Your guide to a waste-free picnic season

Avoid the waste without losing the taste with these tips from GreenUP

GreenUP staff enjoy a picnic at Ecology Park in Peterborough using waste-free and reusable alternatives to disposable and single-use food packing options. Stainless steel containers, water bottles, reusable drinking boxes, lunch bags, totes, and fabric snack bags -- available at the GreenUP Store -- will help you create a convenient, nutritious, and fun picnic. (Photo: Vern Bastable / GreenUP)
GreenUP staff enjoy a picnic at Ecology Park in Peterborough using waste-free and reusable alternatives to disposable and single-use food packing options. Stainless steel containers, water bottles, reusable drinking boxes, lunch bags, totes, and fabric snack bags -- available at the GreenUP Store -- will help you create a convenient, nutritious, and fun picnic. (Photo: Vern Bastable / GreenUP)

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy!

Beachside picnics and road trips may be on the horizon for your family this season. Have you ever noticed how food just tastes better outside? When I was a child, the highlight of summertime ventures often included the fun meals and snacks enjoyed in the great outdoors.

When looking for ways to make picnic packing more efficient, we can also strive to reduce our waste and minimize our reliance on single-use disposables.

When preparing for your family outing, instead of planning to stop for fast food, try to anticipate most of your family’s needs and pack food, beverages, and other picnic necessities in advance.

Take the time to plan and prepare for your outing by anticipating your en route food and drink needs. It’s a great idea to fill your water bottle, and maybe even a spare one, for each member of your family.

If your family is a fan of juice boxes, you can substitute them with a refillable version offered at the GreenUP Store. To cut down on sugar, try making some home-brewed fruit-infused water; simply add berries or cucumber to your water bottle. A quick Google search will bring up some great recipes too, which will make for a special drink without the unnecessary sugar or packaging.

If you’re planning for a road trip, consider packing your cooler with a little more food than you think you need, just in case. Ultimately, the needs that you don’t anticipate may lead to unnecessary purchases, such as a bottled beverage, which means yet another item will go to landfill.

GreenUP Store Coordinator Kristen Larocque with the many non-disposable and reusable products available at the GreenUP Store to help you have a zero-waste picnic or outing. (Photo: GreenUP)
GreenUP Store Coordinator Kristen Larocque with the many non-disposable and reusable products available at the GreenUP Store to help you have a zero-waste picnic or outing. (Photo: GreenUP)

Items packed for single servings, such as granola bars, may seem convenient but their wrapper is not recyclable and will end up in the landfill. Consider baking your own nutrient-rich alternative. If you bake large batches you can freeze the extras and thaw bars as needed. This is a great way to save time and money.

In addition, there are hundreds of blog posts and online articles that feature picnic ideas. One of my favourite picnic menu items is fresh fruit or vegetable skewers.

The GreenUP Store carries a wide variety of alternatives to make your picnic packing easy. Consider replacing plastic zip bags with reusable fabric snack bags made in Canada by Colibri. These fun patterned bags offer the element of surprise and the novelty of opening a package. They are reusable, easy to wipe out at the end of the day, and can be tossed in the washing machine when they need a deeper clean.

Plastic wrap can also be replaced with a reusable alternative: beeswax food wraps are reusable, washable, and compostable after a year of regular use. This is also a great option if packing light is at the top of your priority list.

If you are headed to the beach and have plenty of carrying capacity, a basket or cooler loaded with stainless steel containers full of delicious eats can easily meet your family’s meal and snack needs. Reusable stainless steel containers, thermoses, and water bottles are hard wearing, long lasting, light, and free of BPA and other harmful toxins.

The GreenUP Store offers zero-waste items such as Abeego, a natural, reusable, eco-conscious food storage option created with hemp/cotton fabric infused with a blend of beeswax and plant extracts. (Photo: GreenUP)
The GreenUP Store offers zero-waste items such as Abeego, a natural, reusable, eco-conscious food storage option created with hemp/cotton fabric infused with a blend of beeswax and plant extracts. (Photo: GreenUP)

If you have to purchase meals en route, you can try to select an option with less packaging. For example, choosing a burrito wrapped in paper is a more environmentally friendly option than a full-sized meal packed in a Styrofoam take-out container, which is not recyclable in the City of Peterborough as of 2016.

Another option when, for example, visiting a roadside food truck, is to bring your own container and ask if your take-out food can be put in your reusable alternative. And, when it comes to ice cream, choose a cone, which is a waste-free and edible alternative to the disposable bowl and spoon option.

Rather than using disposable paper plates and plastic utensils, bring along some reusable stainless steel plates and cups, along with a bamboo utensil set. Consider keeping a set of utensils and a cloth napkin in your car or purse, ready for when you need it. The GreenUP Stores carries these kinds of products in addition to the ever popular stainless steel straws! You can buy them in bulk without the packaging, or in packs of four with a cleaning brush.

Summer outings, complete with picnic or road-tripping snacks, offer an opportunity for parents to instill healthy eating habits and foster environmental responsibility in their children.

The GreenUP Store offers a variety of tools to help you create a convenient, nutritious, and fun picnic. We carry many reusable stainless steel container options in many sizes including Planet Box, and many other brands that feature easy-to-open lids, silicone seals, and insulated double-walls for keeping meals warm or cold. We have reusable bottles, drinking boxes, lunch bags and totes, fabric snack bags, and more!

For more information, visit www.greenup.on.ca/greenup-store/ or come to the GreenUP Store at 378 Aylmer Street in downtown Peterborough. You can also contact the GreenUP store at 705-745-3238 ext. 222 or email kristen.larocque@greenup.on.ca with your zero-waste picnic questions.

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GreenUP
For more than 20 years, GreenUP has been central and eastern Ontario's leading organization focused on issues of environmental education, sustainability, and stewardship. GreenUP is a non-profit charity and an active community organization that offers dozens of programs and services to those living in the Peterborough & Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario. GreenUP's programs focus on facilitating positive action and provide the tools to make small changes in the home or cottage that can create a large and lasting impact on our environment. You can follow GreenUP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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