Britain loves a good picnic. We’ve even devoted a week to our fondness for al-fresco dining – National Picnic Week 2019 runs from 21-30 June.
Our passion for picnicking is hardly a surprise, given the great picnic spots in the UK:
- Durdle Door, Dorset;
- Buttermere, Lake District;
- Tenby, Pembrokeshire;
- Alexandra Park, Manchester – and the list goes on.
And who doesn’t like good picnic food? From classics like scotch eggs, sausage rolls and quiche to exciting meat-free ideas like juicy kale salads, falafel wraps and vegan pizza. But have you noticed how much pollution these finger-licking feasts can spit out?
In the wrong hands, a hamper full of goodness can turn into a plastic timebomb – waiting to inflict its misery on the very environments that give us so much pleasure. I’m talking about the disposable and single-use rubbish that messes up our beaches, woodlands and parks: plastic picnic plates, cutlery and cups, cling film, straws and food packaging.
Plastic hangs around for ages. It makes the place look a mess and can be fatal to wildlife. So raise your reusable wine glass in the air and repeat after me “I promise to be indulgent but not indecent”.
Now feast your eyes on these amazeballs ideas that will make your perfect picnic basket for 2 more planet-friendly.
1. Outdoor bamboo plates
Some clever people have started making outdoor dinnerware from plants like bamboo. There are some pretty slick designs available too. Make sure you go for the reusable ones that you can load in a dishwasher.
2. Fork + spoon = spork
I know, right? It's a fork and yet it's a spoon. Slow down or you'll end up prodding your gazpacho and scooping up a sausage. The beauty of the spork is that it cuts down on the amount of cutlery you need to pack – and it helps the environment because each spork will require fewer materials to make than a separate spoon and fork. Check out these mini organic bamboo sporks, perfect for travelling and picnicking.
3. Jamie's jam-jar salads
Don't fall victim to dull ready-made salads wrapped in single-use plastic. Make your own, but get it right – the only thing a limp, wet salad will accompany is an upside-down smile. Use Jamie's colourful pots of pleasure as inspiration to create your own plastic-free masterpieces. They're tasty, affordable and really easy to make. I'd drop the beef for some planet-friendlier vegetable protein like cannellini beans. All you need are empty glass jars (stockpile used ones instead of buying new). Get your ingredients from the market or order a fruit & veg box to avoid all that supermarket packaging madness.
4. Beeswax wraps
Brits buy over 3.5 billion sandwiches a year according to the boffins at British Sandwich & Food-to-Go Association. Most of those will come in plastic packaging – and most of that will end up in landfill or coming out of the chimney of an incinerator. Use your loaf (maybe a nice sourdough one) and fill it with some posh nosh (like organic avocado, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes or hummus). And instead of cling film, wrap it in a reusable beeswax wrap or a vegan food wrap. (Look for "Plastic-free food wrap".) Bish bash bosh.
5. Eco-friendly wine glasses
You can get into a bit of upcycling - using old items to make new things - by buying glasses made from bottles, (Search for "glass"). Upcycling is different from recycling because the materials don't need to be broken down before they can be re-used – so it saves energy. And it's much better than creating demand for new materials that have to be mined, processed and transported. One more tip: choose cork over screw tops and synthetic corks. Surprisingly, screw tops contain a hidden seal of plastic. Cork is 100% natural and doesn't harm the trees that it's stripped from. Now decant yourself into a picturesque location and breathe. Cheers to that.
6. Sign our petition
The most effective thing you can do – and possibly the quickest – is sign our petition. We need the government to put laws in place to phase out all non-essential plastics; single-use and disposable plastics should go first and quickly. Ultimately, that will mean more delicious plastic-free choices for your picnic hamper.