Summer is the perfect time for a family picnic. Fresh air, sunshine and beautiful scenery always combine to make any meal taste a little better. But for some reason, the traditional picnic has morphed into an eco-disaster, creating heaps of waste and pollution for a simple meal.

Getting there: Stay close to home when you head out for your picnic. Look for spots where you and your family can bike, walk or take public transportation to. You’ll save money on gas, reduce pollution and get a little exercise on the way.

At the picnic: We have a simple set of lightweight plastic dishes that we take for picnics, potlucks and BBQs. But if you can’t be bothered with reusables, don’t worry. You can still keep it green by opting for biodegradable goods such as these:

  • Biodegradable plates: Look for biodegradable plates made from cane fibers that can be tossed in the compost pile after the picnic.  (Treecycle
  • Utensils: Cutlery made from potato starch will decompose when the meal is done. (Real Goods)
  • Compostable cups and straws: Made from a corn-based plastic, these compostable cups and straws will break down quickly in your compost pile. (Eco-Products)

Picnic politely: The best part about a picnic is that it gets you and your family outdoors. So be sure to give your kids (and yourself!) plenty of time to explore when you’re finished eating. But be careful to teach children (and pets) to respect the flora and fauna you encounter. In other words, don’t pick flowers or feed or harass any wildlife. Pack a pair of binoculars so kids can get a close look at the natural world around them, and a small sketch book so that they can record what they see.

Pack it in, pack it out: Be sure to bring along an extra bag or two so you can carry out any garbage or recyclables you generate. And if you need to, go ahead and pick up after those who won't pick up after themselves.

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