How to organize an eco-friendly picnic

How to organize an eco-friendly picnic

Spread out the blanket, sit down, unpack the food – for many of us, a picnic is as much a part of summer as a visit to the outdoor pool or an ice cream cone. When you walk through the park and watch other people having a picnic, you might start wondering how much waste can be generated in a simple activity like a picnic. No wonder that many waste bins in the park are literally overflowing. Yet, it is very easy to have a picnic in a way that protects the environment and nature – not just with a view to the rubbish.

The most important part of the trick is the right packaging for the food and the right cutlery. In short: reusable is great, disposable is a flop. In their own home (hopefully) nobody would think of eating from a paper plate or drinking from one of those thin-walled plastic cups. So why at the picnic? An unbelievable 350,000 tons of waste are generated in Germany every year from disposable tableware and food to-go packaging. It’s insanity!

If you’re afraid of broken glass, you don’t necessarily have to take glasses or porcelain plates with you. There are now attractive, indestructible reusable tableware products that you can also borrow among friends or neighbors. For those three or four picnics a year, not everyone needs to be fully equipped.

The EU against disposable plastic plates

After all, the EU has taken on the issue and in 2019 legislated that since July 3, 2021 no plastic disposable plates and no plastic disposable cutlery may be sold any longer. The same applies to drinking straws and swizzle sticks made of single-use plastic. An exception is made for to-go beverage cups and plastic fast food packaging, which are still allowed – unless they are made of polystyrene. Retailers may then only sell goods that they already have in stock. However, anyone who remembers the ban on light bulbs in the EU knows how long such a sale of left stock can last.

Another word on plastic packaging and plastic tableware advertised as “biodegradable” or “compostable”: That’s no better. At best, these plastics decompose in industrial composting plants, but not in nature. And generally, this stuff isn’t even allowed in the bio bin.

Separate trash? Of course!

If there is rubbish at a picnic despite the reusable packaging, you should take it home with you and dispose of it properly – i.e. separately. The rubbish from the rubbish bin in the park is incinerated instead of being recycled. In the worst case, the wind will blow it away or birds will take it out of the bin to look for something to eat. So the garbage all too often ends up in nature and in our waters. Even if we threw it in the bin outside in the park.

Plant-based foods are the first choice

Of course, the food choices that we make when we picnic also have a huge impact on nature. The same applies here as at home: if you eat little meat, you protect the environment because animal husbandry on the scale usual today uses enormous amounts of water, space and energy and fuels both the climate crisis and the extinction of species. Vegetables and other plant-based foods are a far better choice.

Organic, fair, regional and seasonal – these quality features are crucial. Grapes in April, strawberries in October and chocolate without organic and fair trade labels harm nature, the environment and the people in the producing countries – regardless of whether we eat them at home at the dining table or in the wild.

A place in the countryside

Picnics in the great outdoors are allowed nearly everywhere. But not entirely everywhere. Picnics are taboo on flowering grasslands where orchids grow and butterflies and wild bees live, as well as in many nature reserves where you are not allowed to leave the paths. By the way, this is not a harassment, but serves to protect the plants and animals. So you should stick to it as much as possible – not just to avoid getting into trouble, but because it really makes sense.