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Picnic and barbeque in eco-style

Rock the Green feature blogger, Becky Migas, takes a closer look enjoying the summer picnic season in a more eco-conscious way.

Memorial Day weekend is a perfect time for picnics and barbeques with family and friends. Outdoor activities are a way to connect with nature and the environment that surrounds us every day. However, those same activities may also be causing damage to that environment that we want to enjoy by creating a large amount of waste from food, paper products and plastic bottles. Nothing shows a greater love and appreciation for nature than having an environmentally friendly picnic or barbecue. So if you’re planning on being outdoors, or firing up that grill, here are some things you should keep in mind to keep it green!


Find a spot that you can easily walk, bike, or take public transportation to instead of driving in a car. You can find a park with access to picnic tables and shelters through Milwaukee Parks and Recreation. Also, take the time to explore your neighborhood and find a new place, but be cautious not to disturb animal habitats. Even your own backyard can be a picnic adventure!

Plates and silverware

Disposable plates, silverware, and napkins are a large contributor to environmental waste. Instead of using disposables, pack reusable items you can wash when you are home. Earth911 has suggestions on how to make your own picnic baskets or where to purchase ones already packaged with reusable items. (Tip: Take a dish towel to wipe down plates and wrap them up to take home.) You can even find green, PVC-free coolers made of natural fibers at

Reusable not an option? Then be cautious of what types of disposables items you purchase. Make sure they are biodegradable and skip the Styrofoam products!

Food and Drink

When planning your meal for a picnic or barbeque, think about simple foods that will not require plastic wrap or create a lot of waste. For example, finger foods are quick, easy, and need less cleanup afterward! Plus, pack foods that are in season and fresh by shopping at a local Farmers Market in the Milwaukee area. Don’t forget to buy locally raised, antibiotic-free meat and pick up a six pack from your favorite local brewery (or a bottle of wine from a local winery).

When lighting up the grill, gas grills are the more eco-friendly option, according to a study by Earth911. However, if you prefer charcoal grilling, then choose some green solutions such as charcoal made from certified, sustainably harvested wood, which you can find at places such as Cowboy Charcoal Co. Instead of using chemicals such as lighter fluids, start the grill with a charcoal chimney.

For drinks, skip the plastic bottles and pack water or your favorite refreshing drink in a reusable bottle. Make batches of iced tea and carry in a large, easy-pour container and fill a stainless steel thermos with water.

When you do need to use plastic, aluminum or glass bottles for your festivities (for example, that beer and wine you picked up from the Farmers Market), be sure to recycle!

Bug Spray

Keep the bugs out of your party with natural bug sprays and repellents such as Burt Bee’s. You can also find some great tips on Pinterest on how to make your own bug spray or repellent that is eco-friendly!

Clean Up

Even if you used reusable items, there will still be some cleanup. Take several garbage bags to sort your recycling, compostable and trash items on site. Glad offers tips online on how to have a one bag event and sells bags made of recycled plastics. If there is a trash receptacle at your picnic or barbeque location, be sure to properly dispose of trash and leave the site litter-free!

Now that you know a few extra tips to hosting an environmentally friendly picnic or barbeque, it’s time to enjoy the weather, take a hike and have a green good time!

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