Make your cookouts and picnics environmentally friendly with these changes

Warm weather is here after what seemed like an unending winter. It’s time for cookouts, picnics, and even camping for many people. All of these activities involve cooking in the great outdoors. Picnics and cookouts can produce a lot of waste. How do we enjoy it while being gentle on the environment? These five simple changes can greatly reduce your impact on the environment.

1. Plan your menu with local foods in mind. If you aren’t able to grow your own food, visit the farmer’s market for vegetables and fruit. Your food will be fresher and you will be supporting a local farmer. Choose locally grown, sustainable meat options. Or, if you don’t fear a revolt, go meat free.

2. Choose a destination nearby. Are there picnic spots you can walk or bike to? Using public transportation can be an adventure. Explore your town. You may find a new location that you love.

3. Switch to reusables. Paper plates and napkins, disposable plastic ware and cups all end up in a landfill. Invest in a set of reusable plates, forks, and cups to reduce landfill bound waste. Towels and washcloths can be used for cleanup. Cloth napkins and tablecloths round out your zero waste event.

2. Recycle. Cold drinks are a must on hot summer days. Fill a water cooler with ice water and drink from reusable cups for a minimal impact. If canned or bottled drinks are a crowd favorite, provide a container for easy collection of empty drinks and recycle them with your local facility.

3. Compost. If disposables are a must for your event choose biodegradable table ware. These items can be composted in a large scale facility. Provide a container for compostable food waste. Most fruit and vegetables can be composted in a home vermicompost bin or in a backyard compost bin. The material produced is great for the lawn and garden.

4. Sustainable cooking – gas or charcoal? The merits and detrimental effects of each are debatable. But when cooking at a park or other natural setting charcoal or wood grills are the norm. And most people would agree that charcoal grilling adds flavor to food. If charcoal is your choice, use lump charcoal and a charcoal chimney to reduce the impact on air quality. Inexpensive solar ovens can be used for foods that only need heating. Solar oven s’mores are a delicious dessert.

5. Pack up leftovers and waste materials. Bring an extra container for waste that must be thrown away. Leftover food in trash cans is tempting to animals and can become litter if animals rummage through the can. Pack it up and take it with you when you leave. Skip disposable plastic storage bags and plastic wrap when storing leftovers. Opt for reusable containers instead. Not that there will be many leftovers when serving fresh, locally grown choices.

Bon Appetit.

1 Pattie-Stivender

Pattie Stivender is the education outreach and volunteer coordinator for Bluegrass Greensource.




This article appeared in KY Forward on June 4, 2015.


‘Summer is coming’ mantra means finding fun ways to keep it green

This type of green camping is described as "leave no trace" and certainly more green than big Airstream trailers with wifi, television and toilets. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)Summer is coming. If you happen to be a Game of Thrones fan, you are well versed in the “Winter is coming” mantra of the people from the North. However, since we in Kentucky have experienced way more winter than we care to for a few years, I think changing the mantra to “Summer is coming” is much better.

And it is.

This type of green camping is described as “leave no trace” and is certainly more green than big Airstream trailers with wifi, television and toilets. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Saturday, June 21, marks the first day of official summer, though many have been wearing white pants and shoes (a winter fashion “don’t”) since Memorial Day.

So how can we remain environmentally conscious during the hottest season? It is more than wearing less and drinking more water. See below for the greatest tips for keeping the next few months eco friendly:

Summer BBQs – I have never been a fan of heat, whether it is in the kitchen or under the sun, but I do love to eat barbeque! The eating part is best, but the socializing with friends is amazing.

When planning for a BBQ event, make sure you choose non-disposable options. Now is the best time to find durable plastic plates and cutlery at prices that will support even the most popular person’s BBQ event. Summer is also the BEST time to visit local farmer’s markets for fresh veggies and meats for the grill!

Lawn Care – I have never been one to have a green lawn, although I guess it depends on how you define “green.” My lawn currently is mowed fairly regularly, but that is about it – few chemicals and NO summer watering.

As we move toward the middle of summer, and my lawn becomes more and more brown, I am usually happy since the mowing regimen slows down.

If you are interested in watering your lawn, make it a game for your (or the neighborhood’s) kids. Turn on the sprinkler on a hot Saturday and see who shows up at your house, but just make sure you have enough popsicles!

Mosquitoes – Urgh! I am a giant animal lover, but I take pride in all of the mosquitoes I kill. It takes about seven days for mosquito larvae to become the flying terror, so the obvious preventions include cleaning out gutters, putting Mosquito Dunks in rain barrels and eliminating any standing water, but how else do you deal with the blood sucking beasts in any sort of environmentally responsible way?

Here are a few:

Bats: Bats LOVE mosquitoes. Put up a bat house and hope they come in droves!

Smell: Citronella candles and sprays work to some extent so try them before using much more toxic DEET products. Mosquitoes love floral smells, so you are much better off to use unscented soap, deodorant of lotion.

Breeze: Mosquitoes are poor fliers, so point a fan toward your feet to blow them away!

Gin and Tonic: Quinine has a potential effect on repelling mosquitoes, and the best way to ingest quinine is by mixing a gin and tonic. Just saying!

Energy Efficiency: Find out where your home leaks! I know that winter utility bills are usually the largest, but now is the time to address any home improvement plans. Check out Greensource’s energy audit kits from any Lexington Public Library and find out if your attic hatch or knee walls are giant suckers of cool air.

Summer Vacation: Greening your vacation and staying close to home are almost the same thing, so it is all about how you frame it for your family. Camping (unless you do it the way my family has begun by going to a campground with wifi and electric) can be super eco friendly and even help all of your family members appreciate our great state more than they did before.

You can also choose “one tank trips” across the state where it only takes one tank of gas to get there. No matter what you choose, remember to turn down your thermostat and unplug any unnecessary appliances like the tv, toaster, etc. to save on energy usage.

The best thing summer has to offer is the ability to get outside. Even if it is at a pool or only in your backyard, take a moment to appreciate what is around you, and know that you play a part in keeping it “green.”
1 Amy-Sohner

Amy Sohner is executive director of Greensource and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with Greensource since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of pets.

This article appeared in KY Forward on June 12, 2014.