Picnic’s by the lake are awesome. Unfortunately, they can create a lot of waste. Kathryn Kellogg, author of Going Zero Waste makes it easy. Below, she breaks down how to enjoy a day by the lake waste-free.

This post was originally posted on A Greener Future as part of their Love Your Lake Project.

Long summer days, fresh fruit, and cannon balls into sparking, cool water – what could be better!? We spent every summer at the lake. My mom would pack a picnic, my dad would drive the boat, and my only job was to devour the snacks and not drown. The hot afternoon sun would dip behind the lake, and I would beg my mom for just one more lap in the water. She would typically oblige, only to be pleaded with for just ooooonnnnneee more! Sound familiar?

As I’ve grown up, I still love the water. My ideal summer day is spent picnicking on the lake. I don’t know if I grew up or things changed, but all I see is trash.

Plastic overflows out of campsite trash cans. Cups and straws litter the shoreline. Fish and wildlife are dying from eating and being trapped by our garbage. Long gone are the days of my mom’s homemade picnics. Long gone are the days of simplicity. Replaced, instead, with the all mighty god of convenience.

Other than cigarette butts, the biggest polluters are coffee cups, plastic food wrappers, and single-use plastic water bottles. And, we can easily fix this! I want to challenge you to skip the drive through on your way to the lake and pack a picnic.

3 Ways to a Less Wasteful Day at the Lake


  1. Bring a real water bottle! You don’t need single-use disposable water bottles. There are so many reusable options out there, some even keep drinks cold for 24 hours. I would pack 1.5 for each person going. Just, so you have back-up! My boyfriend and I both have stainless steel water bottles that hold 32oz. If we were going to go somewhere all day, we’d pack three. Backup never hurts. Often times campsites have water fountains where you can fill up too. If you’re really worried about running out, buy one massive 2-gallon water bottle to fill up your reusable ones.
  2. Invest in a to-go mug. To-go coffee cups are one of the most preventable and wasteful items. You actually need water, you don’t need coffee. If you don’t have a cup with you – skip it. Keep a travel mug in your car so you’re always prepared! Most coffee shops give you a discount for bringing in your own cup. That’s a win, win.
  3. Pack a non-disposable picnic in reusable containers. We have a picnic basket that is filled with plates, cups, and a big blanket with plenty of room for sharing. Below is a list of my favorite picnic items! I like to keep it easy. All finger food and nothing that takes a lot of prep time. You’ll be able to pack your picnic and be out the door in 30 minutes!

What to Pack:
  • Fresh Fruit: Watermelon and oranges are great. They come in their own skin and make the perfect snack for a hot day.
  • Hummus Platter: Homemade hummus is SO easy. Blend cooked chickpeas with olive oil, garlic, and tahini. And, you can flavor it any way you like! I bring a sampling of cut veggie sticks bell peppers, carrots, celery, and tomatoes.
  • Baguette: I chop it into four pieces and tie it up in a cloth napkin. Everyone can take turns ripping off chunks of yummy bread!
  • Meat and Cheese Platter: Sometimes I’ll stop by the deli and get salami, roast beef, or pastrami to go. They’ll put it straight into my two-layered metal tiffin. Meat on the bottom and a sampling of cheese on the top. We like havarti and cheddar.
  • Cookies: You have to have something sweet! Cookies are the perfect finger food for a lake day.
There you have all the makings for a delicious, easy, and waste free day at the lake! Show your love for the lake and choose to reuse!

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