The Sustainable Summer Picnic: 3 easy steps for an eco-conscious outing

  • Thursday, June 13, 2019 9:47am
  • Opinion

With summer quickly approaching, it’s time to dig out the picnic blankets and dust off the barbecues.

The elusive Pacific Northwest sunshine has the power to rouse us from winter hibernation and remind us of the pure joy of relaxing outdoors with a plate of chips and guacamole.

Before you sit down at the picnic table, here are a few ways to make your outdoor fun environmentally friendly, too.

Careful purchasing

A big part of reducing your environmental footprint is cutting down on food waste. Roughly a third of the food produced worldwide is wasted each year. Large gatherings and events can involve over-purchasing and piles of wasted potato salad. Consider how many people will attend your event and only buy what you need.

Bring a cooler to keep things fresh and storage containers to send leftovers home with guests. Here’s more on food waste reduction from National Geographic for anyone wanting to learn more.

Plan your menu

Another consideration is the type of food you buy. Meat can be rich in key nutrients like protein and iron, and yet it generally takes more land, energy and water to produce a pound of animal protein than it does to produce a pound of plant protein. That’s why the production of meat and dairy can result in higher greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news is, there are tons of yummy and healthy vegetarian options. How about adding black bean burgers or a few vegan hot dogs to the picnic menu? You don’t need to go 100% vegetarian to have a big impact. Cutting back on meat consumption even a little can go a long way for the planet.

Recycle right

You’re nearly there! You pulled off the ultimate summer-fun eco-conscious event. What’s next? Cleaning up the mess. Be sure all bottles and cans are clean and empty before tossing them in the recycling bin. For a complete list of items accepted for recycling in Auburn, go to wmnorthwest.com/auburn.

Finally, get your compost game on. The best place for food scraps or food-soiled paper (like greasy napkins) is the compost, aka food and yard waste cart. Food waste makes up about 20 percent of what goes to the landfill. When we compost food scraps, those juicy nutrients turn into rich soil amendments for our parks, gardens, and landscaping.

No one wants plastics in the garden, however, so make sure your paper plates are uncoated and made of just paper, and remove all stickers from fruits and vegetables. Plastics and garbage are incredibly difficult to remove during the composting process.

Here’s to a summer full of sustainable picnics and outdoor get-togethers. Enjoy.

Hannah Scholes is Waste Management’s education and outreach manager. Learn more at Recycle OftenRecycleRight.com.

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