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Enciby Enci

With so many summer parties on the calendar, concerts and theater in the park, it would be a shame not to address the importance of staying green while on the green.

I always like to look at photographs about the farm life in various countries, the simple way they live and one interesting thing that I always notice is that there is almost never anything in sight that is not sustainable.

Photos of a couple working on a farm and taking a lunch break will depict a hand woven basket, bread wrapped in cloth, meat and cheese and fruits in the basket and refreshment in a bottle with some cups or mugs. Nothing is used that would be thrown away.

This probably has a few simple explanations: 

1. The farmers have to go clean up after themselves.
2. The farmers will have to come back to tend to the farm that cannot have trash floating around the vegetable beds and the fruit trees.
3. Everything has to go back home with them. If there is no packaging, the basket is lighter at the end of the day after the food has been consumed.

What is the difference between us in the city and them?

1. We act as if someone else will clean up after us so we use our public space as our trashcan.
2. We move around so much, we are able to avoid witnessing the blight we leave behind.
3. We live disposable lives that relieve us of any return trip baggage. In fact, we live in a society that is too comfortable to carry anything (hence all the strollers, wagons, rolling baskets, shopping carts, and cars).

But if we consider the amount of trash that we create, and want to simply have a wonderful time with family and friends, a great first step would be to rethink our next outing. Commit to a “pack it in, pack it out” picnic and then add the “leave things better than you found them” philosophy and your simple family picnic can turn an enjoyable afternoon into an opportunity to change the world.

Here are some easy tips:

1. Bring your own reusable mug and ask all your guests to bring theirs as well. If they don’t bring it, they won’t drink. (It is fascinating to see how many will remember to bring their mug, when you put it that way.)
2. Ask each one of your guests to bring one thing, to make it easy and simple:
– one person can bring the wooden utensils or the silverware and some cloth napkins
– one person can bring a couple bottles of alcoholic beverages (if you plan on serving alcohol)
– one person can bring fruit juices or homemade lemonade in bottles. (In the old days, people knew how to pack bottles safely without breaking them. We can re-learn that technique, not everything has to be drop-proof!)
– one person can bring reusable plates (I carried 30 ceramic plates wrapped in two towels on my bike to Goodwill the other day and not one of them broke. Woohoo!)
– one person can make some cold dishes in reusable dishware
– one person can make sweets and carry them in a pie dish
– everybody can bring a towel or small blanket to sit on, or one person can bring a big blanket.

Now this seems like a simple picnic and it involves 7 people. Imagine how simple it can become if you are more than 7. If you are less, then divide it up so that everybody will pitch in, in more than one way.

I carry with me at all times my mug, napkin, chopsticks, water bottle, sometimes a container to carry my leftover dinner home in and of course a canvas bag. All this is with me in my bag on my bike. I’m used to walking out the house as if I was going for a picnic and life is so much more fun!

You can find some fantastic picnic ware online that is inexpensive and will last a lifetime:

– Bahama Deluxe Travel Picnic Set for 2
– Wine picnic basket for 4 that would easily fit even on a bike or in a bike trailer
– Bamboo Dinner Plates
– Reusable Bamboo Utensil Sets These are beautiful and I have some friends who carry these with them all the time and use them.
– Silverware set for 4
– REI Travel Picnic Kit for 2

Our society has become so used to creating everything temporary, that our memories are also only made up of fleeting moments. Remember the days when you and your mom packed for a trip? You might not remember the trip but you remember the time packing. Or when you and your friends got together and painted your new apartment? Or when you went to summer camp and your grandpa packed something for you and slipped a note in there with it?

These are memories that are tangible. The note you might still have somewhere in your treasure box. The moments packing with family are remembered with dread or with laughter, but they are remembered because people are involved in that memory. They are involved physically with you.

The same idea is behind the sustainable picnic. You will remember forever these outings because you and your friends/family will create teamwork, doing something together, preparing, planning and packing up together. You don’t remember the times when you threw something in the trash with your best friend, but you will remember carefully packing the trunk of the car or your bike trailer with the bottle of refreshments, you will remember eating on beautiful china on the grass while watching Shakespeare in the Park. You will feel like royalty and your friends will feel special. You will be treated by others with respect because you show them and our planet respect.

This is the whole idea behind picnicking sustainably in the green outdoors. You will carry the memories with you when you get home late at night and you load up the dishwasher. You will be remembering the outing weeks later when you refill that glass with another homemade lemonade. And your friends will be reminded of that special day in the park when they come over and you serve them again on that familiar china plate that they have been eating from in the park.

Make your summer nights’ outings with friends fun and sustainable and cherish the moments many years later with them and with our planet still intact.

Dresden picnic photo by

Enci is a Mother, Actress, Artist and Activist.

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