How Green Is Your Picnic?

By Kimberly Williams

Eating is one of my favorite activities. I’m a firm believer that food is exceptionally effective in building relationships, easing troubles, and celebrating triumphs. I also think that food can be one of the best areas for embracing green ideas. There are many ways to make feasting more friendly to the environment, particularly during the summer months. My favorite way to enjoy sunshine, nature, and a tasty snack is with a fun outdoor picnic.

I like to get out to Great Falls Park in Virginia because the view of the Potomac River is simply stunning. I enjoy lounging on a blanket in the sun, within close range of my picnic basket. Now is a great time to enjoy your picnic in a park because July is National Parks Month. The National Recreation and Park Service has lots of cool ideas for getting outdoors and enjoying parks.

When I pack my picnic basket, I keep a few rules in mind. Limiting the amount of disposable items that I bring to reduce my waste is a priority. (Also, that makes clean up a breeze.) This means cloth napkins, reusable dishes and cutlery, and washable food storage containers instead of Styrofoam. If you can’t avoid using paper or plastic products, make sure you recycle what you can. EPA’s Recycle on the Go initiative provides information about recycling in public places like parks.

For the bright summer sun it’s also important to remember to throw in your basket some sunscreen, a hat, and shades.  A few painful experiences with sunburn have taught me to be more careful about always using a  sunscreen with a high enough SPF.  I recently downloaded onto my Smartphone this neat app for checking the UV Index.  It’s an easy way to help me remember to keep my fair skin protected whenever I go.

Although all this stuff about picnics is important, let’s be honest—it’s really all about the food. I’m often shopping at my local farmer’s market for fresh produce that helps reduce my carbon footprint.  You can learn more about locally grown foods in your area, or even grow your own vegetables and herbs in an environmentally friendly garden. Then you’ll be able to fill your picnic basket with all kinds of yummy foods that make for a delicious meal, a fun afternoon, and a healthier environment.

About the author: Kimberly Williams is a summer intern in the Office of Public Engagement. She attends Lehigh University where she is double majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies.