Zero waste picnic: classy not trashy

Zero waste tips for picnic, BBQ and parties. Make it classy, not trashy!

In summer everybody is enjoying being outside, having picnics and BBQ’s in the park or at the beach. 
But have you noticed the huge amount of trash being left behind after such events?  Lets make this summer classy and not trashy.

It is not only about reducing what we are sending to landfill, it is also about having a nice and clean surrounding. If the summer season is here and everybody is enjoying to be outside a lot of trash is appearing too. 

  • Single use ice cream spoons, straws, cutlery, cups, plates.
  • Snack wrapper, ice cream wrapper, food packaging.
  • Lids and bottle caps.
  • And even more cigarette butts than normal. 
Zero waste picnic essentials


The easiest way to avoid single use disposables is to bring and use reusables.
If you are invited to a birthday party or picnic where you don’t know if they provide reusables or if you know they only provide disposable, bring your own cup, cutlery, plate and water bottle.
(Check out our Low waste summer essentials here)

If you are planning a party yourself, ask around in your neighborhood (a few days/weeks before) if someone has or could collect jars for you, so you can offer your guests reusables to drink from.

Same with cutlery, if you don’t have enough, ask friends or buy some cheap reusables in thrift stores/op shops. If you can/want, ask your friends to bring reusables to the picnic/party. And explain why.

Bring your reusable cup and spoon to the ice cream shop if you don’t like or can’t eat cones (gluten).

Cigarette butts

And if you are a smoker and there is no bin close by, please collect your butts in a pocket ashtray or something else (match box) and dispose properly.
If it will be a big party, or if you are organizing a few events a year, do some research if there is a place that does recycle butts. Terra Cycle offers Zero Waste boxes for Cigarettes too.

Solutions for any unrefusable/unpredictable trash:

If you are planning a bigger party and you know some people might bring packaged food, or you do have bottles of drinks, etc.
Prepare easy recycling options: a box for glass, a box for plastic and one for paper. (Or use reusable, washable bags for this.) I would say no compost needed as leftover food shouldn`t get thrown away, but just be taken home from any of you.
Make sure the trash can’t get blown away by the wind, and look for that no bird or squirrel gets easily to it.

Tips to prepare food for picnics, BBQ’s and parties:

  • Buy the products you need package free or plastic free.
  • Bring your reusable bags for fresh produce shopping. 
  • On markets and organic stores it is easier to bring your own container for deli, salads etc.
  • Make fingerfood. This way it is easy to avoid the cutlery 😉
  • Transport everything in your reusable cotton bags.
  • Use jars or reusable container for salad, tofu, hummus, etc.
  • Use glass jars for dips, dressings, snacks, etc.
  • Get some unwrapped bread from the bakery and wrap it into a cotton cloth/bag
  • Make your own stuff, like bread, hummus, pesto or snacks to avoid prepackaged food.
  • If you are ordering a cake or cupcakes from a bakery you can bring them reusables before or when you are picking it up. Just tell them you are bringing reusables so they won’t prepack them.
  • If you can’t find anything plasticfree, buy the biggest bags, buy the easiest to recycle in your city packaging or just stick to organic. The conventional mass agriculture has a very bad impact. So buying packaged organic instead of conventional packaged, can make a great difference (if the product is locally sourced and not from far away.) There is always an “if”, that´s why it is hard to have one rule for all…
  • And yes, if there are no recycling bins around, and there is unavoidable but recyclable trash involved I acually keep it and bring my recyclables back home.

Low waste tips for going to a festival or beach party

Bring your own reusables too… If it is a festival where you need to go through security, leave stainless steel stuff at home. They might not be allowed because of security reasons.

Bring reusables made of other material:
a bamboo spork, bamboo or paper plate, (or any other reusable container) a reusable plastic cup/bamboo cup for drinks and a paper straw/stainless steel/bamboo straw if you like to drink smoothies, etc. Or if you still have plastic cutlery from former take away, you can reuse them and bring them too.

Sometimes they offer freebies like really cheap sunnies, flyers, plastic stuff, balloons, sweet drinks in plastic bottles. You can just refuse them if you don’t want them and if you want to make your visit a zero waste/minimal waste visit. Refusing free stuff is the hardest part sometimes.

But if you really think about it:

  • is the sweet drink really something you want to drink (think about the ingredients;).
  • would you use the colorful cheap plastic stuff after the festival, or do you throw it away?
  • Or will it just lay around somewhere?
(Get more tips for Zero Waste Camping here.)

Level up your lifestyle 🙂

For me it is not only about the waste, but also about the taste. Drinks out of glass, ceramic or stainless steel, food from real forks, and from a ceramic/stainless steel plate tastes just so much better. And it looks much better too.

Enjoy all the summer days that are coming! And make some happy choices.

Find your favorite zero waste essentials here -> Zero Waste Basics

Classy vs trashy...what would you choose is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We are also affiliate partner for other programs/stores like shareasale,, etc. 

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