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NOTE: The birds & squirrel pictured at the top of this page and in the slideshow below are just a few that I have helped rehabilitate.
WARNING: Please do not touch a wild animal, especially the young ones. If you remove a baby from it's home, sometimes the mother is just off getting it's baby food and will be back.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

"Green" Picnics for a Summer Change

As I work on my writing indoors during the hottest part of the day, I usually watch the Food Network at the same time. Recently I discovered that I also get the Cooking Channel that has been showcasing a lot of international BBQ ideas, cooking outside, tailgating, and going on picnics. Of course food always gets me excited... but eating outside seems to make it better. So how about some ways to have a greener picnic?

Picnics are an age-old custom that have roots back in our ancestral cave dwelling and hunter-gatherer days. The open campfire. Eating in the open air. Enjoying the beauty of nature and the simplicity of real food. Eating with our hands. Sitting on the ground. So it's time to take back this simple, green picnic tradition...and here are some suggestions to green your picnics in ways that save money, save work...and save our natural treasures.

Forget the paper and plastic! When you think of zero-waste, you realize that you really don't need paper plates, plastic spoons, paper table cloths or even paper napkins. Choose foods that you can serve easily and eat all of. Also, invest in a picnic basket that you can use over and over for years. You can use recycled containers that you've utilized before, cloth, your hands, and even sticks for extra fun! The main point is to pack a picnic with utensils that you already have (without buying new items that tout being "green.") For example, the video below showcases a product called Bare by Solo® (plates, cups, containers) that are made from partially recycled materials and supposedly compostable... but they are still paper plates and not worth buying if one is truly dedicated to green initiatives.

Ok, so back to other green picnic suggestions:

Choose raw foods: a chopped salad, or skewered veggies roasted over the open fire. By selecting fresh fruits and vegetables that can be eaten raw, you get back in touch with your human roots and save a lot of work! And it's healthier than other over-cooked, fat-laden picnic menus. Some great raw foods include in-season fruits such as peaches, apples, cherries (seed spitting contests are always fun!), watermelons, cantaloupes, and many of the tropical fruits now available in grocery stores. But think organic, think local...and think about washing the fruit before eating it. Great vegetables for grilling and raw salads include tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and corn on the cob. Meats for grilling can include beef, fish, and other favorites like hotdogs. Be careful with chicken, turkey and pork-- they all require efficient, continuous cooling and cleanliness to prevent stomach problems. That can sometimes be difficult in picnic settings.

Drink from large containers or assign each person a reusable cup that you've brought from home. Water bottles and soft drink cans are huge problems in our waste stream! Water is a sustainable, green, healthful drink for active outdoor refreshment; as are green tea, herbal teas, lemonade, and even some vegetable drinks. Sugar-heavy drinks increase body heat and sap energy so keep them to a minimum.

Feed the birds and ants a healthy distance from your picnic (but don't entice other animals to your picnic site.) Giving children the task of feeding the birds healthy food not only connects them with nature, but teaches them the difference between healthy wildlife food and unhealthy food. Realize though that ducks and other birds should not eat bread. Stop by a pet store and invest in a small bag of duck food or bird seed. Save your human food for humans and the compost pile!

Open space is a wonderful inspiration for running and jumping and laughter. That's for the young at heart. For the rest of us: bring blankets for nice afternoon naps and quiet visits or cuddling. Once the day is winding down, be sure to take away any garbage you generate and take home any recyclables. Don't hesitate to pick up after those who won't pick up after themselves, leaving nothing behind from your picnic.

Ah...picnics are a great tradition. So many fond memories grow from those rustic moments in nature. How cool that they can be even more sustainable if we take a few minutes to pack the right things.

Happy Wednesday! - BA