At Every Can Counts we believe the summer months are made for eating and drinking outdoors. The Irish weather may sometimes like to challenge that theory, but armed with rain jackets, a whole host of flimsy umbrellas and a Child of Prague statue we’re still determined to get out there and make the most of it.
Once you have the know-how you can cope with just about anything, and the same can be said of having a delicious on-the-go recycling friendly meal in your favourite park, beach, or even in the back garden. Whether you’re hosting a family BBQ, or picnicking in a local park, beauty spot, or at the seaside, a little bit of prep goes along way for you and the planet alike.
During the summer months I take Every Can Counts on tour, travelling to all sorts of events across the island of Ireland, encouraging drink can recycling. From the many pitfalls and experiences I have had at these events and conversations with other seasoned festival folks and colleagues I’ve compiled a few tips to make your outdoor feast as green and delicious as possible:
- Reusable cup – they’re brilliant, but if you’re like me and hate carrying extra things you might find them cumbersome. So I’ve opted for a stojo coffee cup that folds into itself, it’s the same size as a compact mirror (which I also don’t carry with me). However if you’re not willing to invest in something fancy, stackable cups will do just as well. Top tip – bring a small wet bag to place them in after use so the dregs don’t get around your bag.
- Water bottle – Again, I hate carrying extra things so I choose to carry an empty water bottle, or only half fill it, and seek opportunities to refill it if I need water throughout the day. Parks, beaches and beauty spots have really upped their game when it comes to providing drinking water on tap. Of course my water bottle is made of metal because, not only does metal recycle forever, it also keeps cold drinks cooler for longer!
- Cans – Naturally I’m a fan. There are now a huge variety of canned drinks besides the carbonated classics. Water is particularly handy, when you’ve left the bottle behind, many places including Teddy’s Ice Cream in Dun Laoghaire now sell Cano Water, which is a re-sealable endlessly recyclable can of still or sparkling water. Carbonated flavoured waters are great for breaking up the hydration monotony, I particularly like the Ballygowan apple, elderflower and lemon flavour or Vit Hits raspberry watermelon with Ceylon tea. Remember to bring reusable straws if you have smallies with you who haven’t mastered the art of drinking from a can yet. There’s also a huge new no/low alcohol beer movement, besides canned wines (great if you don’t want to open a full bottle) and hard seltzers (White Claw Black Cherry is my favourite). Once you’re done it’s easy to crush and carry them with you until you find a recycling bin. We offer free recycling packs to organisations, if you spot a venue that could use one of these packs get in touch here.
- Spoon – I bring spoons from home. None of these fancy bamboo cutlery packs with their fancy price tag for me thanks! Everything can be eaten or prepared with a spoon, I’ve worked through salads, soups, curries, burrito bowls, all with my trustee spoon. It’s also handy for refusing wooden stirrers while getting hot drinks. Again, make sure to bring a little bag to pop it into so it doesn’t muck up your bag while dirty. A word of warning, your housemates/family members may notice the lack of spoons in the drawer if like me you forget to wash and return them.
- Foil wrapping – It keeps all your prepped foods fresh but can double up as a foil plate you can use to eat just about everything from. It’s so versatile, I’ve formed it into a temporary dog water bowl when in a jam. It’s also uber-easy to clean (just wipe down afterwards) and recycle (scrunch into a ball with all the other clean foils and pop it into the nearest recycling bin).
- Foil foods for your shopping list – Yoghurt and cream cheese lids, foil wrapped tea cakes, cakes, and chocolate, if it’s wrapped in foil (the kind that doesn’t spring back after you scrunch it) you can add it to the foil bundle that is endlessly recyclable. Think of those individual portion cherry bakewells, sweet mallow filled tea cakes and some spreadable cheeses. Foil, like cans, is endlessly recyclable, so keep this in mind when writing your picnic/bbq shopping list.
- Dedicated recycling bag – bring one bag that’s dedicated to collecting recycling and let everyone know what you expect them to put in there. Before the feeding frenzy begins is usually the best time to outline your recycling rules. Read through the national recycling list here, at mywaste.ie.
- PYO – pick your own. Raspberries are in season right now, blackberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants are soon to follow. Not only are they a delicious treat, but also a fun family activity. A quick google can usually lead you to where they’re grown wild, or you can visit one of them many PYO farms. Grab a basket or a jar and get picking!
- Clean BBQ-ing – The big decision is what fuel to use. Propane burns much cleaner than both wood or charcoal, but there are some organic charcoal options available. For the clean-up, use soy-based cleaning products. These natural alternatives are equally efficient and don’t leave behind any chemical residues. Remember to always check local rules when it comes to barbecuing at beauty spots.
Above all the most important rule of enjoying the outdoors is to ‘Love this Place and Leave no Trace’. Every time we pack up our van after a festival, I look back over the space we’ve just vacated, our campsite, our dining room, our dance floor, and I take great pride that there was no evidence of our fun. Like it never happened and we were never there at all, as it should be.
Programme Manager, Every Can Counts Ireland