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Make Your Gathering Green

people at a picnic shelter

The Forest Preserves of Cook County is home for native plants and animals, big and small. You can help protect the Preserves by making your gathering green! Here is a list of actions you can take on, whether you are using the Preserves for a reunion, birthday or even a small picnic.

  1. Pack it in-and-out. Don’t leave any party supplies or garbage at the site once your celebration is done.
  2. Recycle. Use the appropriate landfill (green) or recycling (blue) cans when available at your site (list of what can be recycled here). If you’re holding a large event, ask us for additional recycling cans in advance. If you’re using a private waste hauler, be sure they will provide recycling containers.
  3. Compost. Placing foods scraps in the trash adds to the waste stream and creates methane gases. If you compost at home, bring a container to collect the food waste at your event—or take the scraps to a composting location. Or you can hire a composting company to provide buckets and take it all away.
  4. Instead of Polystyrene and/or Styrofoam, choose reusable plates, paper plates, reusable cups or biodegradable products.
  5. If you choose to bring one-serving beverages, choose aluminum cans over plastic bottles. Cans are more easily recyclable and require less resources to produce.
  6. Use reusable tablecloths, instead of disposable covers. If you don’t already own a tablecloth to reuse, use bedsheets or other reusable materials instead of buying them.
  7. Bring reusable or biodegradable forks and spoons, instead of disposable plastic silverware.
  8. Avoid decorating with balloons, plastics, glitter and disposable party supplies. Not only do they use resources for just a few hours of use, but if left on site they can be eaten by birds or other animals—or interfere with their habitat.  Get creative! Make paper pinwheels or other recyclable decorations, or use reusable ones like flags, ribbons or inflatables.
  9. Serve less meat—or go vegetarian. Vegetarian and vegan meals greatly reduce your carbon footprint. Cows produce methane gas, which is much worse for the environment than the CO2 emitted from our cars. And livestock require much more water and gasoline to grow than crops.
  10. Since you and your party will be spending time in the home of many plants and animals, please take a moment to learn something about where they live! For example, you can read about the many ecosystems in the Forest Preserves.

If you take on three or more of these actions, we’d love to see a picture of what you’ve done! Send images to sustainabilityfpcc@cookcountyil.gov.

Acceptable recycling materials include:

  • Paper (except napkins, paper towels and tissues)
  • Glass jars and bottles
  • Aluminum cans, foil and pie tins
  • Tin or steel cans
  • Cardboard (flatten all boxes)
  • Plastic bottles and containers (#1-5, #7 accepted)
  • Paper bags
  • Programs, fliers or agendas
  • Beverage cartons (milk, juice, soy cartons)