Due to safety measures taken amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of us found ourselves staying at home more. After long hours of working from home, you might also be one of those who have flocked to our local parks and gardens to enjoy the great outdoors. Us too! We love having picnics to spend quality time with our loved ones while getting some fresh air.
But sometimes, we can’t have nice things, can we?
This is now a regular sight in our natural spaces. Overflowing bins, litter strewn around, and plastic bags of trash lying at random areas of grass patches. Talk about a big no-no.
Source: Mothership (hyperlink – https://mothership.sg/2021/04/fu-yong-park-bins-trash/)
As we enjoy nature, it’s important that we respect it too. So if you are planning for a picnic this weekend, here is a simple guide to minimise your harm to the environment!
Side note: Remember to follow safe distancing measures while picnicking and wear masks as necessary. On top of that, you may also want to check Safe Distance @ Parks before heading out to see if there are large crowds.
Avoid Single-use Packaging and Cutlery
It is tempting to rely on the convenience of single-use cutlery or individually packaged food but that generates a lot of waste. Unfortunately, this waste ends up in a landfill, or worse, left behind as litter that pollutes our environment.
A lot of single-use items are made from plastic which is not biodegradable. Over time, single-use plastic items can turn into microplastics, small plastic particles less than 5 millimetres long. When microplastics are left behind as litter or washed into our water bodies, animals may mistake them for food.
Consequently, microplastics can cause abrasions or blockages in their digestive tracts. They can reduce the animal’s urge to eat, causing it to starve to death. Additionally, microplastics can accumulate in animals that we eat and end up in our bodies. Our drinking water can also be contaminated with microplastics.
In order to reduce the microplastics in our environment, we ought to avoid single-use plastics. For example, instead of buying individually packaged snacks, we can buy food in bulk. In addition, we can bring our own containers when buying takeaway. It’s simple swaps like these that seem small but can make a huge impact!
Use Your Own Food Containers and Drink Cups
If you plan on buying takeaway for your eco-friendly picnics, remember to bring your own lunch boxes to avoid single-use packaging. You can also use lunch boxes to bring home-cooked meals on your picnics. This way, you avoid using disposable food containers, reducing your overall waste.
Reusable cups and bottles are a great replacement for single-use plastic ones. If you’re looking for something lightweight and easy to pack, collapsible cups are the way to go. They fold neatly into a small disc that fits right into your picnic basket without taking up much space.
Pro tip: Using a thermal flask will keep your iced drinks cold for longer. Perfect for picnics on a hot day!
Use a Reusable Mat
Just like disposable cutlery, disposable mats contribute to the single-use plastic that ends up as rubbish headed for the landfill. So, before you go and buy a flimsy plastic mat to throw away right after your picnic, consider getting a reusable picnic blanket.
If you’re intending to purchase reusable items for your picnics, do consider if your purchase will be used in the long run. The environmental impact of using a reusable item only once may sometimes be greater than using its disposable alternative, like the classic example of the tote bag versus plastic bag.
You can check on websites like Carousell for second-hand options. Not only will you be extending the lifespan of an existing picnic blanket, but you may also find one that is cheaper than something brand new.
If a purchase is not worth it, you can ask around to borrow a picnic mat for the day. You can also check on platforms like Olio to see if anyone is looking to give away their picnic mat. As another option, you can sit on the grass or a park bench. This way, you can still enjoy your eco-friendly picnics without buying a new mat that you may only use a couple of times.
Avoid Tissue Paper and Disposable Wipes
Tissue paper and disposable wipes are single-use products. Moreover, they cannot be recycled. Instead, you can reach for a handkerchief to wipe those sticky fingers. It can be helpful to bring a wet bag to bring home all your used handkerchiefs. Alternatively, you can find a toilet to wash your hands in the sink.
Save Some Energy for Clean Up
Cleaning up is one of the most important parts of eco-friendly picnics. Take some time to ensure that no trash is left behind. Littering can not only ruin the beautiful scenery but also put wildlife at risk. This is because they may be unable to free themselves after getting caught in plastic bags and containers. Consequently, they might starve or suffocate. They might also eat trash, choking them or making them sick.
Feeding animals or leaving food behind from your picnic is not good for wildlife either. Inadvertently, they may learn to attack humans for food or experience surges in population sizes. For both of these reasons, authorities may be pressured to cull them.
So, remember to pick up after yourselves. Dispose of your rubbish and your recyclables, like cans and bottles, in the appropriate bins. If the bins are overflowing, you should hold onto your rubbish until you can find another one that isn’t full.
As bins may not be available everywhere, do remember to bring along a repurposed bag or container for trash so that nothing gets left behind on the beach or in the sea. If you see any litter lying around on the ground, you can help the environment by taking the extra effort to throw it away, even if it is not yours. We want to leave the place better than we found it!
To sum up, replace reusables with disposables wherever possible and clean up after yourselves. This will ensure you minimise the waste you create and reduce harm to the environment.
I hope this guide helps you plan and enjoy your own eco-friendly picnics. Do tell us about your experience!