Summer is upon us my loves, and if there is anything that screams summer it is PICNICS!
Picnics are one of my all-time favorite things. I have fond memories of picnicking with my family as a child. Our favorite place to go was the science and nature museum in Worcester, Massachusetts, better known as the EcoTarium. All of my four brothers, my parents and I would explore the museum, admiring the bounty of information about animals, insects, our solar system and more! At lunch time, instead of buying food from the museum's cafe, we would have our prepared picnic basket full of organic goodies. You could expect nothing less from my parents who are also holistic doctors and yoga-loving crunchies.
As I grew older and became more "woke" in relation to waste, I realized how destructive picnics can be on the environment when approached in an unsustainable way. While we all likely have innocent intent for our picnics, we must carefully look at the things we are packing, and how we are sourcing them. Food wrappers, water bottles, and even food are often left behind at popular picnicking locations, leaving wildlife and our environment to pay the consequences. I relocated to San Diego, California about a year ago and quickly became a frequent beach goer. Surfing being my all-time favorite reason to go to the beach, and an occasional picnic with a group of friends just as tempting. It saddens me to admit that of all of the hundreds of time I have visited the beach, not once have I failed to find trash. Waste is a huge issue in our world. In the case of a plastic bag, a person is expected to use the bag for an average of only 12 minutes. Only one plastic bag in every 200 we use are recycled, and each year an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. Yikes... And this is just one item that goes to waste every minute of every day! We can do better.
Let's start small today with how we approach our picnics. Below you will find my top 6 tips for having a low impact, waste-free picnic that is totally delicious.
Buy Your Goodies in Bulk
The snacks that you bring on your picnic will be the main source of potential waste. This is because the majority of snacks that you find in the store are packaged in non-recyclable, non-biodegradable packaging. To avoid this kind of waste, bring reusable organic cotton produce bags to the store and head to the bulk station. See a How to Shop Zero Waste video here. Load up on delicious and easy snacks such as trail mix, dried fruits and granola. When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, stock up on the not-so-messy finger foods such as cut up carrots, cucumbers, celery, kale, bananas, dates, apples and oranges. As for storage, get creative with jars and metal tins.
Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year. Stay hydrated responsibly! Bring your own reusable water bottle, along with other bottles filled with festive drinks such as homemade kombucha, fresh squeezed lemonade, or even iced green tea. I like to use Klean Kanteen! They have a great growler for spirits, if you are into that.
Bring Your Own Utensils
According to the Clean Air Council, enough paper and plastic utensils are thrown away every year to circle the equator 300 times. It is estimated that close to 40 billion individual plastic utensils—meaning 14 and 18 billion plastic spoons—are produced each year, and with such low rates of reuse and recycling, most of them end up in our landfills, beaches and oceans. They are likely to remain there for hundreds of thousands of years. This astounding figure gives businesses an easy opportunity to show their customers they authentically care about the environment by doing away with these unnecessary pollutants and replacing them with environmentally friendly utensils. To be a part of the change, say no to single-use disposables and bring your own reusable utensils! Stainless steel utensils from the kitchen are my go-to.
Bring an Empty Jar for Compost & Recyclables
If you are bringing fresh produce, chances are you will have some compostable waste. Bring an empty jar for storage. Additionally, if you have any items that can be recycled, bring a reusable bag or jar for storage so that you can properly discard post-picnicking.
Make Friends with Ecofriendly Products
Okay, so we now know about the waste that can come from food, but what about our products? Things like sunscreen can be just as harmful as a plastic chip bag. Although sunscreen is a great protectant from UVA (these cause aging) and UVB (these cause you to burn) rays, some sunscreens have ingredients in them that are harmful to ocean health and human health. In fact, scientists believe oxybenzone, a chemical found in more than 3,500 sunscreens and other cosmetic products, is causing serious damage to coral reefs and coral. Switch to an ecofriendly and health-friendly alternative, such as Alba Organics. You also may fancy a DIY project where you make your own sunscreen. Recipe coming soon!
Make Friends with Strangers
And lastly, don't be afraid to make friends with your fellow beach goers. I am serious! You are reading this blog post because you are already aware that there is a better, less wasteful approach to picnic going. The chances that strangers you encounter while picnicking are as passionate and interested about reducing waste are pretty slim. Start the conversation. To passerby who love the way you've set up your picnic with your pretty jars, containers and fresh produce, tell them you are proud to be hosting a completely waste-free picnic! In my experience, strangers light up when they see that you are passionate about a good cause.
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Now go grab your darling picnic basket, your blanket and happy picnickin' loves! 😉 See you soon.