PLASTIC-FREE PICNICS With reusable containers and bottles, paper or steel straws, cloth napkins and cutlery from home, your summer picnics can be as kind to nature as nature is to you.
Things are looking up, now that we’re free to travel within our county, and the weather is giving us real glimpses of summer. In addition to the trees budding and the flowers blooming, we also thankfully see signs life for many local businesses that will hopefully be soon able to reopen.
This year, though, will continue to be one that demands new ways of doing things, so as we gear up to eat somewhere besides our kitchens, we will have to be prepared. I see some of the changes that have been necessary due to Covid precautions dovetailing with some more eco-friendly practices, so perhaps it’s the nudge some of us needed to make sustainable swaps permanently.
For years we’ve seen the devastating impact of plastic on the environment, with single use packaging, and since Covid, we’ve added to that pollution with disposable face masks, gloves and other items. But there is another way!
Masks will continue to be a part of our lives for some time longer, so if you have not yet found a good reusable option, it still makes sense to do so. I have enough masks now for at least three to four days of wearing, and then I hand wash them with a laundry bar and hot water, and then soak them in boiling water to rinse away any further residue and zap the nasties. I let them air dry and then keep clean masks in a clean cotton bag, and carry another bag for used masks.
As we are out and about and hopefully getting delicious foods from our beloved cafés and restaurants, it’s worth bringing suitable reusables, which cut down on the amount of waste but also saves some resources for businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
Now’s the time to choose the perfect reusable coffee cup, lunch box/food container and water bottle if you don’t have them – all businesses have systems in place to serve drinks and foods into them safely at this point. Cutlery brought from home wrapped in a small towel or handkerchief for a napkin is infinitely nicer to eat with than any single-use alternative.
If you’re venturing to outdoor sites, be sure to pack your own food in a low-impact manner. You can reuse any container you have at home, including bread or zip-loc bags (which can be washed by hand and dried on dish rack), to bring along anything you’ve made.
Or, you can try a beeswax wrap, which is a piece of cloth coated in wax to protect food—they can be wrapped around sandwiches or folded into cones or pouches for nuts, fruit, etc. Water bottles are essential, and cloth napkins of some sort, even those cut from material you no longer use.
Be sure to carry away everything you bring to the beach or other areas, and think about tucking in another bag and a pair of gloves to collect other rubbish—if we all do this frequently, we can keep natural areas as they are intended to be.
McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.