By Carolyn Sperry
Love to savor summer by dining outdoors but hate the depressing mountain of trash that just one family picnic can generate? Take heart: Going eco-friendly could actually be fun.


For picnics, camping, tailgate parties or concerts in the park , try colorful, reusable picnic-ware. It looks better than disposables and easily pays for itself over time.

If your tableware at home is super safe and practical, here’s your chance to cut loose with a bright color or a fun, summery pattern.

Check out Preserve’s tableware products, which are made of 100% recycled plastic and designed to do anything disposables can do, plus withstand years and years of use.

Melamine dishes and acrylic tumblers that mimic glass are a fun option, too. Plus, they look as good at the park as they do in your yard. Bonus: They’re a worry-free solution for dining with kids.

If reusables sound like a hassle, consider how many parks are now “carry-in, carry-out” and operate sans trashcans. If you’ll be toting home a bag of dirty stuff anyway, you might as well stick it in the dishwasher. Complete the picture with cloth napkins, like colorful gingham napkins.


If you have a large gathering or some other circumstance where disposables are a must, you still have choices. These days, there are many disposable plates, cups and plasticware that are recycled or biodegradable.

Plasticware made from so-called “bioplastics,” which is renewable plant sources, anything from algae to soybeans. It is also designed to biodegrade under the right conditions. Although not a perfect solution –– obviously, the manufacture and transport of these goods comes at its own price –– these require less fossil fuel to manufacture than traditional plastics.

Note that some “compostable” products may not disappear into your home compost bin, and they may require high temperatures to really break down.

Check out Green Party Goods, which sells everything from biodegradable “potatoware” cutlery to eco-friendly cupcake stands.

Don’t forget that even at a large event, you can encourage guests to bring reusable water bottles, such as the perennial favorite Sigg bottles. Have a portable beverage cooler ready so everyone can refill.

Not so fast

Think your summer event isn’t leaving any waste behind? Not so fast. Some litter is sneaky. For example, fireworks leave behind debris that can’t always be found. Consider enjoying a public display, instead, which is also safer.

Balloons should never be released into the air. They become litter eventually and can cause serious problems for wildlife. And just because that apple core or orange peel will eventually biodegrade doesn’t mean it’s okay to throw it on the ground. It’s still unsightly for others using the site and could attract unwanted wildlife to the area.

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Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston

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