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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Green Kitchen: Fourth of July Picnic

by Kristin Standley

Tags: green kitchen, green summer, picnic, recipes,

Each year when the Fourth of July rolls around I get ready for one of my favorite summer traditions—packing up a picnic dinner and heading down to watch fireworks by the lake. But this summer, I’m going to try to make my picnic as eco-friendly as possible.

One of the biggest problems with picnics is the amount of trash they generate. By cutting down on waste and packaging I can make a meal that’s good for the earth as well as for me.

• Instead of buying a bunch of water bottles, juice boxes, or soda cans, most of which will wind up in the trash by the end of the day, try filling up a thermos with your favorite drink at home. Not only will your drink stay cold, but you are more likely to recycle the bottles or cans at home instead of putting them straight in the trash at your picnic site.

• Picnics are made for finger food, which can get messy. But instead of bringing a bunch of paper napkins to wipe your sticky fingers on, try using cloth napkins instead. They can be easily rewashed and used again, eliminating a lot of paper waste.

• Paper plates and plastic silverware seem like an easy option because you don’t have to worry about them getting broken or lost, and you can just throw them away when you are done. But they do generate a lot of needless waste. Try investing in some inexpensive plates for picnics—I have a set of fun and funky plastic plates that are hardy enough I don’t have to worry about breaking them and have the added benefit of not getting soggy from a juicy slice of watermelon! Even more eco-friendly are plates made of recycled plastic. Old or mismatched silverware is also great for picnics, since if you do lose a piece here or there, you don’t have to worry about breaking up a set.

• Eliminate plastic bags. Although it is tempting to just put your food into sandwich bags, it generates a lot of waste. Reusable containers not only store food just as well, but they can actually protect it better on the journey to your picnic location. Thus your strawberries will remain unbruised and your sandwiches unsquashed until you are ready to eat them.

picnic basket
Photo by Crystl/ Courtesy Flickr 

While tossing around a Frisbee and lounging in the hot sun, there is nothing more refreshing than chowing down on some cold fruit. This fresh fruit salad with a honey-lime dressing is a staple for picnics in summer. It’s also a breeze to make and tailor to fit your tastes.

Cut up a bunch of your favorite fruits. I like to include strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew, apples (granny smith are particularly good because the tartness contrasts with the sweet flavors of the other fruits), blueberries, and nectarines. However, just about any fruit will taste good in this mix.

To make the dressing, combine 2 parts of honey to 1 part of fresh lime juice. The amount of dressing will vary depending on the size of your salad, but a good rule of thumb would be to use ½  a cup honey and ¼ cup lime juice for every 8 cups of fruit.

Pour the dressing over the fruit and toss to coat it all evenly. If you like, you can sprinkle a little grated lime peel on top to add a bit more flavor and texture. This sweet and tart salad will tantalize your taste buds while you wait for the sun to go down and the fireworks to begin.