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Keep your picnics environmentally friendly by reading our tried-and-true guide to minimizing garbage while you’re on the go!

When out picnicking or hiking for the day, knowing what to do when you’re done with your ready-made travel kit or picnic basket is an important aspect of your adventure that should not be overlooked. As a wise man once said, “If you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all.” The same principle applies to dealing with the inevitable byproduct of human consumption.


Minimizing waste extends to more than just the physical objects you bring with you; it also applies to time and the implicit social contracts of dining outdoors in public areas. Picking up your garbage is an aspect of being a good neighbor that is quickly neutralized if you happen to act like a piece of garbage.

Consider these five easy tips to help you make the most of your picnicking experience.

1. Bring along a large freezer bag to hold dirty flatware and dishes. You can then transport them with minimum effort and space, and rewash the bag when you get home. Your picnic basket can then be repacked when the dishes have been washed.

2. Bring a small garbage bag to take care of anything that doesn’t make sense to keep with your dishes—things like packaging, boxes, plastic or yogurt tops. Always hold yourself accountable, and never “forget” that something is there. As the illustrious leaders at NOLS say, “Leave no trace.” It’s ideal to not bring any package food but to make food in advance and then “pack” it yourself!

3. If you’re bringing kids to the picnic, have them help clean up by making it into a game! It’s pretty easy to get everything done when it’s put into the context of “fun.”

4. Get a storage plan! Pack food in containers that nest into one another, and use only the right size to minimize wasted space in your pack. Cleanup is effortless when you don’t have to think about how to get the garbage into your pack.

5. Keep your picnic site small, this inherently minimizes cleanup and waste. Pack it in, pack it out! No one else wants to pick it up, trust us.