American Cleaning Institute - For Better Living

Good Picnic Site Stewardship

Tips for keeping it clean and pristine

A picnic in the park is a true summer pleasure...provided you're not trying to locate a site that's free of someone else's trash. Good stewardship of our parks is everyone's responsibility, even more so now that budget cuts across the nation are affecting park maintenance.

Good picnic protocol means leaving the site in pristine condition. All that's required is a little preplanning, says Nancy Bock, Senior Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute. And the supplies you bring for post-picnic cleanup will help insure that you have a clean pre-picnic site, even if those who used it before didn't leave it in good condition. Here are some suggestions:

  • Disinfectant cleaning wipes or a spray cleaner and paper towels. Even if the previous picnickers cleaned the benches and tables, nature adds her own debris. Spend a few minutes cleaning the area before you unpack your picnic fixings. Then, when you pack up to go home, repeat the process to clean up food spills. Otherwise, sticky food residue will attract insects.
  • A small wire brush. If the grate looks less than appetizing, use the wire brush to remove as much of the grilling debris as possible. Then fire up the grill and let the remaining residue burn off before cooking your food.
  • Disposable latex or vinyl gloves. Although they're generally sold in home improvement centers to protect hands and minimize cleanup during household projects, a few pairs in your picnic basket will be welcomed if you encounter a particularly yucky picnic table or grubby grill.
  • Hand wipes or hand sanitizer. Whether you're cooking, handling, preparing or eating food, clean hands are essential to avoid the spread of germs and bacteria.
  • Food containers with lids. These are generally preferable to open containers covered with foil or plastic wrap. Either of these covers can easily blow away, adding trash to the environment. In addition, with lids, the danger of spilling is minimized, both during transport and at the table, plus the lids discourage ants, flies, bees and similar unwelcome guests.
  • Disposable dish wipes. If running water is available, you can avoid dragging home dirty dishes. And with the dish detergent embedded in these cloths, there's no need to bring dishwashing soap along.
  • Trash bags. If the on-site trash cans are full, don't add to the overflow. After you're gone, curious animals or a sudden storm can disperse it all over the picnic grounds. Bag up your trash and take it home for proper disposal. As you bag it up, be sure to separate the recyclables from the general trash. Use heavy-duty trash bags so there's no danger of them ripping open during the trip home.

Be wary about taking home leftover food unless you've been very careful not to let it sit out in warm temperatures for very long. The safest system is to serve the food and then promptly return it to an insulated cooler that's kept in the shade. Be sure there is sufficient ice or ice packs in the cooler to keep the food at 40º F during the picnic and on the journey home. If there's any doubt, throw it out!



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