Green Picnics

Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/skodonnell

Nothing says summer better than a leisurely picnic and eating alfresco is the perfect way to celebrate the season. But eating outdoors shouldn't mean leaving a trail of litter in the form of disposable plates and cutlery.Whether it's a romantic outing for two or a lively family affair, there are plenty of ways to make your picnic as green as the grass you'll be sitting on.

Go green with the dishes
Re-useable picnic-wear is an easy way to make your meal easier on the environment. Buying good quality plates, cups and cutlery that can be washed and re-used will make for perfect picnicking! Preserve makes sturdy dinnerwear that's made from 100% recycled plastic – and they come in great, summer colours. If you must use disposables, look for paper plates made from 100% recycled paper.

Throw-away plastic cutlery is made of harmful petrochemicals. Try more environmentally friendly options instead: To-Go Ware cutlery, for example, is made from bamboo, which can be sustainably grown and harvested. Another savvy option is biodegradable cutlery. Though they look just like plastic, these utensils are made from a combination of potato or corn starch and vegetable oil, and can be tossed in the compost bin after use, where they take a mere 90 days to break down. They're available in packages from Green Earth Office Supply and Vegeware, who also make biodegradable bowls out of cassava starch.

Picnic without plastic
Packing your food in plastic wrap creates unnecessary waste- and it can lead to squished sandwiches! Always pack your picnic in reusable containers. Basic food storage boxes, available at your grocery store, are an easy and inexpensive option. You can also try stainless steel food carriers, like the sturdy one available from To-Go Ware. This nifty carrier is great for hot or cold food, and the two separate units allow you to store different foods—it even comes with a removable plate! Basic thermoses are handy for carrying soup and other warm foods.

Green spreads
Don't forget to bring along a blanket or tablecloth to use for laying out your lunch! A cotton or hemp tablecloth will add a bright, cheery touch to your outdoor affair. Stay away from paper napkins unless they're made from 100% recycled paper -- cloth napkins are definitely a better option. The "Colorgrown" table linens at Abundant Earth are made from 100% certified organic cotton grown from rare, heirloom seeds that haven't been genetically modified, and their warm, earth-tone colours are naturally occurring.

A tisket-tasket, a very green basket
And in true picnic tradition, pack your outdoor meal in a pretty basket! The handmade lidded picnic basket from Ten Thousand Villages is made from bamboo woven with split cane. Best of all, it's a fair-trade product, so the profits go to teaching skills and supporting the workers who made it.

There are also lots of nifty picnic basket options that come stocked with re-useable plates, cutlery, napkins and wine glasses, so you'll always be ready to get outside when the mood strikes! Specialty Living sells The Palm Bay 4 Person Picnic Basket. Made from hand woven natural sea grass and bamboo, it also is free of the toxic AZO dyes and pigments that are commonly used to colour textiles and plastics. Their hand woven honey willow Westport 4 Person Picnic Basket is another great option—it even has elastic cords so you can strap on a blanket! Or, for a full dining experience, try the Merlot Bamboo Picnic Basket, sold by American Tailgater, which includes a corkscrew, cutting board, cheese knife and a 45" x 45" tablecloth and two separate wine compartments!

Bon appetit!

Meredith Dault is a freelance writer and broadcaster based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.