How to ditch single-use plastics for your picnic

Now is a great time to make the switch to reusable and refillable containers for your spring and summer picnics.

Kamebry Wagner

Environment Illinois Conservation Intern

During the spring and summer what better way is there to celebrate than spending time outdoors? A picnic may be the perfect activity for you on Earth Day or any day you want to celebrate the earth and treat yourself to a relaxing time in nature. When planning your picnic, think about ways to switch out any single-use plastics for reusables and refillables.

Picnics are all about enjoying food, the outdoors, and each other’s company. But single-use plastic bags, foam cups, plastic cutlery, and food wrappers can take hundreds of years to fully degrade and can get left behind or blown away, left to pollute the same natural environment you came to enjoy. By replacing our own single-use plastics with reusables and refillables, and by supporting policies that make it easier for us all to make the switch, we can better steward our environment for many future picnics.  

Shifting away from single-use plastics can be daunting for many, especially considering that you may not always have a choice as a consumer picking up a to-go order from your favorite restaurant. But with a little bit of help, it can be easier to make a change in your own consumer habits. By sharing your story we can also build support for changes in our laws and corporate practices.

If you are looking for a place to start, check out these tips for sustainable alternatives that you can substitute for your single-use plastics on your upcoming picnic:

  • Pack your food in reusable containers and bring extra to package up leftovers. Beeswax wraps are great for sandwiches, wraps and to cover extra food. Glass or metal containers and reusable silicone bags are easy alternatives to plastic bags. Before buying a new container, use what you already have in your home – the jar that came with a pre-made salad will make a perfect container for your pasta salad after being washed.
  • Use silverware from home or bring a set of reusable bamboo cutlery to avoid plastic utensils.
  • Skip the paper towels and bring reusable cloth towels to clean up any messes.
  • Pack your refreshing drinks in reusable cups with lids or bottles, skip plastic water bottles entirely and bring reusable straws.
  • Carry all your picnic items in the classic picnic basket or opt for cotton tote bags or reusable shopping bags.
  • As always, if you end up with any waste or trash, be sure to pack it out!

Hopefully these tips will inspire you to get out and have a single-use plastic-free picnic this summer. Be sure to take time to appreciate our beautiful environment and share your stories of ditching single-use plastic with us!


Kamebry Wagner

Environment Illinois Conservation Intern

Emily Kowalski

Outreach & Engagement Manager, Environment Illinois

Emily manages the marketing and public engagement strategy for Environment Illinois's campaigns, including our campaign to protect the Great Lakes from plastic pollution. Emily lives in Chicago where she enjoys knitting and biking.

Find Out More