10 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Picnic

Celebrate the weekend by remembering to take care of the Earth!

The setting of a picnic is usually outdoors, and therein lies its allure and challenge. Being with nature and gathering outside with family and friends makes for a special occasion. An eco-friendly picnic is one that honors the environment by “taking only memories, and leaving only footprints.” Here are Care2′s top 10 ways to enrich your picnic experience of the habitat and wildlife you encounter, and to reduce your impact on the environment.

1. STAY LOCAL. Drive Less, Walk, Bike, or Take Public Transportation.

WHY: Save resources (gas) and reduce pollutants by putting fewer miles on your car; get exercise walking or biking; get to know more about your local habitat.

HOW: Explore your local community for good outdoor gathering spots. Your Town or City Hall will have information about local parks, trails, and nature conserves.

HIGHLIGHTS: Save energy! Learn more about your community!

MORE: Visit Care2′s Eco-Info links about transportation, including biking, bike paths, public transportation, and more! Or link here to National Parks Conservation Association’s Park Finder or Great Outdoor Recreation Pages a comprehensive resource for those folks who love to hike, bike, climb and paddle through the wilderness.

2. USE REUSABLES. Utensils, Napkins, Plastic Containers and More.

WHY: Over the years you will substantially decrease your use of virgin resources; save money in the long run.

HOW: Buy reusable utensils, tablecloths, coldpacks, thermoses, insulated bags, packs, plastic containers, cloth napkins, dish towels, etc. Yard sales are excellent sources of great used reusable equipment for picnics. In the United States, reusable plastic containers are made of the plastic that has a symbol #5 PP (polypropylene) on the bottom. According to research by The Green Guide Institute, there is no known harm to health from #5 plastic, whereas other kinds of plastic in some other forms of wrapping can leach harmful chemicals into the food. If you must buy disposables, buy those made of recycled paper.

HIGHLIGHTS: Save resources! Save money!

3. RECYCLE. Give Bottles and Cans a Second Life.

WHY: It is important to recycle bottles and cans if you use them. In 1996, 36 billion aluminum cans with a scrap value of $600 million ended up in U.S. landfills, according to “Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices.” Better yet, drink organic beverages from produce grown on sustainable farms or water (after all we are 90 percent water), which doesn’t require manufacturing plants.

HOW: Visit your health food store for organic wines and juices. Filter water at home and invest in a stainless steel thermos for carrying the water cold to the site of the picnic.

HIGHLIGHTS: Save resources, energy, and local farms!

4. USE METAL CHARCOAL CHIMNEY. Avoid Petroleum-Based Lighter Fluid.

WHY: Petroleum-based lighter fluid is not a renewable resource and it also causes toxic air pollution. With charcoal metal chimneys you fill the cylinder with charcoal, scrunch newspaper under the charcoal in the special housing for this purpose, and then light the newspaper to heat up the coals. Once the coals are red hot you turn over the cylinder and pour the coals into the bed of the grill.

HOW: You can buy a charcoal chimney for under $20 at most hardware stores, and reuse it for years. All you need to light the charcoal are some old newspapers and matches.

HIGHLIGHTS: Reduce pollution, save resources!


WHY: Local organic farms are a treasure for any community. They caretake the environment, and provide wholesome nourishing food. If you choose to eat meat, reduce the amount you would take and make sure the meat is organic. It takes 9 pounds of wheat to produce 1 pound of meat so eating vegetables is much better for the environment. Nonorganic meat is raised with antibiotics, sometimes fed food made with gene modified grains, and requires huge amounts of resources. Additive-free, whole foods are healthier!

HOW: Use Care2′s Get Local system to find local farmers markets and organic farms in the United States.

HIGHLIGHTS: A healthy diet and healthy local organic farms!

6. PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT. Take Away Your Garbage and Others’ Too!

WHY: Litter left behind can contaminate water, land and more, harm wildlife, and is often not biodegradable, or very slow to degrade.

HOW: The easiest way to handle garbage while on a picnic is to take a few used grocery bags and separate your garbage into recyclable categories using the bags. With this system it is easy to recycle once you get home. Carry an extra bag and a pair of gloves and pick up others’ garbage as you go!

HIGHLIGHTS: This approach is clean, safe, sensible, and helpful! It also protects wildlife.

7. PROTECT HABITAT FROM PETS AND KIDS. Choose Places for Them to Play.

WHY: Nesting birds, native species plants, and much more are part of any ecosystem, and easily trampled by pets and children.

HOW: Make sure pets are on leashes, and that children have been given parameters within which they can play.

HIGHLIGHTS: Everybody has a good time, and the habitat and wildlife aren’t harmed.

8. OBSERVE AND LEARN. Take Field Guides, Binoculars, and Even a Nature Journal.

WHY: Learn about the wildlife and habitat relating to your surroundings.

HOW: Take nature field guides that are appropriate to the habitat and wildlife that live in the ecosystem in which you are picnicking, binoculars, and anything else to learn about (and teach any children!) about the habitat, wildlife. Nature journals are a wonderful way to capture what you have learned. Consider starting a fun “life list” of the species you see.

HIGHLIGHTS: Learn bird’s names, the creatures that lived in different shells, about edible plants; discover the surrounding habitat and find ways in which to learn more.


WHY: Less toxic ingredients are safer for you and require less pollution in their manufacture.

HOW: Get to know different brands of natural personal care products sold at your local or an online natural foods store. Read labels to find all-natural ingredients, and start experimenting to find brands you like. Some brands to look for include Aubrey Organics, Logona, Kiss My Face, Burt’s Bees, and more.

HIGHLIGHTS: Safety, better for health and the environment, natural products are inherently more nourishing for the body than synthetic!

MORE: Visit Care2′s Healthy Self channel for dozens of ideas, tips, natural formulas, and links. Also, shop for healthy, eco-friendly products at Care2′s Shopping Page.

10. ENJOY THE WEATHER AND LEARN ABOUT CLOUDS. See What the Clouds Say About the Weather.

WHY: Watching the sky puts our life on Earth into perspective. Understanding clouds is a basic survival technique as it warns when dangerous weather may be approaching. Clouds are indicators of all sorts of weather, not just dramatic weather, and an understanding of weather-related events can deepen our appreciation of the natural world.

HOW: The most fun way to learn about clouds is to talk with someone who knows about them and can teach you. Otherwise, there are a number of great books on clouds available, including the National Audubon Society’s Pocket Guide.

HIGHLIGHTS: Learn about the wonders of the world!

By the Care2 Team.


Murat K.
Past Member 7 years ago

Only just started konteyner reading "the long tail" book after hearing it mentioned in a BBC documentary, but kabin pretty much covers alot of factors relating to how things have shifted over past prefabrik villa decade. when I started out was alot harder to do stuff, but now can be done in half the time which film indir allows for the development creativity aspects...

Lucy R.
.8 years ago

Spring is the season for spring cleaning...getting ready for bathing suit season...and getting outside for a picnic! One huge source of waste at most picnics are the disposable plates and utensils. Green your picnic by going with reusable plates, cups, and, utensils. It's much more eco-friendly to take stuff home to be washed than throwing everything in the trash can.

Monica D.
Monica D9 years ago

Thank you, I enjoyed perusing this article. I was very happy to see staying local on the list, and using low-energy forms of transport like public transport. Cycling is a joy, and I would like far more cycle paths to be built.

Rob Stradmeijer
Rob Stradmeijer10 years ago


Rob Stradmeijer
Rob Stradmeijer10 years ago


Pat H.
Patricia H10 years ago

I was part of the "teach-in" at Towson State College for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.
I resent that fact that not many people were paying attention.
38 years ago we KNEW we needed to conserve resources. And did we?
I see Hummers on the road and my blood pressure rises and I want to make an obscene gesture...
"Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat the mistakes."
I waited in the gas lines in 1974. There was an even/odd day based on your license tag number. At that time I drove a VW, a gift from my parents. (Joke about old VWs, "Can I check you gas while I give you a quart of oil?" Ooops, I'm not sure if there's readers here who ever went to a gas station where guys where hired to pump the gas and check your oil. We are paying the oil companys and doing the work ourselves. My first job in 1967 paid $1/hour. I should get at least $1 off if I pump my own gas...!

Deborah Mccormick
Deborah Mccormick10 years ago


Annastina Davenport

Even when we go camping we use reusable items and avoid using plastic and paper as much as possible. Picnics, camping, potlucks... These are all things our grandparents, great grandparents and so on did and they didn't use plastic silverware, paper plates, throw away cups ect. We make ourselves so busy all the time that we sacrifice good judgement for a few extra minutes not having to wash something or think of a better alternative.