a stainless steel food storage container and drop it in an insulated bag or cooler to keep items cold and provide clean ice for drinks.

Bring Reusable Plates and Utensils: While plates, cups and cutlery from our kitchens can perform double duty at picnics, more lightweight options made of eco-friendly materials like bamboo and stainless steel abound. Assign each person one reusable cup and a set of utensils for the gathering.

Offer Plastic-Free Drinks: Single-use, plastic water bottles are out. Bring big jugs of water and homemade lemonade or iced tea. Stainless steel straws complete the plastic-free replacement.

Unfold Real Tablecloths: Add charm with a couple of genuine tablecloths to drape over a picnic table and spread on the ground, with matching cloth napkins to boot. Then pop them in the laundry before the next outing.