How to Have a Picnic

Having a Green Picnic

A picnic celebrates the natural world, so it's sort of pointless to have a picnic that destroys that world. Some ways to keep your picnic green:

  • Use reusable plates, cups and utensils. Plastic utensils allow you to avoid washing up, but their utility ends there. It's cheaper (and greener) to bring metal utensils from home. Toss the dirty ones into a used dish, so you can take them home for easy washing.
  • Choose cloth napkins, not paper. Ditto for the dishtowels.
  • Buy local produce from farmers' markets. In general, the less your food has traveled, the less pollution it has created.
  • Try for an all-vegetarian spread. Modern mass production of meat has high energy costs and creates a lot of pollution -- more global-warming emissions than all oil-based forms of transportation put together [source: Freston].
  • Instead of driving, bike or walk to the park. Or, if your city offers it, take mass transit or use a car-share program.
  • It should go without saying, but pick up all your trash. Abide by the camper's tradition of leaving the picnic site cleaner than it was when you found it. Better still, try not to create any trash at all. Don't use disposable containers. Recycle whatever you can, and collect food scraps for composting.
  • Don't set off fireworks such as bottle rockets, which create litter that you can't always find.

If you're serious about green eating, take it a step farther -- back to the grocery sto­re. Stop buying food that comes in nonrecyclable containers. Try to minimize your use of plastics, many of which contain petrochemicals (oil derivatives) [source: Ophart]. Look for containers made of biodegradable materials such as bulrushes or corn-based polymers. And abide by Michael Pollan's maxim: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" [source: Pollan]. It's a safe assumption that any food that has been synthesized or processed has been responsible for some pollution.

Following these tips can help you ensure that you'll be able to come back to the same picnic spot, year after year. Go ahead -- start a tradition!

To learn more, visit the links below.

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More Great Links


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  • Freston, Kathy. "Eating Vegetarian is Taking Global Warming Personally." Alternet. November 20, 3007. (Accessed 2/5/09)
  • Ophart, Charles. "Petrochemicals." Elmhurst College: Virtual ChemBook. 2003. (Accessed 2/5/09)
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