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Green Picnics for more fun...less work

Picnics are an age-old custom that has roots back in our ancestral cave dwelling and hunter-gatherer days. The open campfire. Eating in the open air. Enjoying the beauty of nature and the simplicity of real food. Eaing with our hands and gnashing our teeth!

But today's picnics have turned into elegant tailgating affairs!


It's time to take back our simple, green picnic tradition...and here are some suggestions to green your picnics in ways that save money, save work...and save your natural treasures.

Forget the paper and plastic! When you think of zero-waste, you realize that you really don't need paper plates, plastic spoons, paper table cloths...or even paper napkins.

You can use cloth...your hands...and even sticks for extra fun! You know -- chopsticks, weiner roasting sticks, and knives that stab that freshly grilled chop or weinie of choice!

Choose raw foods -- a chopped salad, or skewered veggies roasted over the open fire. By selecting fresh fruits and vegetables that can be eaten raw...and by hand, you get back in touch with your human roots...and save a lot of work! And it's healthier than over cooked, over baked...overly mayonaise and butter-laded picnic menus. Some great raw foods include in-season fruits such as peaches, apples, cherries (seed spitting contests are always fun!), watermelons, cantalopes, and many of the tropical fruits now available in grocery stores. But think organic, think local...and think about washing the fruit before eating it! Great vegetables for grilling and raw salads include tomatoes, onions (yummy grilled), green peppers, some like hot peppers...and even corn on the cob. Meats for grilling can include beef,fish...and other favorites like hotdogs. Be careful with chicken, turkey and pork -- they all require efficient, continuous cooling and cleanliness to prevent stomach problems. That can sometimes be difficult in picnic settings.

Drink from large containers...and assign each person a reusable, reusable, reusable cup with their name or color coded drawing. Water bottles and soft drink cans and bottles are huge problems in our waste stream! Water is a sustainable, green, healthful drink for active outdoor refreshment. As are green tea, herbal teas, lemonade, and even some vegetable drinks. Sugar-heavy drinks increase body heat and sap energy after a spike of manic frenzy!

Remember the day when a family all drank out of a bucket of freshly drawn water...and shared a dipper! Most people don't -- but I do. And funny thing -- we didn't get sick! Yes, yes, I know that hygiene rules forbid this kind of behavior these days and that's a choice you need to make. But when I visited Japan just a few years ago -- they still use that practice at their public temples. Hmmm.

Having fun yet?

Plan ahead to wash the picnic table -- bring along some water with soap and a strong brush. A few swipes with this efficient cleaner-upper and you no longer need a paper tablecloth! Or even a fabric cloth.

Feed the birds...and ants a healthy distance from your food source. Distraction can be very helpful! And giving children the task of feeding the birds healthy food not only connects them with nature, but teaches them the difference between healthy wildlife food and unhealthy food. You know -- no bread for ducks. Stop by a pet store and invest in a small bag of duck food -- or bird seed. Save your human food for humans and the compost pile!

If you're in a wilderness area, and you check that it's okay -- you can dig a hole and bury your left over food as a form of composting. But keep it away from water sources...and dig that hole at least a foot or more in depth. And after covering it with dirt, add a nice big rock cover to keep animals away.

That brings up the natural consequence to eating. If you need to relieve yourself in the wilderness -- first try to find a restroom. If one is not available, the same rule applies. Find a location at least 100 feet from a water source (you don't want to contaminate the water source), dig a deep hole...and then cover up your deposit!

Open space is a wonderful inspiration for running and jumping and laughter. That's for the young at heart. For the rest of us...bring blankets for nice afternoon naps and quiet visits and cuddling. The kids, of course!

Picnics are a great tradition. And if you're reading this during cold weather -- consider calling your family and nailing down a date for your first spring holiday together! It will give you something to anticipate as you struggle through snowdrifts and downpours!

Ah...picnics. So many fond memories grow from those rustic moments in nature!