Any number of occasions call for a picnic from an impromptu day out at the beach to family reunions. And, in places like San Diego, weather permits outdoor picnics to happen year-round. We’ve made a better effort this year to get out and picnic because it’s cost-effective, can be good for the environment and kids love it.

However, when dining in the great outdoors, try to make your picnic eco-friendly. The good news is that it’s easy and sponsor of this post, Finish, would like me to share tips for doing just that.

See also: 7 Places to Picnic in San Diego

1. Don’t Drive Too Far

Picnicking close to home keeps you from burning too much fuel by driving. Any green space, the beach (our favorite picnic spot) or even the comfort of your own backyard will do for a fun family picnic the kids will love.

2. Use Reusable Picnic Dishes and Flatware

Cut down on waste and expense by opting for reusable dishes and flatware. Picnic sets store utensils and provide an easy way to carry gear back and forth to your chosen site. Ours even came with a wine opener.

3. Take Trash With You

The goal of any picnic should be to leave little to no footprint behind after you’re finished. Take all of your trash and belongings with you, if no recycling and trash cans are on site. Try challenging your family to plan so that nothing goes in the trash. Litter can contaminate water, harm wildlife and is often not biodegradable.

4. Make Sure Kids and Pets Play Responsibly

Keep an eye out for wildlife to make sure that the dog isn’t chasing bunnies or disturbing birds. The same goes for kids. Be mindful of traversing through vegetation as not to crush or damage it.

5. Use Your Own Produce

Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is a fantastic way to green your home in addition to buying local, organic produce to support sustainable farming while cutting down greenhouse gas emissions during long transit times. Try to prepare your picnic using these low footprint ingredients.

6. Make Sure Bug Repellents and Sunscreens Contain Natural Products

Especially if swimming is a planned activity to compliment your picnic, such as at the beach or a lake, wear natural sunscreen and skin protection is less harmful to marine life.

7. Plan a Lesson Geared Toward Your Setting

Bring the binoculars if birdwatching is an option. Or, have the kids create a journal entry around what they see. Bring cool leaves home to press. Figure out a way to integrate your surroundings into a fun nature lesson.

8. Recycle

Have any leftover (clean) ice or water that you can’t take with you? Use it to water nearby plants. Of course, then recycle any plastics, soda cans and the like to give them a second life.

Katie Dillon headshot

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. I would like to plan and enjoy a eco friendly picnic with my husband and kids. I think it would be fun to enjoy the outdoors at a local park. I also like the idea of teaching my kids how to be eco friendly.

  2. I would love to take the little girl I nanny on an eco-friendly picnic. We would go right in the backyard or the park down the road and use our own dishes and silverware from the house and take a recycle bag to carry home any other things we might use that can be recycled.

  3. I would plan an enjoy a eco friendly picnic with husband I think it would be fun to have on our boat.

  4. I picnic at the local state park often. It is close and has a great lake and plenty of room to spread out the picnic gear. I also take out all the garbage.

  5. We picnic at the local park. We do not use plastics or water bottles but rather reusable items. We also are trying to eat organic fruits and veggies.

  6. i would have an eco-friendly picnic and have the picnic locally to save energy use reusable utensils, napkins, and plastic containers, recycle anything that needs to be recycled.

  7. I would plan and eco friendly picnic with my son and sister at the Lake and recycle everything that we can!

  8. I would use all paper products for our picnic, so we could recycle them when we are done. I would be sure to clean up all garbage we did create.

  9. It would be a great homeschool lesson to teach my kids about recycling while having a nice picnic.

  10. We would go to one of our local parks that we could walk or bike to! Make sure to bring our trash back home and recycle!

  11. On our eco-friendly picnic, I would use reusable snack bags and reusable water bottles. We would spread out a blanket at one our local parks.

  12. Drive a short distance to the local park, pack my own food in reusable containers. Don’t use water bottles.

  13. We could get pizza on the way to the park. You don’t have to plates or utensils to enjoy pizza. We would then bring the box home and put it our recycle box. Thank you!!

  14. I’d grill some homegrown veggies and pack lots of my own blackberries and figs and ‘picnic’ on my back patio! I hardly ever think to use it, and it would be a lovely, super eco friendly way to picnic.

  15. I would have a picnic in the local park and use only reusable storage containers like Tupperware and reusable plates/cutlery to eat off of/use.

  16. Eco-friendly picnics begin with packing out all trash and trying not to use paper products that won’t break down, like Styrofoam, or better yet–nothing that you’ll need to throw away. Then, while you’re there, help the environment by picking up someone else’s trash. That’s what we like to do for our picnics. We don’t spend our entire time cleaning up everyone else’s messes, but 5 minutes isn’t going to hurt and it’s a way of saying thank you to the environment.

  17. I would plan to have a eco-friendly picnic by bringing reusable water bottles and plates/utensils and bringing a trash bag to take out all my trash.

  18. I would use everything reusable; place sandwiches and other foods in tupperware, use water bottle canteens, wetwipes instead of tissue paper and bring our own trashbag for easy garbage tossing.

  19. We would picnic in our backyard, enjoying produce from our garden, and using re-usable dishes!

  20. I would non disposable items, like plates and silverware from our kitchen, I would use reusable sandwich bags, eco friendly bottles for our drinks, and have it in a nice park close to our house.

  21. Would pack fresh fruits and deli meats and bread to try to cut down on taking all kinds of plastic containers
    pedidentalasst at yahoo dot com

  22. Would first start off using cute paper bags and make sandwiches. We would plan on going to the park and making sandcastles in the sandbox

  23. I would make sure to not pack anything disposable. Every year at my daughters school they have a lunch day like this, so I have some practice.

  24. I’d like to plan an eco-friendly picnic by taking my kids to the park and enjoying lunch without doing any harm to our surroundings

  25. When creating my menu, I would choose foods that don’t require utensils, such as sandwiches and fresh fruit. I would also go to a farmer’s market near my house so that I can support local farms.

  26. I would have an eco-friendly picnic by making sure to have reusable plates and utensils. Would check the garden for ripe veggies to take along too.

  27. I’d like to plan an eco-friendly picnic by making all the fixings and bringing them in reusable, washable containers.

  28. My Eco-friendly picnic would have biodegradable plates, bamboo utensils which are reuseable and organic foods like homegrown heirloom tomatoes, yogurt cheese and such. I’d include a bottle of local wine.

  29. Being a backpacker, I eat a lot outdoors and it is days before I can get to a trashcan. So, I have one washable utensil and pack my food as to have as little as much trash to carry out with me.

  30. Being from American Indian descent I find it very important to be good to our Earth. When we picnic I use Preserve Storage Containers and Cutlery that I had picked up from whole foods and we always use Reynolds Wrap 100% Recycled aluminum foil to bring home the leftovers

  31. I would choose someone close, that I can walk or bike to, for a picnic. I would use biodegradable plates and recycle any glass, plastic or aluminum used. We would eat only organic foods from our local market.

  32. I’d plan an eco-friendly picnic by having it in our backyard on a blanket and use only reusable plates and containers. For any garbage items, they would of course be recycled since we recycle all different types of items in my house – paper, plastic, cans, etc..

  33. Those are Great Ideas for an eco-friendly picnic. I would plan an eco friendly picnic with just gathering those Hard plastic trays,the ones your school has well we have a couple of those in our house that you can put silverware on and a plate, each has It’s own area. Put the plates in the bag and head outside to our Big back yard. I believe a good and eco friendly picnic can be just close to home. We have a park you have to walk a long ways to go so this is better. As for Sunscreen usually wear longer sleeved clothes and pants,apply sunscreen to face we could choose a small Blanket for the ground or our table in the back yard. To drink out of we bring our own water bottles with drinks in them and a Jug that could dispense more drinks. All Food is in plastic containers in a small cooler can be reused later If we liked. Pre made Sandwiches at our Local deli is brilliant to keep in our bags for a Picnic. Fresh fruit from the Deli is also great. For Dessert an Apple Pie, we reuse the Metal pie tray again and again,people don’t know that but we wash it up with soap and water, wipe dry and It’s good as new. We Bring our own Cloth Napkins to use and Wash them when we get inside our house. For all the Trash their really is none to think of and what ever food is spilled the Birds and animals will eat.

  34. I would use bamboo plates and utensils which are recycled and biodegradeable! I would also use reusuable drinking bottles and not plastic.

  35. I use reuseable plate and utensils too. I really dislike disposable anything even though it drives my husband nuts that I won’t buy paper towels.

  36. When the weather warms up we pack a picnic in reusable contains, go buy Lowes and pick up a flat of beautiful flowers and go to our local park for a picnic. While we are there we find a nice spot and plant the flowers in a beautiful way. It’s our way of welcoming spring and doing something good for the environment.


  37. We would go to one of our local parks that we could walk to. I always bring reusable utensils/plates/containers to my picnics to reduce the amount of trash I have to throw away.

  38. I’d use a picnic basket with reusable plates, utensils, and napkins. Put food in reusable bags and Tupperware. Stock up at the local farmers market and ride our bikes to the park up the street.

  39. When we go on picnics we use plates and containers that are reusable, use steel water bottles, and use metal flatware.

  40. I would love to plan a eco friendly picnic with our recycled plastic dinnerware and picnic blanket. I would also be mindful of the vegetation and animals around and put my trash in the correct recyclable bins or containers.

  41. Organic homegrown foods of course and I would take pains to leave the site unspoiled/looking just as I found it.We would be sue not to offend the creatures that live near the site. For instance, we would not eat chocolate covered ants in front of the native ants. On some occasions i would preserve the site by staying home and having our picnic in the living room while sitting with legs crossed on the carpet. Of course we would not have a campfire at the natural site, and especially not in the living room. If we are in nature, we would locate a site where the natural odors are not noxious or troublesome. that way we can avoid the practice that some people have of trying to use a nature scented spray t freshen up the air at the picnic site.On our way to the picnic we will walk bike, or use vehicles powered by human propulsion.we will not stink up the place either. the only people who have the right to use the woods for a bathroom are the creatures that live there.

  42. I would walk to our local park, use reusable drink and food containers and pack food that I grow in my garden.

  43. I’d take an eco friendly picnic by using reusable plates instead of disposable! Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  44. A state park that isn’t far from me is celebrating a big birthday. I’d love to drive to it, since it’s been probably 30 years since I’ve been.

  45. we have a nice picnic basket that we can reuse. we will take homemade products in our own dishes. we will sit on a nice blanket. it will be a nice eco friendly picnic.

  46. ( at nearby Mullet Key…) Catch your own fish …. clean and filet … return the carcass to the Bay waters for our friends, the Blue Crabs. Bring along some of your homegrown Tomatoes, and a fresh loaf of French Bread. Charbroil the fish on the park’s permanent grills…. enjoy a simple, nutritious, tasty meal. Make sure to leave the area cleaner than when you arrived.

  47. Thanks for the giveaway…we have a drawer that is full of cloth napkins that we use instead of paper napkins; bring some along for your picnic, then bring them home to throw in the laundry.

  48. We have a wonderful park not too far away. We can take our picnic basket with fresh fruit and veggies from our garden, and make it elegant as well as eco-friendly with cloth napkins, our faux crystal glasses and pretty, but practical Corelle plates.