What to bring to a sustainable picnic and how to leave no trace

To avoid the spread of COVID-19, most people choose outdoor activities to meet friends with a lower risk of spreading disease.  

It’s tempting to just order take away food and dine at the park. But have you considered how much disposable plastic waste this creates? During the pandemic, single-use plastic waste has gone up as much as 300%

And outdoor parks have seen a flood of visitors during the Pandemic. As early as March of 2020, park visitations had risen by as much as 75%.   

This is a guide to help you be mindful of the ways your picnics impact the earth. Here are some tips from the leave no trace principles, which are especially important for conserving nature whether you’re picnicking, hiking or camping.  

What is leave no trace?

Leave no trace helps people to become environmentally aware. It’s a set of principles to prevent unnecessary eco-foolishness such as: 

  • Litter 
  • Damaging trails and foliage growth
  • Polluting waterways 
  • Disturbing wildlife
  • Accidental fires

7 leave no trace principles for picnics or outdoor treks

Two guys having a picnic

Plan and prepare 

For a picnic in the park, check the park guidelines online for things like opening hours, special guidelines, and rules. If you know a certain park will be overcrowded, skip it and choose another spot. 

If you’re going further into nature, come prepared with brightly colored clothes, warm clothing layers, enough water and a first-aid kit. 

Ideally, you won’t be packing much disposable waste either. Plan ahead to use refillable water bottles, food containers, and flatware. Bring a garbage bag with you so you can take out your compostables or disposables.  

Stay on durable surfaces 

With the high number of visitors in a park, we can literally trample the greenery to death. This creates “scars” in nature. The solution? Stay on already defined paths that are durable and designed for foot traffic. 

A girl walking in nature on a bridge over a river

Put your waste where it belongs

If you’re picnicking far from garbage bins, “pack it in and pack it out.” Plastic garbage is attractive to many animals and they can choke on it. Plus, animals will be drawn to food debris if you leave food containers or even crumbs or spills, so it is better to take all of your grimy garbage home to wash. 

Leave nature as you found it

It might be tempting to carve your initials into a tree, but don’t. To become a true guru of the outdoors, you learn to adapt to nature, instead of making it adapt to you. Try to minimize your impact. 

Be careful with fire

After several years of record-breaking wildfires around the world, most people can appreciate the importance of this principle. Pay close attention to fire warnings in your area, choose designated fire sites, and be sure to extinguish your fires fully before leaving. 

A man drinking a beer on a park bench

Share nature with wildlife

When you’re outdoors, you’re sharing the space with lots of other living things. Keep the space comfortable for wildlife. Don’t feed animals your food, don’t scare or startle creatures, don’t approach animals--appreciate them at a distance. 

Share parks with other people

Please treat others with respect in parks or outdoor spaces. This is especially important during the Pandemic, when social distancing and wearing face masks can prevent others from getting the virus. 

It all comes down to respect, sharing space, and minimizing your impact on the outdoors. Leave no trace principles include many more details that we didn’t cover. For nature-lovers, it’s necessary knowledge that you can learn and teach to your friends.  

Let us know your picnic hacks in the comments. 


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