How To Have An Eco-Friendly Picnic
With the weather finally warming up and the school summer holidays fast approaching, many will be heading to parks and other green open spaces to have picnics over the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, what many people don't realise, or forget in the excitement of the outing, is that picnics are a huge contributor to plastic pollution and create excessive waste and littering.
A study in the summer of 2015 found that 3,000 tonnes of waste was collected by London's Royal Parks team alone and it has been increasing every year since.
This doesn't mean that we should all stop participating in this fun outdoor activity but it does mean that we should be making more eco-conscious decisions when planning a picnic to ensure that we don't continue to contribute to the growing problem of waste, plastic and pollution and more.
There is an undeniable link between picnic season and the amount of litter found in parks and open green spaces; the reason often being cited as 'indifference and procrastination'.
People gather with friends and family, enjoy food and drinks, play some games, listen to some music and then leave without taking a second thought for the waste they are also leaving behind.
It doesn't take more than a minute for everyone to gather their rubbish and dispose of it correctly, yet many people think it isn't an issue worth worrying about or spending some time on fixing.
When next at a picnic, take some time to pick up your waste and put it in a bin, of which there are usually many in public parks, and preferably a recycling one so that it doesn't end up being blown by the wind into the nearest river or stream.
If there is not a bin in a convenient location, or if they are all full, then it is still your responsibility to find somewhere appropriate to dispose of it all. This often means taking it home.
Fortunately, being that you would be required to bring a large bag with you to the picnic in order to carry the food, drinks, cutlery etc., you've got no excuse for not being able to pack everything up, including the waste, and carry it home with you.
It can be helpful to have a dedicated picnic bag in your home so that you feel less uncomfortable with filling it with rubbish and you are more likely to clean it after every use because you know that it is always being used to carry food.
Find alternatives for plastic products
Picnics are an activity that – as a result of their very nature – requires the use of travel-friendly utensils and food storage which is why there is an increased use of disposable cutlery, cups, plates and cling film during this season.
We instinctively shop for the single-use plastic products that we know are inexpensive and don't require any effort of clean-up afterwards as they can just be thrown away. But these are the items causing a huge percentage of the plastic pollution problem because they are cheap, disposable and usually discarded of in the wrongs ways (i.e. littering or in the bin instead of recycling).
Picnics shouldn't mean plastics. There are many eco-friendly picnic products on the market, from biodegradable straws to beeswax wraps, that are great for days at the park and outdoor eating and, since many of these items are reusable, they end up working out to be more cost-effective than the harmful plastic options.
Start by shopping our range of reusable coffee cups to serve drinks at your next picnic.
Keep it local
One thing that we often forget when we talk about eco-friendly choices is that our emissions are also a crucial contributing factor to environmental issues. Long, unnecessary car journeys are causing a rise in pollution and CO2 emissions so we need to reduce our individual carbon footprint by cutting down on these trips.
Instead of driving needless miles to a destination spot to get some good pictures for social media, why not explore some local spaces that you may have neglected but look just as good.
If you are meeting up with a group of people who don't live locally then you can consider carpooling so that you use as little cars as possible to make the trip.
Furthermore, when picnicking locally, the simple fact that you are having a picnic means that the weather is good enough to go for a walk to the park or green space in which the picnic is taking place rather than driving there at all.
Only take what you need
This ties in slightly to the littering problem as being conscious about how much stuff you actually take to a picnic will mean that there is far less waste at the end of it.
It is easy to get carried away when preparing a picnic, especially when there are a large group of people attending it. You pack a few more snacks and sandwiches than you actually need under the guise that it's better to have too much than not enough and this often results in a lot of wasted food and drinks that only end up in the bin.
Instead, make a more conscious effort not to over-pack by only taking what is actually needed. There is no expectation to bring exactly the right amount of food for everyone but it is usually very clear when there is an excess and, if you do want to take some extra things, make sure that these are items that can be rewrapped, stored away and taken home for later.
Making eco-friendly choices is not as difficult as many perceive it to be, it just requires a little effort and thought behind the preparation, travel and purchasing decisions. No one gets it right all of the time but even if you make only a few small changes to make your picnics more sustainable, it will go a long way towards protecting the planet.