A picnic is a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature. But in order to make sure our picnics don't have a negative impact on the environment, it's important to take an eco-friendly approach. With just a little bit of planning, we can benefit both ourselves and the planet. Read our guide on how to have an eco-friendly and sustainable picnic.
We Brits love our picnics, just a hint of sunshine and we can be found reaching for the hamper and rug and heading for the nearest beauty spot, or even just our back garden for a spot of al fresco dining.
How do picnics affect the environment?
Unfortunately picnics can generate a lot of waste; whilst it's convenient, picking up ready prepared foods and bottles of drinks from the supermarket result in a whole stack of plastic packaging waste, much of which can end up in landfill if local bins are not sorted for recycling.
The UK is implementing a banon many single use plastic items like cutlery this year, and for good reason. Here are some of the shocking statistics about single use plastic (Source EarthDay.Org)
- 380 million metric tons of plastic are produced yearly and around half of this is single use
- Approximately 91% of this is not recycled so reduction is the only solution
- 14 million tons of discarded plastic waste ends up in our oceans, every year
- More than two million pieces of litter are dropped in the UK every day
But it doesn't take much to drastically reduce the amount of single use plastic in order to have an eco-friendly picnic.
Top tips on how you make a picnic more sustainable
With reusable picnic wear, reusable picnic cutlery and our selection of best lunchboxes for every kind of picnic food!
1) Low waste, delicious picnic food
Picnicking is all about the food, but it can be difficult to find pre-made picnic food that is both sustainable and low waste. Fortunately, by planning ahead and making your own, there are plenty of delicious options available that can help make your picnic more sustainable and enjoyable:
- Salads are simple and can be fun to prepare - if you are picnicking with children, ask them to join in and help you prep their favourite salad and veggies - carrot sticks are always top of the list but add in sliced cucumbers and some sugar snaps, some celery and even raw broccoli and you have a full on crudités board!
- Unpackaged fruits like apples, pears and peaches are easy to transport whole or you can cut them up before and take in snack packs or containers for convenience.
- Small, multi packs of crisps seem like an easy solution - but you'll be regretting having six or more small plastic packets to chase around and try and pick up before they litter the park! Instead try packing a large cloth bag or reusable snack packs with crisps or snacks from a large bag decanted at home. If you are feeling adventurous try making your own plastic free snacks eg:
- Sweet Potato Crisps
- Crunchy Chick Peas
- If sandwiches are your picnic go to, and you have a big group to cater for, try buying whole baguettes and taking along fillings to cater for all tastes (and let people make their own sandwiches!).
2) Reusable Picnic Sets
Reusable picnic sets are an excellent way to reduce waste and enjoy a sustainable lunch outdoors. Having the right kit makes it much easier; whether you're heading to the park or the beach, having a complete set of bamboo picnic utensils, a stainless steel lunchbox, and a reusable drinks bottle will make your picnic more enjoyable and eco-friendly. With these items, you can reduce your environmental footprint and still enjoy delicious meals in the great outdoors.
Reusable Food Containers
Reusables are essential when preparing a sustainable picnic.
But you'll be pleased to know you don't have to rush out and buy everything new - you probably have many more suitable reusables than you realise!
Use your school/work lunch boxes, use tea-towels, wax wraps, your takeout coffee cup, gym or school water bottles and produce or shopping bags.
The beauty of using reusables is not having to cart home (or try and find a bin for) bags of rubbish!
If you need to update your kit we recommend:
- For salads - Doda leak resistant lunchbox
- For wet foods like pasta bakes - Qwetch leak proof lunchbox
- For soups (cold days are picnic days too!) - Qwetch food jar
- For sarnies and snacks - Food wraps and baggies
- For chopped fruit and veggie sticks with a dip - Rampur lunchbox with mini container
- For whole fruits and bread - Abeego beeswax wrap large
- For wrapping leftovers and keeping food fresh - Abeego beeswax wraps
The UK goes through a staggering 14 billion plastic drinks/water bottles a year. What a waste!
Remember your reusable bottle - you can choose smaller individual bottles, insulated so everyone has their own cold drink or you can pack a large 1.5litre bottle to make sure everyone is keeping hydrated. At just £28, imagine how many plastic waste and how much money this will save you over the years and years of it's long life.
You might take along a coffee or be tempted to grab one if there's a take away nearby (let's be real - we ALL do it!) and wouldn't it be a shame to have to find a bin for the only piece of singe use for the day - so why not pack a reusable cup (just in case). The collapsible HUNU are perfect and wont take up much room in your picnic bag or hamper. Here's our suggestions:
- 1.5 litre insulated bottle
- Insulated bottles all sizes
- Hunu collapsible coffee cup
- Insulated travel cups
Don't forget the cutlery - trying to eat yoghurt without a spoon might remind us of being a child with finger paints, but it's a lot easier to eat when you remember your reusable cutlery! The Bambu travel spork is the perfect 'spoon/fork' combo and so small you can fit it in your pocket!
Try these other reusable picnic cutlery ideas
- Bambu cutlery set - a proper knife, fork and spoon set in sustainable bamboo
- Bambu travel set - in a handy sleeve
- Eat drink tool kit - also contains a straw and chopsticks!
3) Clean hands and faces
Hands and face tend to get a little grubby and sticky when we're picnicking. Not just the children either, adults will get messy trying to keep up with the kids! Instead of packing the baby wipes why not try a reusable option. Because the majority of baby wipes 1) are made with plastic 2) come in a plastic packet 3) block sewers and drains and add to plastic pollution 4) smell disgusting!
Or keep your reusable wipes in a lunch box or snack bag, moisten then before you leave home and simply put through the wash when you get home.
4) Litter? What's the problem?
Picnics are fun, but what is not fun is trying to find a bin to throw away your rubbish. In the summer months, bins in parks and other public areas are full to overflowing and dumping a bag of rubbish NEXT to a bin is not the same as disposing of rubbish responsibly.
Wind can disperse the rubbish all over the area and wildlife will almost certainly be attracted by the smell and may well be harmed or even killed by packaging and leftovers. Not to mention attracting rats and also creating a local hazard for people using the area, especially families and dog walkers.
The truth is, litter, especially plastic packaging is devastating to wildlife.
So, why not try and picnic without waste. With the right kit and a bit of planning you should have a minimum of waste to dispose of - and you can pop that into one of your now empty food containers and take it home to recycle or dispose of responsibly.
For our full range of picnic products and inspiration, check out our 'Eco- friendly and reusable picnic essentials' collection!
Add in a few drinks for the summer, some sunscreen and a beautiful ReSpiin throw to relax on and you have the recipe for a perfect British picnic!
With just a few swaps and a little preparation it’s easy to upgrade your picnic from single use to sustainable and enjoy the benefits of not playing 'hunt the bin'!
Now, where did that sunshine go?