By Lynette Holloway

As part of the rite of spring, families will gather in parks and nature preserves across the nation to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, dragging out barbecue grills, blankets, coolers, and traditional picnic fare such as cheese, sandwiches, chips, and beer. Children will take advantage of the open air and romp around lush and verdant oasis, running, skipping, playing ball, and swimming.

Photo: David Hughes/

Unfortunately, all of this enjoyment can disrupt the ecological balance of park lands and nature preserves, polluting the water, and producing tons of garbage from paper plates, napkins, cups, food wrappers, cans, and bottles, as people celebrate the unofficial beginning of spring.

Luckily, dozens of companies have sprung up to answer the call to make environmentally friendly picnic accessories for green conscious consumers. Here are some examples of some of those products and some tips to create a green picnic that will be good for outdoor festivities all summer, and for years to come. Beyond that, be sure to be kind to the environment by teaching your children not to disturb nature by picking flowers, and removing natural elements such as rocks.

  • Think about transportation.

Consider walking, riding a bike, roller blading, car-pooling or taking public transportation to your picnic spot to cut down on gas and reduce carbon emissions.

  • Pack a picnic filled with reusable and biodegradable items.

Avoid Styrofoam whenever possible. Dozens of companies make reusable items. Preserve Tableware, for example, makes vividly colored plates, tumblers, and cutlery, from 100recycline.jpg percent recycled plastic. The products are dishwasher safe, reusable, and recyclable in communities that recycle #5 plastic. The tableware comes in two sizes, a 10-pack of small seven-inch plates and an eight-pack of large 10-inch plates. The tumblers hold 16-ounces and are sold in packs of 10. The cutlery comes in a reusable canister of eight forks, knives and spoons.

Stalk Market offers a variety of disposable tableware made from renewable plant material. The line includes cutlery, plates, bowls and cups. The cups are made from corn and natural plant sugar. Currently, the line can be purchased online and at Whole Foods under the 365 label, according to Bret Chandler, president of Stalk Market.

Eco-products makes compostable straws developed from corn. The straws, made of PLA plastic derived from corn, perform as well as petroleum-based straws.
organic-tablecloth.jpgYou can get a lot of mileage from reusable tablecloths such as those sold by Organic Cotton Tablecloth. Fiberactive Organics handcrafts tablecloths in North Carolina using low-impact dyes and certified organic cotton.