It’s a Matter of Choices
Whether you’re biking along the Rockingham Rail Trail near Manchester, enjoying the seaside gardens at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, taking in the view of the White Mountains from Crawford’s Notch, or simply sitting in the grass on your town common, having a packed meal in tow is always a welcome addition to a beautiful day. Making your picnic as sustainable as possible in any of these venues is a matter of choice. Here are some greener points to consider before packing your picnic meal.
Pedestrian vs. Automotive
Getting to your picnic location via your own steam spends the least fossil fuel. But sometimes you’ll need a car to find the change of scenery you’re looking for. Know whether you’re driving, biking or hiking to your picnic spot before you start packing as that answer will sway all other decisions involved in this process.
Big Meal of the Day or Light Lunch?
Setting the scope of your meal before you start shopping for food saves time and cuts down on the potential for wasting food at the end of the day.
Homey Touch or Timely Convenience?
The choice here lies in the difference between having the time to roast a chicken to serve cold versus serving local cheese, cured meats, bread and ripe tomatoes as the main dish, or the inclination to bake a free-form fruit galette instead of buying a quart of local berries to serve as the perfect ending for your meal en plein air.
Plastic Reusables or Glass Jars?
While it’s increasingly plausible to avoid single-use food packaging, the choice between plastic and glass reusable containers for transporting food prepared at home to your destination is one you must make. Glass is considered more sustainable than plastic in the long run, but also weighs twice as much, a fact that could weigh heavily into your decision if you’re making your way to your favorite picnic spot on foot.
Cans or Bottles?
Neither, actually. In the exploding craft beer scene, there are convincing arguments on both sides regarding which container is greener. But going with a refillable growler of your favorite brew can’t be disputed as the greenest option around. Each picnic goer should also carry a refillable water bottle, the contents of which can be tarted up with a concentrated strawberry or blueberry shrub made ahead from local fruit if plain water is a bit too boring.
Ice or Refreezable Packs?
Keeping food cold in accordance to food safety standards is a necessary picnicking precaution. Foods requiring refrigeration should not sit out in the temperature danger zone — that being between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a sweet spot for bacterial multiplication— for longer than two hours. If you’ve packed a waterproof cooler then ice is the green way to go. Just don’t waste the water when it’s melted. Water your flowerbeds at home instead of the asphalt driveway, for example. Reusable, non-toxic freezer packs— either a growing number of commercial options or homemade ones, comprising water-soaked sponges frozen inside zip-topped sandwich bags — certainly add to the plastic proliferation problem, but are healthier short-term than food poisoning.
Compostable vs. Reusable China and Cutlery
As long as you’ve made the switch away from single-use, disposable forks, spoons and knives, you’re already on the path to a greener picnic. The choice here lies in how heavy you can bear the bag to be on the way home. Whether they are dirty dishes that need to be washed at home, or spent compostable cups and cutlery that need to land in the bin in the back yard, pack a separate reusable grocery bag to keep the inside of your picnic basket free from scraps and sauces left on the plates.
Linens vs. Recycled Paper Napkins
Even paper napkins made of recycled paper get tossed. Take the leap and make or buy ones to match your picnic blanket. They’ll add ambience and have less of a chance of blowing away.