12 Tips for a Zero Waste Picnic and Plastic-Free BBQ

12 Tips for a Zero Waste Picnic and Plastic-Free BBQ

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Pandemic lockdown restrictions are finally being lifted and you’re itching to enjoy a romantic picnic at the park or organising a barbecue cook up at the local beach.

Instead of stopping by the supermarket and purchasing a heap of single-use plastic cutlery, plates, cups and other plastic-wrapped items, consider going waste-free. It’s better for the planet as well as your bank account.

So here are our top tips for a zero waste picnic and plastic-free BBQ:

1. Second-hand picnic basket

No need to purchase a brand new picnic basket when there are plenty of second-hand ones available for purchase. Check out your local thrift shops or op-shops, scour second-hand online sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and eBay. If your time-poor and don’t want to invest effort and energy searching for the right second-hand picnic basket, Etsy has some beautiful handmade wicker picnic baskets available (see pic below), as well as some vintage ones.


2. Reusable cups and glasses

Instead of wasting money on plastic cups and plastic wine glasses, just pack some ceramic cups and wine glasses from your kitchen cupboards. Bring enough for the number of guests you expect to be at your outdoor gathering.

3. Fabric serviettes/napkins

Don’t buy paper serviettes and napkins that can only be used once and then thrown away. You can find a heap of cotton ones from your local op-shop that are reusable and washable. If you’re after a matching set, Made Trade have a great selection of stylish ethically-made cotton napkins handwoven in Chiapas, Mexico. These are ideal if you’re creating Instagram and Pinterest-worthy dreamy picnic vibes.

Grip napkin in peach via Made Trade.

4. Reusable coffee cups

If you’re not a wine drinker but a coffee drinker, make sure to pack your reusable coffee cup. Takeaway coffee cups are a huge no-no as they’re often lined with a plastic that’s hard to recycle and thus are often sent to landfill.

5. Glass bottles

You’ll be spending hours at the park or beach and at some point will become thirsty and will want hydration in the form of water rather than alcohol. Taking a few glass bottles filled with water is the environmentally-friendly way to go, and you’ll save some dollars too in addition to plastic waste.

6. Reusable containers

There’s a clear theme throughout this article and that’s replacing any single-use items with reusables. And this is the case for bowls and food containers too; pack reusables and say no to the plastic variety. If you’re a meat eater, bring your clean food containers to the butcher and purchase sausages and meats from there as supermarkets usually only stock plastic-packaged sausages, hams and meats.

10 Tips for a Zero Waste Picnic | Eco Warrior Princess
Pack reusable glasses, bowls and food containers for a zero waste picnic. Photo: Liana Mikah.

7. Wooden or metal cutlery

There’s no reason to buy separate ‘picnic’ items when your kitchen drawers and cabinets will have almost all you need to pack a zero waste picnic. One thing you can just take from home rather than buy specifically for the occasion is cutlery. So pack enough cutlery for the number of people you expect to be at the picnic. If you really must buy cutlery, invest in some wooden ones such as To-Go Ware Bamboo Travel Utensils (a utensil set which includes spoon, fork, knife and chopsticks in a carry case made from recycled plastic) that are light enough to carry for day-to-day zero waste living and are must-haves if you’re committing to zero waste holiday travel.

Graphic via Shutterstock.

8. Reusable food wraps

Forget single-use plastic cling wrap; the eco-friendly options are reusable food wraps. One pioneering brand is Bee’s Wraps, a B-Corp certified brand that produces a super stylish selection of wraps to suit your picnic and BBQ themes.

These food wraps are reusable and washable, made from GOTS-certified organic cotton and sustainably-sourced beeswax. Ideal for bread rolls, sandwiches, baked goods, half-eaten fruit, half-used vegetables and food bowl covers, but not so much for raw meats and fish. This brand also produces vegan food wraps that are animal-derivative free.

Bee’s Wraps.

9. Reusable bags

Whether you’re packing additional food and drinks that don’t quite fit in your picnic basket, or just need something to store recyclables and waste when you’re done for the day, make sure to take your reusable tote bags, lunch bags and mesh bags with you. As a zero waste lifestyle rule of thumb, you should always take reusable bags with you when leaving home as you’ll never know when you need to pick up a few things from the shops. There’s nothing more annoying than having to stop in at the supermarket and accept plastic bags because you’ve forgotten your reusable ones!

10. Second-hand picnic rug

Like picnic baskets, there are plenty of second-hand picnic rugs for purchase at local thrift stores, or just save your cash and just use a bedsheet as your picnic rug. If you’re specifically looking for one to buy for a themed picnic or barbecue and don’t want to just use what you have in your home, check out The Knotted Ropes, a boho homewares brand that produces gorgeous handwoven picnic rugs made from 100% recycled cotton threads in aztec and 70s-inspired prints.

Eco-friendly picnic rug made from recycled cotton fibres. Photo: The Knotted Ropes.

11. Tea towels

Forget paper towels and take your kitchen tea towels. These come in handy when packing glass and ceramics to stop then from breaking when being bumped and jostled, and they’ll also come in handy to wipe up spills.

12. Make your own fizzy drink

If you’re partial to sparkling water and carbonated drinks, avoid buying plastic bottled versions and invest in a SodaStream, a portable soda machine that carbonates water by adding carbon dioxide from a pressurised cylinder so you can have on-hand DIY fizzy drinks at your get together.

The kit comes with a few reusable bottles so you have a few on the go at any one time. You can also purchase syrups if want to replicate flavoured soft drinks. Get the benefits of fizzy drinks and sparkling water at your picnic or BBQ without any of the plastic waste that comes with bottled soda drinks.

Replace single-use plastic soda drinks and sparkling water with a SodaStream portable home soda maker. Photo: SodaStream.

Final note

If you decide to purchase food items that come in plastic packaging such as chips, crackers and lollies, make sure to recycle the packaging. There is now soft plastics recycling available across Australia, USA and many other countries. Search engines are your friend so use them to locate a local soft plastic recycling drop-off point near you. And take all your rubbish with you when you’re done; make sure to leave nothing but footprints.

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Cover image via The Knotted Ropes/Etsy.

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