How to Have a Low-Waste Picnic

It’s National Picnic Week in the UK, and to celebrate, zero waste chef and author of More Plants, Less Waste Max La Manna has shared his tips for having a plastic-free, low-waste picnic.

It’s that of year again to go outside with a blanket, a basket full of delicious food, and have yourself an amazing picnic.  But what is the one thing we can live without for this sustainable picnic season? Plastic!

From pre-prepared sandwiches, snacks and accompaniments that come packaged in plastic; to disposable plates, cups and cutlery – picnics have the potential to generate a lot of waste.  So here are some simple and easy switches you can make right now to make your summer picnics more sustainable:

1. BYOB: I know what you’re thinking, but this the more eco-friendly version of BYOB –  ‘Bring Your Own Bag’.

Solution: As you stock up on supplies for your picnic, dodge the plastic bags in the produce section of supermarkets and take a tote/reusable bag with you. Did you know, the average plastic bag has a lifespan of 12 minutes and is used only once?

2. Get PreppingFood packaging can often be difficult to recycle, particularly that found in the fresh produce and to-go sections of supermarkets.

Solution: If you have leftovers at home already, a picnic is the perfect opportunity to use them up and share dishes with friends – simply take them along in a container. Rather than buying ready-prepared sandwiches, cakes and dips for your picnic, take the opportunity to try out some new recipes and make your own. Head to your local bakery for a freshly baked baguette (take your own bag if you can) and insert a filling of your choice; fill empty glass jars with homemade houmous; bake some cakes or cookies; and buy loose fruits and vegetables to prepare your own crudités. It might be less convenient than plastic-packaged carrot sticks, but will make your picnic all the more charming and rustic – and will cut down on waste too.

3. Ditch The Cling: Cling film ends up only being used once before being sent to landfill, as it is non-recyclable.

Solution: Rather than wrapping your sandwiches and muffins in cling film, store them in containers or use a reusable food wrap. You can then easily store any leftovers and take them home again with you, minimising food waste too.

4. Goodbye Plastic CupsForget about the plastic cups this summer because you won’t need them anymore.

Solution:  Take your own mason jar with you to drink from. Not thirsty anymore? You can also put a lid on it – now can a single use plastic cup do this for you? Don’t forget your reusable water bottle too.

5. Straws Suck: Straws suck, literally. Straws can’t be recycled and end up as a never ending stream of waste. One study published earlier this year estimated as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches. Eight million tonnes of plastic flow into the ocean every year, and straws comprise just 0.025% of that.

Solution: Skip the straws completely this summer, or pack a reusable steel or bamboo straw instead.

6. Plate It Up: Not only do plastic and paper plates become hard to hold your food after a few minutes, they also end up being discarded straight after you have eaten.

Solution: Grab a plate or bowl from home and take it along for the picnic, before taking it home again when you’re done.

7.  Less Waste: Plastic cutlery is difficult to recycle and is mostly only used once, making it extremely wasteful.

Solution: Take your own cutlery with you from home or carry your zero-waste bamboo cutlery kit with you. 

8. Rethink Your Food Waste: So you overpacked your picnic basket? We’ve all been there. 

Solution: Pack some spare containers to package up and take home any leftovers and food waste.  Here are a couple of ideas for what to do with your waste when you get home:

  • Don’t Waste Your Citrus Peels: Citrus peels end up going to waste all the time, but there can be multiple uses for these unwanted treasures. Here’s my favourite way to put those citrus peels to good use:

    Add your sliced peels to a baking tray and bake in an oven at 200F for 8-10 minutes until they have dried and shrunk in size. Next, transfer your dried peels to a blender and add 1-2 teaspoons of salt and mix well. Think about adding this leftover citrus salt to the rim of your drink – YUM!
  • What About Those Herbs? Do you have leftover herb stems from the food you’ve made or drinks you’ve prepared? You can easily create a sweet and herbaceous syrup from them. Try this simple and easy recipe:

    Add your chopped herb stems to 1 part water and 1 part sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes. Allow the liquid to cool, then transfer to a blender and mix on a high speed for 1 minute. Strain your liquid and you’re left with a no-waste herb stem syrup for your next cocktail.

These are small changes we can make to living with less waste. Together, we can make 2019 a more sustainable summer! 

For more tips on how to travel plastic-free, see Max La Manna‘s guide. 

Taking your picnic on the road? Read our guide to planning a more sustainable road trip.

See Alexandra’s plant-based BBQ recipes: Charred Asparagus With A Broad Bean And Radish SalsaCharred Herby Gem Lettuce With Lemon And Macadamia and Coffee, Banana, Almond Popsicles for dessert!