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Let’s Talk Trash: Package-free summer snacking

Picnic baskets needn’t be a thing of the past relegated to faded photos and childhood memories.

The sun is peeking its head out of the clouds and helping us shake off our sedentary bear-like nature.

Getting outside is on everyone’s mind, whether it’s having a coffee on the beach, biking a trail or camping out at the lake. Wherever we end up, snacking will inevitably be involved and there is no better way to thank nature for its wonders than to eat without leaving a mountain of single-use packaging in our wake.

An easy go-to for everyone is to carry a refillable water bottle wherever we roam. Most of us are in this good habit and might even have a thermos for tea that we tote around as well.

If so, the next step is to pack our utensil set. It can be as simple as a thrift store fork and spoon zipped in an old pencil case that we toss in our bag, bike basket or glove box to have handy.

Official zero-waste cutlery kits of all kinds are out there if you want to invest and they come in all shapes and sizes – some even including a metal straw and chopsticks. The point isn’t to be fashionable – although that’s fun, too - but simply to never leave home without these basics. Remember to rinse them off after use because there’s nothing like dirty cutlery to turn you off your next meal on the go.

The festival and farmers' market scene is already underway and it is super satisfying to have zero-waste ware ready for a spontaneous drink or snack without the single-use plastic karma. Even so-called compostable plastics that some vendors are using are no match for bringing your own utensils, bottles and containers.

While well-meaning, some businesses purchase compostable brands of disposable food ware believing it will degrade into food for the soil. Sadly, there is a multitude of challenges with getting these containers into a compost bin, as they often get tossed in the garbage or into the recycling bins where they lower the quality of recyclables. Bringing your plate or bowl is usually well-received so long as it’s sterilized, and it even saves the vendor a little cash. 

Picnic baskets needn’t be a thing of the past relegated to faded photos and childhood memories. Packing our own zero waste to-go ware is relatively easy and often inspires others who witness your efforts to do the same. Having a basket, backpack or bag that you always use for this will get your household in the habit of remembering to include it in your outdoor adventure routine.

Adding a blanket that dirt, sand and grass shake off easily is a good extra if you have the space. You might even have a few washable napkins to wipe off watermelon rinds and fruit leather fingers – paper napkins seem innocent enough but their impact accumulates over time.

Takeout food can be sneaky. Just when we think we’ve mastered keeping our waste down, we may suddenly find ourselves drowning in condiment packages and slipped-in utensils and napkins. Make sure to specify that you don’t need these when you place your order and double check upon pick up that staff haven’t accidentally tossed them in out of habit.

Going zero waste isn’t zero effort, but it gives back good feels for you and the planet.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste reduction education program. For more information, email or go to

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