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The season of cookouts is upon us! In preparation for Memorial Day, I published a guide last week on how to host a sustainable cookout, but attending a cookout and keeping things low-waste is a different ballgame.

We’ve all attended cookouts with styrofoam as far as the eye can see. Sadly, despite the low cost of buying second hand plates, utensils and cups, or the alternative of biodegradable disposables, styrofoam is still the norm.  

A low-waster’s golden rule to avoiding waste at a cookout: be prepared and refuse disposables.

The Necessities

Reusable cup

My favorite travel mug was a Christmas gift I received years ago, and truth be told, when I unwrapped the present I didn’t even like it. It was a cup from a then-boyfriend’s mom, and I thought it was a testament to the fact that she didn’t know me at all.

Any ole’ cup cup from home will do the job for a cookout. If you’re arriving by car, I bet there’s already a cup rolling around somewhere in your car.

If you don’t have a to-go cup and you frequently buy drinks out, it may be time to invest in a one-time purchase to end your consumption of disposable cups for good.

When you pick a cup to replace all disposables, there are two important things to keep in mind:

  • See what you already have, and make that work if possible. This was my solution with my Christmas mug, and the most sustainable option is to not buy anything new.
  • If you do go pick something out, make it your new best friend and commit to using it every time. Make sure it fits your needs and works with your lifestyle – that it’s leak proof if need be, fits in your car cup holder, etc.
My 2009 Christmas mug: Hot or Cold Tervis Tumbler

Cloth napkin

Honest question: how well do disposable napkins actually work? A liquid spill can easily consume 20 or so napkins in the clean-up process.

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Paper towels aren’t very effective either – I think paper towels are a scam, and I’m a huge advocate for going paperless (I have a guide to making your kitchen paperless here).

Carrying a cloth napkin in every bag is one of my all-time favorite low-waste changes. I never leave the house without one, and frequently give them as gifts.

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With a cloth napkin also comes timeless class and sophistication.

Non-disposable cutlery

This can be as simple as bringing a set of silverware from your home. Skip The Bag shared this easy-to-make travel cutlery kit. The best part: you probably already have all of the items in your home.

My travel cutlery set is made from bamboo, so that I can take it with me when I fly. Metal cutlery is sometimes (but, oddly enough, not always) confiscated by the TSA.

Bamboo utensils aren’t essential for day-to-day use, but are an important item on a sustainable travel packing list.

Bamboo utensils_packing for a sustainable cookout
My set of Bamboo Travel Utensils by To-Go Ware

You may also like: 9 Food Prep Ideas For Reducing Plastic Use (& Saving Money) When Traveling

Real plate

If you’re at a cookout at someone’s home and you’re comfortable enough, you can just use a real plate. This is what I do when a cookout is at a relative or friend’s home.

If you don’t know the hosts well enough to help yourself to their cabinets, or if the cookout is at a park, then the best solution is to bring a plate from home.

There is another option of using a camping cookware, but there’s more about that further below under “collapsible bowl.”

Glass jar

If you’re concerned about having an alternative to styroafoam bowls, a jar is a simple fix. It can also serve as your disposable cup replacement if you’re not drinking hot beverages.

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Containers for transporting food

Bring along a glass jar, bento box, Stasher Bag (the ultimate Ziplock bag), etc. for taking home leftovers or organic scraps to compost.

Cloth napkins and dish towels can be handy in transporting food
(is there anything a cloth napkin can’t do?).

Collapsible bowl

If you have camping gear, you may already have a collapsible bowl on hand that you could take to a cookout.

The handy thing about a collapsible bowl is that it can also be used as a plate if you don’t expand it the whole way.

It’s not an essential item, given a glass jar can handle any “bowl” responsibilities, but it can’t hurt to bring one along.

Collapsible camping bowl by Sea To Summit 

In a world of styrofoam, be bamboo. I hope these tips will help you minimize your waste and inspire more conscious consumption as we all enjoy the outdoors more this summer.

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Packing list for a low waste cookout: how to attend a cookout sustainably_ writing from nowhere

Posted by:Kayla

<span style="font-weight: 400">Hello, friend! I'm Kayla. I help people shrink their footprint on the Earth and find freedom in owning less. On Writing From Nowhere, I share ideas on living more intentionally and sustainably.  </span>

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