Summer season can only mean one thing: park drinks and picnics! But what about all the plastic cups, crisp packets and packaging you’re left with? One look at a London park bin at the end of a summer’s day says it all. Here’s our guide to help you enjoy a waste free picnic.
1) Plan ahead
Planning ahead might seem like an obvious point, but it’s certainly the easiest way to ensure a waste-free picnic. Avoid the last minute rush to the shops and make a few simple dishes from scratch. Invest in some lightweight flatware, fill water bottles at home and think about how you’ll carry it all to the park. Here are some more ideas to guide you.
2) Cook from scratch
The more you can make from scratch, the better. And it doesn’t need to be complicated. A couple of salads, a few sandwiches and hand-held bites, and some fruit or veggies will do the trick. Collect small jars or well-sealed containers to store dressings, salt and pepper – they’ll elevate a salad, a loaf of bread, a halved avocado or sliced tomato to something delicious.
3) Plate up properly
There’s nothing wrong with plastic plates as long as they’re not designed for just one use. You have a couple of options here: bring your own plates from home or invest in some quality lightweight alternatives. There are plenty of great camping ones online or scour your local charity shops to see what you can find. Alternatively, use Tupperware lids as plates, or load up salads and dips onto flatbreads, then tear and eat with your hands. Bring a handful of forks and a few sharp knives for chopping fruit, veggies and cheese on arrival.
4) Reuse to rehydrate
Remember to bring a reusable water bottle or two, rather than panic-buying the bottled stuff at the last minute. Park cafés and restaurants are often more than happy to give you a free refill. If you’re bringing park cocktails, decant drinks into jam jars, secure with a lid and hand them out on arrival (remember to avoid straws). Farmdrop KeepCups will do the trick too!
5) Keep your cool
Avoid buying bags of ice. Instead, freeze and keep bottled water in your cooler or picnic bag. It’ll keep food and drinks chilled for the journey and melt en route to give you lovely cool water at the other end. Keep ice cubes in a Thermos flask to stop them from melting. Or avoid ice cubes altogether and use frozen grapes instead – they’ll cool your drinks and serve as a cheeky snack once you’ve finished.
6) DIY dips
It’s all too easy to panic-buy a multi-pack of supermarket hummus, guac and tzatziki, but a) they taste rubbish and b) you end up with a heck of a lot of plastic. Why not make your own delicious dips, pack them up in tupperware and you’re good to go. Hummus is super easy to make. Or if you’ve got a tub of yoghurt that needs using, turn it into labneh.
7) It’s a wrap!
Cling film and tin foil aren’t easy to recycle so get creative with how you wrap your sarnies and bites. Biodegradable greaseproof paper works well, as do these sandwich bags, or use clean tea towels, and they’ll double up as napkins once you’ve finished.
8) Love your leftovers
Rather than chuck that last bit of hummus or bag of wilted green leaves, take them home. Yesterday’s sad-looking dip can be livened up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a handful of toasted chopped nuts or a sprinkling of paprika or chilli flakes. Try chopping a bag of green leaves into a pesto with Parmesan, pine nuts and lemon juice (we love Jack Munroe’s salad bag pesto recipe). Yesterday’s grain salad can become today’s arancini: simply roll them into balls (put any good melting cheese, like mozzarella, in the middle if you have it), dip the balls into flour, beaten egg and dried breadcrumbs and deep-fry until crisp. Delicious!
9) Ditch disposable barbecues
Disposable barbecues are increasingly banned in London’s parks, and just as well because they can be super wasteful. Unless you’re opting for the biodegradable ones, invest in a small, portable barbecue or build your own using an oven rack and some old bricks.