How To Have An Educational Zero-Waste Picnic with Children

How to have a fun and educational zero-waste picnic with children

This article has been written by Mike Hardman, Marketing Manager at catering equipment supplier Alliance Online, who shares his tips for a zero-waste picnic that teaches children about the importance of eco friendliness.

Early years children love picnics — especially when teddy bears are invited along! And, as well as being fun, they can present lots of great learning opportunities. Here’s how to host a fun and educational zero-waste picnic that teaches children important lessons about protecting the Earth.

Plan out your menu

Before you buy or make any food, it’s important to plan out exactly what you’ll be serving and calculate the necessary portion sizes, because a detailed shopping list will significantly reduce the risk of you buying or making too much.

If you have any leftovers in the fridge, consider ways to make the most of those first. Change4Life has lots of lunchbox ideas and tips if you need inspiration.

To help teach kids about the importance of a balanced diet, why not shortlist a few options for each part of the picnic — carbohydrate, fruit and veg, dairy, and protein — and have the kids decide on what they want for each? You could even create some maths and spelling activities based around the shopping list.

Choose your ingredients carefully

teddy bear picnic food

The most earth-friendly ingredients are ones grown in your very own garden. You might not have anything ripe for the picking this time, but why not set up a vegetable patch, plant a fruit tree, or even start growing some cress with the kids in preparation for your next picnic?

When you do have to go food shopping, there are lots of ways to be more waste-conscious:

  • Take along reusable bags and containers. You can use these to pick up packaging-free ingredients like bread, fruit, and vegetables, eliminating plastic waste. Of course, you’ll also want to avoid buying shopping bags at the checkout.
  • Avoid conveniences like pre-made sandwiches, washed salads, and sliced fruits, which typically have more packaging and a higher carbon footprint. Plus, this way, you can get the kids involved with food preparation and teach them some valuable skills.
  • Where there’s not a zero-waste option, try to choose products with packaging that’s recyclable and made from recycled materials.
  • Shop local. Ingredients that have travelled longer distances have usually generated more waste (and carbon emissions) along the way.

Also bear in mind it’s generally less wasteful to cook or bake food from scratch. There are lots of easy recipes kids can get involved with, from bread and butter to biscuits and vegetable crisps, so there’s a great opportunity for fun and learning before the picnic begins. Plus, kids are much more likely to enjoy a healthy meal when they’ve played a part in creating it.

Invest in reusables

By investing in high-quality, reusable products for your picnic, you can eliminate the need for disposables now and in the future.

  • Bamboo plates and cutlery can be a great eco-friendly option for outdoor dining. They’re lightweight enough for kids to use and should stand up to plenty of wear.
  • Invest in washable wipes so you can clean up mucky hands and mouths without any of the waste.
  • Opt for reusable containers rather than wrapping your food in cling film or foil.

Dispose of any waste responsibly

eco friendly picnic with children

Even with all this planning, it’s likely you’ll have some kind of food waste to deal with, even if it’s just fruit peels and a few half-eaten sandwiches.

If you receive a food waste collection service, pack a container especially for gathering all your leftovers and ask the children to come scrape off their plates when they’re finished. As well as encouraging them to clean up after themselves, this will give you a chance to talk about the importance of minimising food waste. Recycle Now has some great resources you could use.

Or, if you can, why not set up your own compost heap? It’s easier than you might think and will allow kids to see for themselves how composting works — take a look at this guide from the RHS for advice.

Take these tips on board to have a fun, healthy, and educational picnic that’s kind to the Earth, too!

picnic tables and benches for schools

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