Reusable materials make picnics more eco-friendly

By Melissa Silverberg

Students looking to take advantage of the warmer temperatures and enjoy a picnic or cook-out with friends can find a way to do so without adding to environmental problems, such as pollution and global warming.

When students begin to pack for a picnic, they should try to use as few plastic sandwich bags as possible and instead use reusable tins or canisters, said Donna Falconnier, nutrition and wellness educator for the University Extension program.

The best utensils to use during the picnic should be regular silverware, which can be taken home and washed instead of thrown away like plastic utensils, Falconnier said.

Buying products in bulk at stores such as Sam’s Club or Costco can cut down on packaging, said Ari Sahagun, senior in LAS and vice-president of Students for Environmental Concerns.

But, large companies such as Crate & Barrel and Pier 1 Imports have begun carrying lines of eco-friendly products that can be used outside during summertime.

Pier 1 has a line of sustainable life products that can be used at any outdoor picnic or event, said Whitney Rogers, spokesperson for the company.

“We have always tried to use materials that are renewable,” Rogers said.

These products include reusable plates instead of paper plates, a sea grass beach mat to sit on, reusable shopping bags to carry food in, a lemonade jar made of recycled glass and many more, she added.

For beverages, try to stay away from bottled water because of the plastic in the bottle, drink out of recyclable cans or bottles instead, Falconnier said.

Real Goods, another company that sells sustainable products, also markets eco-friendly disposable cookware, bio-bags, which are compostable trash bags, and solar table lights, said Raphael Schiffman, renewable energy technician for Real Goods.

“We don’t sell things made from Styrofoam, which it bad for the environment,” Schifffman said. “Those products give a lot of (carbon dioxide) off into the environment and contribute to global warming.”

One possible downside to planning a summer event with environmental concerns in mind might be the price.

The reusable plates from Pier 1 sell for $2 each, which Rogers said is a comparable price to other similar products.

However, some sustainable goods can cost more because there is not as much of them being produced.

“It is going to be a little more expensive than conventional products,” Schiffman said.

He explained that because there are so many paper plates being produced and bought, the price is lower than that of a product where the production and selling levels are not as high.

Although the cost may be higher, Schiffman said that the quality is also better.

“Our products are made to be reused,” Schiffman said.

Students looking for smaller ways to help the environment can take advantage of ordering online or going to stores to find products that are better for the ecosystems to use in their summertime activities.

Buying locally grown and produced food can also help the environment in terms of reducing fuel costs for transportation, Falconnier said.

“If you are bringing German beer, that means it has to come from Germany,” she added.

“Buying things that come from the area cuts down on all the shipping costs.”

To clean up after the picnic, Falconnier said cloth napkins are the greenest choice because they can be washed and reused.

“It all adds up,” Schiffman added. “There are so many little things that are easy to do.”

Although a picnic may seem like a small part of the green movement, officials have said that it is all of those smaller actions together that can make a change.

“Our actions affect more than just what we see,” Sarahgun said. “People are becoming more concerned, and the bottom line is that we are helping build healthier communities.”