Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eco-friendly outdoor entertaining

This is the summer paradox that drives me batty: a group of friends is enjoying themselves at a backyard barbeque, making the most of a beautiful summer evening, marveling at how food tastes better outdoors, taking in the fresh smell of the summer air. At the end of the evening they roll up everything -- plates, cups, cutlery, half-eaten food, napkins – into the plastic tablecloth and dump it all in the garbage. (We’re all in love with nature during the summer, but sometimes forget to be considerate.)

If you can set one eco-objective for yourself this summer make it this: no disposable plastic or Styrofoam plates! I know there is the convenience factor but keep in mind that there are alternatives when you’re feeding large crowds or eating outside, so you don’t have to haul your china out onto the deck (unless you want to).

Instead choose reusable plates and cups. Tin or even plastic plates are durable and easy enough to clean. We received a picnic basket as a wedding gift that is just the thing for people who like to entertain outside. It’s filled with reusable plates, cups and cutlery.

The other option is paper plates. Just ensure they’re certified compostable. I was so relieved to come across the bio*life brand at Shoppers Drug Mart. They don’t come in Disney designs or flashy colours but they are certified compostable, can be recycled and are sturdy enough to last through the meal.

Here are a few more tips for eco-friendly outdoor entertaining and summer eating on the go:

Plastic cutlery can’t be recycled. (This is the first of many reasons why I dislike disposable cutlery). Instead choose sturdy reusable plastic cutlery or use your regular kitchen stuff.

Paper napkins can go in the compost. Better yet, use cloth napkins.

Stay away from disposable tablecloths. Many of the paper tablecloths are backed with plastic so can’t be composted. Other tablecloths are made of such thin plastic that it’s practically impossible to reuse them. Instead opt for a fabric tablecloth, a reusable outdoor tablecloth (or even an old bed sheet if you really need something to cover the picnic table).

Planning a road trip? Prepare a makeshift picnic basket with plates, cups, cutlery and containers. That way you can avoid the drive-thru and pick up lunch and snacks at the grocery store or markets. This will make it easier to avoid buying individually packaged food so you’ll have less packaging to toss in the garbage. It’s less expensive since you’re buying in larger sizes plus you can choose food that’s better for you.

Don’t let carefree entertaining in summer be an excuse for overloading the trash bin. Instead consider it an opportunity to be more earth-friendly. With luck you’ll teach your guests a thing or two.

This post previously appeared in KV Style (

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