Our human footprint doesn’t end after we buy and consume things;the final impact occurs when we discard items – and we Americans discard four-fifths of a ton of trash per person, per year.
~ Dan Kulpinski, National Geographic
For more than a half-century, since the publication of Silent Spring by the late great Rachel Carson, the world has become increasingly concerned and proactive about correcting the adverse human impact on the Earth’s environment. Although Ms. Carson’s book focused primarily on the indiscriminate overuse of dangerous pesticides and their powerful damage to the planet, it launched a new age of widespread environmental enlightenment that is responsible for our current practice of reducing, recycling and reusing.
So shouldn’t such best practices be observed in planning your wedding? It’s worth considering because your wedding’s impact on the environment could last years after your big day. Here are some ideas to keep your wedding’s carbon footprint as light and small as possible:
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands
- Present or accept a family ring, either as is or to be redesigned.
- Purchase an eco-friendly and ethical engagement ring and wedding bands from a dealer that is environmentally conscious. When interviewing ethical dealers, ask questions about how and where they source their gems and precious metals, about their policies, and request certification.
- Recycle old jewelry, when possible, into new rings and bands.
- Cut down on travel by choosing a site that is close to home and / or central to family and friends, and hold your ceremony and reception in the same space or general area so travel and resulting fuel usage is kept to a minimum.
- Limit the guest list on destination weddings to reduce the number of people traveling great distances, again saving on aircraft fuel emissions.
- Choose a green site, one that observes — or allows you to observe — environmentally safe practices and is easily accessible to you and your guests. Such eco-friendly places can range from the majesty of Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, and Twenty Mile House in Graeagle, California, to the elegant simplicity of a DYI green outdoor boho wedding and a really budget and eco-friendly outdoor Colorado mountain wedding.
- Arrange to have your wedding at a wildlife park, botanical garden, museum, historic site or other spot that represents a cause or charity that you support. As I believe I’ve mentioned, my husband and I married at the Bronx Zoo because we supported and volunteered for the Wildlife Conservation Society (back then it was known as the New York Zoological Society.)
- Wed at the home of a family member or friend. Many elegant, eco-friendly weddings have occurred in the backyard of one’s parents or good friends. Purchase food and refreshments from local vendors.
- E-vites are an option for very casual weddings. A cleverly designed email can be charming and very green, as well as inexpensive and convenient for both the wedding couple to send and guests to reply. For those who do not use a computer you may print the email invitations and send them with a little note on each, or send informal printed or handwritten invitations. But be cautioned that wedding e-vites are not fully accepted yet. Because of the very special nature of weddings it is expected that the invitation will not only be personal but an important keepsake, which an email might not capture. E-vites should be considered for other invitations, such as to showers and bachelor/bachelorette and rehearsal parties.
- Flyers can be whimsical and fun for informal or casual weddings, and they require only one piece of paper and an envelope, or you can order a trifold invitation that combines invitation and envelope.
- The traditional invitation for formal weddings can also be tweaked to meet your green standards. For example, the formal invitation usually has at least five pieces: an outer envelope, inner envelope, invitation, reply card and reply, stamped envelope; you might consider eliminating the inner envelope and even the reply card and envelope. That would go quite a long way to saving a tree. (While trees are planted specifically for the paper industry, they take up land that could be returned to wildlife or used for homes, growing food or other better uses.)
- Recycled paper or paperless invitations are au courant. Companies that offer recycled paper invitations, invitations made from cotton or bamboo and even invitations that can be planted to produce flowers or herbs include Crane & Co., Green Field Paper Company, Botanical Paperworks, Wedding Paper Divas, and Smock.
- Wear your mother’s wedding gown and alter it to your taste, or wear your nana’s or auntie’s gown, if available. Or consider a gown from a vintage shop.
- Have an eco-friendly wedding gown designed and made for you. Having such a gown made won’t necessarily be budget-friendly, but if you can afford such a green luxury, you might want to go for it.
- Select multiple-use attire for the Wedding Party, which is considerate and cost-conscious as well as being green. While it’s understandable that for a formal wedding the bride might want to have a traditional wedding gown, cocktail dresses or gowns that can be worn again with some post-wedding alterations could be selected for the bride’s attendants. The groom and groomsmen may rent their tuxes or morning coats or purchase suits or sport jackets that they can wear again to work or other functions. For informal and casual weddings, multiple-use clothing is easily accomplished.
- Ask attendants to select their own dresses in a variety of styles, either in one color or in a range of colors that coordinate with your wedding colors, which they will love and be happy to own and wear again and again. This will depend on the style of wedding and level of formality.
- Allow attendants to wear their own clothing, with guidelines as to color, length, accessories, shoes, etc. Again, this will depend on the level of formality.
Food & Flowers
- Purchase food, refreshments and flowers that are in season from local farms, markets and vendors to cut down on long distance, gas guzzling deliveries. Buying locally also helps local businesses and encourages growing produce and raising food animals locally. Go vegan to be really green, but at least purchase certified humane meat, locally if possible.
- Buy organic when and where possible and if affordable to avoid harmful and environmentally damaging insecticides.
- Design a eco-friendly wedding cake by following best practices and buying organic or vegan ingredients and keeping the decorations simple and edible — and, of course, buying locally.
- Use potted plants instead of flowers to decorate your hall or outdoor area. Select large, seasonal plants for centerpieces and small plants as guest favors.
- Make or buy silk flowers and reuse them after the wedding in your home, or give them away as gifts or favors. They can be used for everything like real flowers, including the bride’s and attendants’ bouquets, mothers’ corsages and groom’s and attendants’ boutonnieres.
Favors and Gifts
- Charitable donations in guests’ names to the wedding couple’s favorite environmental charity or charities can be a clever favor. The amount per each guest should be commensurate with the amount you were planning to spend on each favor. You should also provide the charity with the guests’ names so it can send them email thank-you’s. There are many outstanding organizations, without which the planet might be in even bigger danger; some of my favorites are the Wildlife Conservation Society, National Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy and Greenpeace.
- Edible favors are always welcome and very green. Organic chocolates (organic dark chocolate covered almonds are a great choice as almonds are symbolic of weddings), jars of preserves, chutneys, honey, maple syrup and other local orchard products make delectable favors.
- Small bamboo plants or colorful miniature cactus plants make attractive green favors, and they are the very symbol of a renewable resource.
- Include cash gifts and charitable donation options. See “Favors” section, above.
- Select organic, green natural materials and fair trade items. Check on the materials and manufacturing origins of your selected items to ensure they come from countries with good human and animal rights, fair trade, wildlife management and quality control practices.
- Registry gifts can also be found at eco-friendly stores that sell such items, including Ultimate Green Store, Eartheasy and USA Love List. You can even find gifts for your attendants at such stores!
- Hire an eco-friendly photographer/videographer who provides digital proofs and recycled or earth friendly packaging and uses rechargeable batteries and follows other best green practices.
Can you think of additional earth friendly, responsible and ethical approaches to planning your wedding? I’d love to hear about them as would other readers, so please let us know!
Until next time,
One thought on “The Wedding Series – Going Green”
Wow.. this is worth a thought. Interesting concepts.