Low waste picnic ideas

A family of four enjoy a low waste picnic in a park. They have reusable plates and cutlery, a picnic basket and a cool box on a blanket.

Low waste picnic ideas

A low waste picnic doesn’t need to be complicated! With a few simple swaps you can have a picnic that’s kind to the planet (and looks beautiful on Instagram).

It’s a picnic, not a plastic party!

Single use plastic cups filled with plastic cutlery and paper napkins

Before high-street supermarkets were a thing, picnic spreads had to be planned in advance. Almost everything carried in a bag or basket to the picnic spot. The convenience of having shops right next to many of our parks in Bristol makes it much easier to get food on the go, but it can also lead to buying too much or finding everything wrapped in single-use plastic. 

However, with just a little bit of planning and prep, you can still enjoy a waste-free picnic in the 21st century. From reusable containers to bulk snacks, these low waste picnic ideas will help you reduce your impact on the environment while having a great time.

Plan your low waste picnic food to reduce waste

In a supermarket aisle, a person looks at a shopping list on their phone while pushing a trolley.

Before you head out, plan your food and make a list of the items you’ll need. Try to choose foods that don’t require packaging, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, and homemade snacks. In Bristol, we’re lucky to have a lot of dedicated refill shops to fill up our snack pots. And, if your picnic is in Castle Park, take your lunch boxes to St Nick’s market for some of the best picnic food you’ll ever have!

Swap food in single-use packaging for eco-friendly alternatives

A plastic-free picnic spread on top of a white sheet on a grassy lawn.

Try to avoid single-use packaging as much as possible. Instead of buying individually wrapped snacks, buy in bulk and pack them in reusable containers. This will help reduce the amount of waste generated during your picnic. Using small local shops can make it easier to find plastic-free food.

Pack reusable utensils to avoid disposable plastic

A woman uses reusable cutlery to eat a packed lunch out of a tupperware box.

Your picnic might only last 2 hours, but any plastic cutlery you use would hang around for 200 years! So ditch the disposable plates, cutlery, and cups and bring reusable containers and utensils with you. This way, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy your picnic, and you won’t generate any waste. Wax wraps can be used instead of tinfoil for sandwiches and snacks – and they’re fun to make!

Bring cloth napkins that can be reused

A picnic plate laid with reusable cutlery on top of a blue and white check cloth napkin.

Instead of using paper napkins, bring a few cloth napkins with you to wipe sticky hands and clean up spills. Unlike paper napkins or kitchen roll, they can be washed and used again and again.

Don’t forget to bring a bin

Looking across the water in Bristol towards Hotwells.

‘Leave no trace’ doesn’t just apply on the beach. It’s important to pack up everything you brought with you, including empty wrappers and leftover food. Bring a bin or a bag for unavoidable waste and take it home with you. This will help keep the park clean and protect wildlife (which in Bristol can include otters and even porpoises!)

If you’re planning to put your picnic waste in a litter bin, find one that has enough space for everything you need to throw away or split your litter between several bins. Don’t put the whole bag in as this can block the opening, and definitely don’t leave anything next to the bin. If the bin is full, please find one that has more space. During summer and busy events, you’ll find extra bins along the Harbourside and other popular public spaces.

Planning to have your low waste picnic by the water? Put your plastic, glass and metal in one of Bristol’s on-the-go recycling bins. The new recycling bins make up a trail leading from Castle Park, through the centre of the city and along the waterfront.

All that’s left to do now is gather your friends and family, head to the park or Harbourside and have a lovely time!

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