Top tips for a plastic-free picnic

14 Apr 2020
4 min read

Enjoy the great outdoors by showing it the respect it deserves.

Spring has sprung, and with outdoor socialising back on the agenda what better way to make the most of the weather and get together with loved ones than a proper old-school picnic? Lazy afternoons with scrummy snacks in the sunshine, maybe a glass of wine or two – sounds blissful.

Unfortunately, though, a lot of picnics aren’t quite so lovely for the environment because they’re so laden with plastic. Cups, plates, cutlery, cling-film, plastic-heavy food packaging – it’s all disposable stuff that’ll end up in the bin, and probably in landfill.

But this doesn’t mean sacrificing picnics in the name of the environment entirely. Quite the opposite, in fact! With the right gear and a bit of planning, you can have a completely low- to no-impact picnic, and bask in the afternoon sun knowing your al fresco socialising is leaving no trace on the great outdoors. Here are our top tips.

1.  Ditch the cling film

Cling film is a major eco-offender because it’s hard to recycle, and usually ends up in landfill or oceans where it breaks down into microplastics that poison marine life. But it’s popular because it’s so convenient. Enter beeswax wraps. These wraps work just like cling film, covering everything from bowls and plates to sandwiches and deli items, and keeping it all fresh. If looked after, they can be used over and over again, and when they do start to break down after a year or so, they can be added to a compost heap. The Beeswax Wrap Co. has loads of colourful wraps in a range of prints, patterns and sizes, and you’ll get 10% off your first order! We love this sea-inspired design. £10-£30

2.  Try silicone Ziploc bags

Beeswax wraps will have most of your picnic snacks covered (literally), but they’re not so good for runny, liquid items. These silicone Ziploc bags are the solution. They’re completely airtight and leak proof, safe in the freezer, microwave and dishwasher, and can be used over and over intimately. Get this set of two (with 1L and 1.5L capacity) from the Green Eco Shop. Alternatively, keep any plastic tubs from takeaways to reuse as Tupperware. £15.99 per set of two, or £39.99 for three sets

3.  Invest in a reusable picnic set

Disposable plates, cups and cutlery are so wasteful, and if you’re a fan of outdoor eating you’ll just end up spending more on them over time. Instead, choose a durable and reusable picnic set that will keep you going summer after summer. This eye-catching set from John Lewis contains cups, plates and cutlery for four people, is designed to keep your food and drinks cool, and can be worn as a backpack, making it super portable and easy to carry. Pre-loved versions are often found on recycling websites or charity shops. £50

4.  Get a refillable bottle

Plastic drinks bottles are a major environmental headache, and as the weather hots up it’s increasingly important to stay hydrated. Invest in a refillable drinks bottle – perfect for picnics and all year round too! These ones from Wearth London keep cold drinks cool for 24 hours and hot drinks warm for 12 hours., £14.99

5.  Forget the cheap, plastic-backed picnic rugs

You know the type. The ones designed to roll up with a carry handle, coated in flimsy plastic on one side? Sure, they’re convenient, but they don’t last long and when they fall apart all that plastic on the back will end up scattered around parks, threatening wildlife and delicate ecosystems. Instead, take a durable rug or regular blanket with you, or if that’s a bit too bulky choose a picnic blanket made with sustainability in mind. This one from Life Under Canvas is soft, smooth and made from 100% discarded plastic straws. Lightweight and easy to carry, these rugs come in four different colours and three different sizes, and they’re mould resistant, too.  £20-£35

6.  Plan ahead

You can avoid over-packaged supermarket items by spending a bit of time planning out your picnic feast. If you can, visit a delicatessen or food market to stock up on meats, cheeses, olives and other tasty items (don’t forget your beeswax wraps and Ziploc bags), or if the supermarket is your only option, check whether it has dedicated counters for meat, bread, fish or bread. Buying from delis and item-specific counters often gives you the best choice, and prices are usually the same as the same food that’s wrapped up in plastic and placed on the main shelves.

7.  Leave no trace

Some waste is unavoidable, and that’s okay. Remember, sustainability is not about a few people doing things perfectly, but rather a lot of people trying their best. Take home your rubbish and make sure it’s put into the right containers for recycling. The trash thrown into public bins often isn’t sorted – unless clearly marked – and will end up going straight to landfill.

The bottom line

Picnics are a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors. Taking just a few sensible steps before you head out will help to protect the natural spaces you’ll be appreciating by helping to avoid plastic pollution and carbon emissions.



The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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