Ditch Disposables

With Memorial Day Weekend behind us, summer is officially here. And if you’re anything like us, you’ll be taking every opportunity you can to dine al fresco. During the summer, and particularly on holidays, we can be more inclined to reach for disposables when serving a crowd or eating outside. At the end of the meal, plastic cups and cutlery, paper plates and napkins, all get tossed into a Hefty bag destined for a landfill.

Do you remember that scene from Mad Men when the Drapers go on a family picnic? At the end of the meal, Betty pulls up the blanket scattering their trash across the grass – and they simply walk away from it. That image stays with me because it was so shocking, it’s impossible to imagine that happening nowadays. We’ve done a lot to reduce littering since the 1950s, but now we’re flooding the planet with plastic and single-use products.  Did you know…

The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.*
(*Source: EcoWatch)

I don’t think anyone feels good about that statistic or the Hefty bag. What does feel good is eating outside in a way that’s not harmful to the earth, even if it’s a little more work. I hope there comes a time, in the not-so-distant future, when we feel the same way about disposables as we do about litter. I hope when we see disposables in a film we will think, “Gosh, what were we thinking? That was crazy!”

This summer, ditch disposables by finding a more sustainable way to dine al fresco!

Here are a few things that have helped us:

  1. Buy a set of melamine plates. My mom loves this set from West Elm I gifted her for Mother’s Day last year. We use these any time we eat outside or go on picnics. They are lightweight, dishwasher safe, and won’t break.
  2. Use real cutlery. It can be tempting to purchase disposable forks, knives, and spoons, but literally no one enjoys eating off plastic and it’s next stop is the trash. Consider bringing the real stuff – simply bring a container to store and transport the dirty cutlery, then hand wash it or pop it in the dishwasher when you get home.
  3. Keep a set of acrylic or shatterproof-plastic glasses for outdoor meals. We have these all-purpose stemless wine glasses for bigger gatherings (they’re less expensive) and we have these more durable acrylic tumblers for family picnics and barbecues when we need fewer. They may be acrylic or plastic, but they’re not single-use plastic. Lightweight and durable, we’ve used these glasses umpteen times over the years without needing to replace them. We keep them in the closet and pull them out whenever we need them.
  4. If you don’t want to purchase a new set of glasses, use old mason jars. I keep nearly every large jar we empty and save them for food storage and transporting drinks.
  5. If you really need to use disposables, buy the eco-friendly, compostable stuff. We have used Susty Party in the past (they have very cute things), but the price tag was enough to inspire us to the above alternatives.

Do you have any ideas for Planetarian picnics? I would love to hear!

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