As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the launch day events for Plastic-Free St Albans is a Plastic-Free Picnic at Highfield Park. This is also an awesome way to celebrate Earth Day too. So whether you are planning a picnic for this reason, or having one on any other day, here are my top tips for a plastic-free picnic…
Firstly, choose items that are sold loose or in recyclable packaging. Avoid plastic packaging as much as you can! It is hard to do, which is why there are several campaigns focused on holding shops and supermarkets more accountable for this too. If you are feeling abit rebellious, you could unpackage everything after you pay, before you leave and give the rubbish back to them… maybe it will help them to take the hint!
Better yet, head on down to your local eco store, if you have one, with your refill jars and avoid the supermarkets with all their unnecessary packaging full stop!
(Oh, and wherever you shop, don’t forget to take your reusable bags, obviously….)
Packing Your Picnic
Use an old style wicker basket to carry your picnic! Or choose from one of the many reusable bag options available. This one is easy; just don’t use a plastic bag! Moving on…
Tuppaware containers are ok as they aren’t single- use plastic. However, there are even better alternatives! Stainless steel containers are more environmentally- friendly and will most likely last you longer too.
Taking your own cutlery that you use at home is a good choice. You don’t actually need different cutlery just because you are eating outdoors! But if you do prefer to use something else, invest in a reusable bamboo cutlery set if possible.
For disposable cutlery options, as well as bowls and plates too, choose eco- friendly items such as from The Blue Speck. They are 100% biodegradable and sourced directly from plants.
Take a flask along with a reusable cup for hot drinks. For cold drinks, take along a reusable drinks bottle. If you need a straw, invest in a reusable one made from metal or bamboo, or buy disposable alternatives to plastic, such as paper straws.
Other Useful Info
Low Tox Box also has a fab zero waste starter kit. It contains several reusable bags, spork, cup and straw for £30 plus P&P. They also plant a tree for every box sold and send a certificate too.
St Albans #refusethestraw campaign is inspired by Plastic Free July and has one simple aim; to drastically reduce the use of plastic straws in bars, pubs, cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, schools and everywhere else across St Albans. After watching A Plastic Ocean as part of the St Albans Film Festival, Emma (founder) felt even more motivated to push forward with this movement to rid St Albans of these harmful, and unnecessary, single- use plastics from our community.
A plastic straw has a useful life of around 20 minutes, and most places don’t bother separating them out for recycling. Many end up in our oceans. A great example of human wastefulness! Local businesses can take part in the following ways:
Provide a straw only when requested by a customer
Provide compostable paper straws instead (not those with a polyethylene lining) or other eco-friendly straws
Get rid of straws completely*
*Note: In the interest of considering customers with disabilities, ideally sustainable alternatives to plastic straws would still be available, at least on request.
Furthermore, individuals can help by spreading the word, speaking to people who work in local businesses about changes they can make, and simply by refusing a straw when buying a drink.
The campaign has got off to a roaring start and is gaining momentum fast! So far 16 businesses (and counting!) have pledged their support and are taking action, with more being added to the list daily. This is great news for our environment!
At the time of writing, the following are all phasing out (or already have removed) plastic straws:
I am so excited about this fantastic step forward and can’t wait for further developments! To keep up with the latest campaign news and progress, make sure you follow @starefusestraw on twitter and St Albans #refusethestraw over on facebook. Neighbouring town of Harpenden also has its own #refusethestraw campaign, which you can find on facebook or twitter too.
And don’t forget to tag us in your local strawless or eco straw photos and/ or share them with us using the #refusethestraw hashtag to help spread the word even further!
Small changes make a big impact… and together we can clean up our planet.
If you would like to set up a campaign in your local area, here are some top tips:
You can get started just by setting up an email address, Twitter and Facebook page.
Approach businesses initially with a polite email, following up with an update if no response.
Keep it light – we all know this is a serious thing, but a big green rant might put people off.
Start with green and community minded businesses who are more likely to switch to get the ball rolling and build momentum. Other people are more likely to switch if they see others doing so!
Take it at your own pace. Even just 1 or 2 emails / calls / visits a day makes a huge impact!
Be prepared with information to be able to widen the conversation if the business would like further details e.g. disposable cups, food waste etc…
Don’t be afraid to try the big chains. Ask them to use your local branch as a pilot.
Spread the word about your campaign on local Facebook groups etc…
Regular updates on social media keeps momentum. Post successes, and regularly publicise a list of everyone who has switched.
People like to share photos, encourage use of the hashtag to help spread the word further.
Approach local media and bloggers to get coverage.
Work with local groups e.g. WI, Transition, Scouts.
Plastic Straw Alternatives
There are various sustainable straw options. I have tested out a couple of different ones at home; including steel and bamboo reusables, plus disposable paper and wheat ones too. I recommend the best thing to do is try some out for yourself and decide which is best for you. But here are some of my personal opinions:
Firstly, yes this is still a family blog! So, what am I talking about? The answer is the environment and our oceans of course! More to the point, this post is about all the single-use plastics that get dumped into the environment every single day – polluting our oceans and harming our wildlife – and what we can do about it.
Lonely Whale Foundation recently launched their Strawless Ocean campaign asking everyone to pledge to #StopSucking by refusing plastic straws and either go straw-free or use more sustainable alternatives. Between Brits and the US, we use 550 million plastic straws every single day. Each single-use plastic straw takes 200 years to break down into tiny toxic particles. Alot end up in the ocean. That is a huge amount of plastic pollution.
Share the video and pledge to ditch plastic straws!
Another great charity, 5Gyres, have also launched a campaign to address the use of disposable cups. Ideally the best thing to do is to take a reusable cup with you to cafes and coffee shops. However, if you don’t have a reusable cup available (and why not? There is no excuse – lots of places sell them!) then at least go topless, so that is one less piece of waste!
Did you know in the UK only one in 400 coffee cups are recycled? It is too difficult to separate their plastic coating and cardboard to recycle the card. Yet, as reported by Telegraph, half of people believe their disposable coffee cups are being recycled all or most of the time. As many as 2.5 billion paper coffee cups are thrown away in the UK each year – again, that is ALOT of waste. Invest in a resuable cup and remember to take it with you as a small commitment to protecting our oceans, and our planet.
If you would also like other ideas about actions you can take, check out Clean Seas to see what others are up to and join in with their existing campaigns – or start one of your own!