It's easy to plan a nature-friendly picnic if you stock up on a few reusable items you can keep handy so you don't need to use a lot of throw-aways.
Your Picnic Basket
Comfort Channel offers well-stocked Bamboo Picnic Baskets complete with tablecloth, salt & pepper shakers, a cheese cutting board, and "deluxe service for four."
Or, make your own. Pick up a basket at a yard sale or at Target. Fill it with a tablecloth and napkins you're ready to retire from regular kitchen use. Add silverware, durable and reusable plates and cups, and small salt and pepper shakers you can buy cheaply at the dollar store. After every picnic, restock your basket with these essentials, and you'll always be ready for the next event (and you won't need to worry about paper plates and cups or throwaway cutlery).
The Picnic Basket Backpack works if you want to picnic after you take a hike. The green nylon backpack picnic kit holds a complete set of metal utensils for two, two reusable plastic wine glasses, two reusable plastic plates, a metal corkscrew and bottle opener, cutting board, cheese knife, napkins, and a picnic spread. The pack also includes thermally shielded and insulated food compartment, and an insulated and detachable wine pouch.
- Pack food in Tupperware or Rubbermaid-type containers that can be reused.
- Take drinks in reusable jugs; if using bottles or cans, take them home for recycling.
If buying durable plastic plates, cups or cutlery, check the recycling codes on the items to make sure you're getting the safest option.
- #3 Vinyl / PVC (polyvinyl chloride - PVC releases carcinogenic dioxins into the environment when it's manufactured; it can also leach hormone-disrupting phthalate plasticizers into food at high temperatures
- #6 PS (polystyrene) - Polystyrene is a key ingredient in foam coffee cups and take-out containers; it can leach styrene, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen.
- #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) is durable and widely recyclable.
- #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) is used in some food wraps and sandwich bags.
- #5 PP (polypropylene) is found in reusable containers; it is not frequently recycled.
- #1 PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) - PET bottles, like big soda bottles, are generally safe for one-time use. Some studies show that, with repeated use, PET bottles may release endocrine-disrupting compounds. Don't reuse PET bottles. Do recycle them (they're being recycled into clothing, carpeting, and park benches!).
- #7 includes polycarbonate, a transparent plastic that is found in Nalgene Lexan and other sport bottles, baby bottles and some food containers. Polycarbonate contains hormone-disrupting bisphenol A, which may stray into contents when stressed by heat or age.
- Stainless steel
- A thermos bottle with a glass liner
The Thermos Stainless Steel Beverage Bottle #2550 keeps drinks cold or soups, coffee, tea and hot chocolate hot 10 times longer than plastic. Sigg 's .6-liter Oval Traveler Reusable Bottle in stainless steel is another option.
If you need to buy throwaways, consider these options:
- Nat-Ur Outdoor Picnic Set sells -10 cups, 10 forks, 10 spoons, 10 knives, fruit "biocontainer" and a trash bag made from biodegradable, corn-based materials at www.nat-urstore.com
- Greenware sells biodegradable cold-drink cups
- GreenFeet sells Seventh Generation's paper plates made from 100% recycled paper whitened without chlorine bleach.
For the barbecue.
Use a metal charcoal chimney, and skip the lighter fluid. Simply fill the cylinder with charcoal, bunch up newspaper under the charcoal, and light the paper to heat the coals. When the coals are red hot you flip the cylinder over and pour the coals into the grill. Get the chimney cheap at most hardware stores. Alternatively, use a portable gas grill, which generates less air pollution than charcoal.
As for those bugs. remember that a few ants come with the territory (it's their territory you're picnicking in, after all!). You can minimize pesky intrusions by observing where you throw down your picnic blanket. Try to avoid obvious ant hills, snake holes, bee hives, and other locations that would put you in direct confrontation with Nature's more natural creatures.
If mosquitoes are a problem, use a natural bug repellent that works for you. Skeeter Scatter is one option. You can find several others at Skin Deep.
And if you want to picnic but not stray from your own backyard, enjoy yourself at a recycled plastic picnic table from Eco-products.com.