Today’s post comes from Sheila Wiebe, Marketing Specialist at Bronte Creek Provincial Park.
Sometimes you have to go back to move forward. Take the family picnic as an example..
Until the Victorian era, picnics were enjoyed exclusively by the wealthy. After all, picnics were grand events with tables, linens, glass, chairs, waiters…and gourmet food, of course!
But the Victorian era saw the picnic cross class boundaries. Even early 20th century picnics were more formal than today, a far cry from our blankets and coolers, but the idea was ultimately the same.
It’s great that picnics are now an activity for everyone. But sometime between the 1910s and 2010s, picnics began to rely heavily on disposable plates, plastic cutlery, and cups. While we were having an “easy” picnic, we also created trash bags full of non-biodegradable waste.
From packing the cooler to tidying up, we took your childhood picnic and gave it an eco-friendly makeover.
Try these ideas to picnic like a Victorian:
Basics of packaging and planning.
A picnic requires some planning. It can take two or three days of preparation, from making blocks of ice to chilling coolers, not to mention planning and preparing the food.
The classic packing list:
- blankets (for taking a nap or resting)
- hats and/or umbrellas
- folding chairs or a hammock
- sunscreen and insect repellent
- books and magazines
- Equipment for games and activities.
These are all still great options.
Here are some tricks to green your other picnic staples:
The ecological choice for plates and cutlery.
Swap out single-use dishes for these alternatives:
Choose reusable plates and utensils. They are an important source of garbage and waste in general. Go green by choosing a fun set of reusable plates and cutlery. You can also pack meals in individual reusable containers and eat directly from them! Plus, it’s profitable!
Replace juice boxes and plastic straws with glasses that have lids or sipping covers.
Pack a sink and dish soap. (or use one of the cubes you will use for the sponge game). This is great for washing sticky hands and cleaning reusable glasses, plates and cutlery. This will help eliminate disposable plates and cups that accumulate in recycling or trash and attract wasps.
Finger food and snacking are the way to go!
Go to the farmers market or supermarket to buy fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables and prepare as much as possible the day before.
Try these options:
- pasta salads
- vegetable sticks
- cheese and crackers
- stuffed eggs
- hummus sauce
- cut fruits (watermelon, apples, grapes)
- cupcakes, instead of a large cake
If barbecuing is for you (and is allowed in the day-use area you’re visiting), bring a portable propane or charcoal barbecue from home (at Bronte Creek, charcoal disposal bins are located throughout the area. day use).
Green Tip: Pack food in reusable containers. When empty, they can be washed and used to divide up leftovers for guests to take home. Choose small containers for individual snacks instead of resealable plastic bags.
Fun and games
Try these traditional family picnic games and activities. At Bronte Creek, you could:
- Test your skill by throwing shoes or flip flops.
- walk nearby trails
- bike to your picnic spot
- take the kids to the playground
- look for errors
- go bird watching
- play cricket
- kick a soccer ball
- play bocce
- start a game of disc golf
- shoot some hoops on a basketball court
- play baseball
- fly a kite
Need more fun ideas?
Try these activities! They are less likely to hurt you or the environment than games like a three-legged race, potato sack, or plank skiing.
- pass the water – a line of people must pass a glass of water over their head or under their legs to fill a bucket (two lines run past each other).
- frozen t-shirt – Take a variety of t-shirts (despite the larger side), soak them in water and wring out as much water as you can. Fold them so they fit in the cooler and freeze. Transport to the picnic in the cooler. Before they thaw, challenge guests to see who can put one on the fastest.
- treasure hunt with photos – a twist on a scavenger hunt that doesn’t require collecting items, but rather images of them.
- sponge relay – better than a balloon launch and the participants get wet just the same. There are no small pieces of balloon left; Just use a bucket full of water and a few sponges.
- forest bathing – Also known as forest therapy. Find a trail and listen to the sounds of nature around you.
Say “no” to egg toss games or water balloon games. The small pieces of balloon are harmful to wildlife and the egg mass will attract wildlife.
Keep cold things cold
Refrigerators have come a long way in terms of insulation (who remembers the squeaky Styrofoam ones that never made it home?).
For fresh foods and cold drinks, follow these tips:
- Use two reusable coolers, one for food and one for drinks.
- Experts say it’s best to cool your cooler at least a day before your trip. This means sacrificing some ice.
- freeze or refrigerate your foods and drinks in advance
- use ice blocks on the bottom. Then, place a separator (like a cookie cooling rack) so the food doesn’t slip into the water and get soggy.
- Pack food and consider where things are placed. The foods you will need first should go on top, so you don’t have to search too much.
- place a piece of foam insulation, such as an old camping mat, on top
- Keep coolers in the shade and avoid opening them as much as possible.
- use a camp-style water jug for refreshments to avoid having to open coolers frequently
- For short day trips, don’t drain the water until you’re ready to pack up and go home. The cold water at the bottom will help keep your drinks cold.
Other green things you can do
- Car sharing to save carbon emissions and reduce costs.
- Leave the area better than you found it by picking up after yourself, leaving natural features in the park, and staying on the trail.