Picnic for the Planet

By: Michelle Buffardi
Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 by more than 175 countries, so a picnic to celebrate earth's big day would have a pretty lengthy guest list. But it's the Earth, after all, so it deserves it. What better way to celebrate the planet than with the world's biggest picnic?

That's just what The Nature Conservancy is planning this year with Picnic for the Planet, and you're invited to join. All you have to do is throw a picnic, outside, somewhere in the world, sometime on April 22 (get all the rules before you pack your picnic basket). To make sure your picnic's got the best food and is best for the earth, our test kitchens teamed up with The Nature Conservancy to come up with some picnic-packing guidelines.

Before You Even Think About the Menu, Think About Where You'll Have Your Picnic

It's Earth Day, so think a little green. Don't pick a picnic spot 50 miles away and drive an SUV there. Choose a picnic site close to home, and walk or bike to your picnic location instead of driving.

The quickest way to ruin a picnic is to invite swarms of insects. Keep that in mind when you're looking for a spot to spread your picnic blanket. While that pond might look scenic, it will also be a hotspot for bugs. Be sure to stay away from garbage cans, standing water, blooming flowers or low-lying vegetation.

The Food Is Key -- Pack it Right

Use re-usable serveware instead of paper plates and disposable utensils, or if that's not possible -- say you've invited 60 people and don't have that many forks -- buy compostable plates and silverware.

To ensure that your cold food stays cold, keep it separate from your beverages in two coolers. The beverage cooler gets opened constantly, raising the temperature inside.

Don’t be afraid to completely load up your coolers; the more fully packed, the colder they'll stay. Low on ice or ice packs? Use frozen water bottles for a double-duty chiller.

grilled vegetables

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Now, the Food

Soggy sandwiches are the worst, don't let them happen to you. Pack your bread separately from your wet ingredients (like tomatoes), and assemble your sandwich at the picnic site.

No one finds the thought of mayo sitting in the hot sun appetizing. For alternatives to mayo-centric dishes, try a German potato salad dressed with cider vinegar, bacon and parsley, or a pasta salad with lemon juice, olive oil and plenty of vegetables.

Improve your potato salad with this simple step: Dress the potatoes while they're still warm. Let your warm potatoes sit in the dressing for a few minutes to fully absorb all the flavor; you'll be amazed by how much better your potatoes taste.

Cold soups like gazpacho or chilled avocado soup make a wonderful addition to a picnic. Packed in a thermos, they're easy to carry and keep cool for a long time.

You want plenty of vegetables on the menu -- they're good for you and seem a nice way to honor the earth -- but stay away from delicate, wilt-prone leafy salads. Opt instead for a sturdier shredded salad or slaw, which maintains crunch and improves with time, or try marinated grilled vegetables.

As idyllic as a good apple or blueberry pie might seem for an afternoon picnic, a sweet, gooey dessert is a prime way to attract bees. Go for less messy desserts, such as cookies, bars or fruit salad with fresh mint.


Keep the Planet in Mind (Don't Forget, it is Earth Day)

A good picnicker is one that doesn’t leave trash at his picnic site. A great picnicker is one who picks up trash found at a picnic site. Use the picnic as an opportunity to make your local green space just a little greener. So bring garbage bags along for your own trash, and if you see a discarded Doritos bag left behind by a less responsible picnicker, don't ignore it.

Once your meal is over, take some time to enjoy your natural setting. Take a hike, go bird-watching or just sit back and enjoy the sounds of nature. Have kids in tow? Try this Nature Treasure Hunt.

More Picnic Recipes for Earth Day:

More about Picnic For The Planet:

Next Up

Backyard Picnic Menu

Pack these recipes in your picnic basket and head out the backdoor for outdoor eats conveniently close to home. 

Backyard Picnic Playlist

Here's a playlist of 10 great tracks to get you started on the first of hopefully many summer parties at home.

Beach Picnic Menu

Break out the beach blanket and snack on these recipes that make beachside feasting a breeze.

Dinner Rush! Picnic Pizza Rolls

Like any good pizza, you can pretty much fill these pizza rolls with whatever you want. Then just pack them up and get out for some fun in the sun!


So Much Pretty Food Here