I absolutely adore picnics. Getting to eat surrounded by trees and the sound of nature makes me feel so at peace. You get to play good music, read, sit in the sun, munch on yummy treats and (more often than not) meet a bunch of gorgeous dogs.
Alex and I try to go on little date days to do something special but simple and inexpensive to spend some quality time together away from the day-to-day we so often get caught up in. So, this weekend we decided to go out for a picnic! We went to a spot where the last time we had a picnic we were not zero waste and definitely not vegan. Realising people may not know how to make their picnics fit their new lifestyles, I thought I'd share how we do it. (disclaimer, ours was not perfectly zero waste, this is a little special treat for us so we had a plastic treat to go with it!)
The first photo is from our picnic in 2016 in the same area - spot the 8 plastic packaged items, which were actually all of our food items. They were all from M&S and three of them are animal products. The only thing we bought from home was the lemonade. We did however bring reusable cups, plates, cutlery, and bags. However this was not necessarily down to being environmentally aware but simply because that was how things had always been done in my house. The second instead shows our zero waste n vegan picnic last sunday. We have no animal products, one plastic packaged item which was vegan cheese, and almost everything bought from home!
So, how can you make a picnic zero waste?
Reusable plates, cutlery, cups, hankies, and containers can save a lot of waste you may otherwise create in situations like this. I would generally opt for glass, steel, and bamboo. If you have kids and silverware/knives are not something you feel is child friendly then bamboo cutlery such as the to go set is a good option. I would also suggest the brand zuperzozial for child friendly reusable plates, cups, and cutlery. They make products that feel like plastic that are not going to break if a child drops them, made from biodegradable corn and bamboo materials making them very eco-friendly. They are also dishwasher safe so easy when you are tired after a picnic! We have their mugs and really like them, though they can stain easily. I would also recommend the brand re-play which up-cycle milk bottles into plates, containers, and cutlery. They are super kid friendly products and of course up-cycled products are great to support, they can be found at livezero for those living in Hong Kong. You can also of course use durable plastics you may already have in the home like the glasses we used above. For big groups I would recommend the bamboo and companies listed above as they are extremely lightweight.
Favour foods easy to get plastic free
Fruits, vegetables, bread etc are much more easily found plastic free (and package free) in comparison to crisps, sweets, and other processed packaged food. If you favour the foods that are simple to get plastic free then it's much easier to have a hassle free zero waste picnic. Choose veggie sticks for dips instead of crisps, bread instead of crackers, and fruits instead of sweets. We bought eric kayser bread from our local supermarket that comes in recyclable (and compostable) paper.
Bring more from home
Of course this one requires more preparation - but it doesn't have to be complicated. If you can make a few simple dishes in advance it can save so much plastic waste from landfill that you would otherwise create when buying everything out. For example we made some hummus, takes 5 minutes, and you can make a quick three-minute guacamole etc. We also made some pasta salad with some leftover salad so it didn't take any time at all. If you are in a big group you can do this by having everyone bring a small contribution, my friends and I used to do this when we had picnics and you end up with a whole bunch of varied delicious food - and you only had to make one thing!
You don't have to make everything yourself though. You can easily go to a local cake shop and buy some nice desserts in your own container. Same goes for cold cuts and cheese (though of course, the more plant-based the more environmentally friendly). Off topic slightly but I've found that creamy dips like hummus can be a great replacement for cheese and crackers, I was a huge cheese fanatic and when I get a cheese craving that does it for me! You should also try to bring your own water to avoid any plastic water bottles you may buy. I would bring the largest bottles you have, the more the better just in case you don't have access to fountains. If this is too heavy try to check the picnic destination in advance to see if they have water fountains available. Same goes for drinks, especially with kids I know that juices and drinks are always wanted on a picnic, so you could try to involve them in some of the planning and make a simple lemonade which is totally zero waste! No plastic packaged juice bottles in sight (you can get some nice ones in glass to if that's a better option for you)
What we bought: water, grapes, raisins, an apple, hummus, raspberries, pasta salad, bread, cucumber + celery + carrot sticks, and miyoko's vegan cheese wheel. It was our first time trying it (as a treat) wasn't massively impressed with it as a creamy cheese replacement though it wasn't bad - definitely not worth the plastic for us and won't be buying again anytime soon.
Bought a cheese board, our to go bamboo sets, a steel knife, a hankie, bamboo bowls, and glass + steel containers to pack all of our food. We also had two hard plastic glasses from pre zero waste days, water in our bottles and lemonade in a glass jar.
Overall it was a successful zero waste and vegan picnic. Your life doesn't need to involve loads of preparation or only eating at home once you go zero waste, you can still do everything you did before but with the knowledge on how to do it without harming our planet, happy picnic-ing! x