Greening your picnics

With the end of school and the onset of warmer weather, many Central New York residents are probably planning picnics for their families and friends.

But picnics do not necessitate the destruction of the environment - in fact, according to SUNY ESF professor Thomas Amidon, there are a number of ways to have a greener, or more eco-friendly, picnic.

Perhaps the most obvious way to make a picnic greener is to have it closer to home, Amidon said. There are so many places so close you wonder why people go further, he said. Also, taking fewer cars saves fossil fuels.

The paper and Styrofoam cups are another thing to avoid. According to Amidon, One of the easiest things that people can do is not do so much of the throwaways. In that respect, whatever is brought in a car can also be brought back, making options such as washable silverware far more eco-friendly.

There are some renewable products on the market for use during picnics. Amidon suggests using PLA, a recyclable product used to make cups and plates. PLA is compostable - not completely biodegradable, but still better than Styrofoam or non-recycled plastic.

One big user of PLA is Cazenovia College, which uses them for its food services department. They are very proud of that, he said.

Another way people can have a greener picnic is to include less meat and more fruits and vegetables. Meat is much more energy requiring than most of the other items," Amidon said. "A salad: why not?

Picnics by the numbers:

One cup of Styrofoam takes over 500 years to degrade in a landfill.

One plastic water bottle takes over 500 years to degrade in a landfill.

Using a rechargeable battery saves 15 to 20 batteries going into a landfill.

An aluminum can takes 80 to 200 years to decompose.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the majority of garbage is made of items that can be recycled or composted X40 percent paper, 17 percent yard waste, 8 percent plastics, and 7 percent food waste.

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