Celebrating a Sustainable Wedding

On a personal note, something exciting will occur next year… my wedding! I’ve been busy getting inspired and taking in all these suggestions, but one set of suggestions really weighs heavy on me – making it a sustainable wedding. Weddings can be a tremendously wasteful and unsustainable, and I really don’t want to add anymore waste to the world than I have already done.

To get a couple of caveats out of the way, I don’t pretend I am any more “green” than the normal person. I recycle, I reuse, and I try my best to reduce my carbon footprint by carpooling, riding my bike, etc. But, I haven’t yet started composting, and I could definitely take shorter hot showers.

So I asked my friend Joe Winn, CIO of Greater Good Alliance, if he had any advice on helping make my wedding as sustainable as possible. Coincidentally, he was in contact with his environmentally conscious friend who’s also planning a wedding. In his own words below, here’s his and his friend’s advice to me:

“As you know, weddings can be an expensive proposition, both for the wallets and the planet. From too much food to huge amounts of air travel, it all adds up. Every one of these suggestions/ideas is being adopted by a close friend (of which I am part of the wedding party, yay!) in her wedding, so all these are credit to her.

Here we go:

Travel impacts. First, she lives in San Diego, is from Virginia, and is marrying a Kiwi.

What she is doing: Therefore, to reduce travel impacts, they will be holding three weddings, one in each place. They do have to travel far and wide, but the guests do not (go to the one closest), so there is a definite reduction in impacts over one wedding where tons of people fly from all around the world to attend. Additionally, the VA wedding will be held at her parent’s home, so no cost of facility rental or special customization of the property (it’s waterfront, so that’s pretty nice). Drivers are encouraged to carpool, both to reduce emissions and to maximize use of limited parking facilities.

Flowers: Oddly enough, they tend to be the greatest environmental impacts at an average wedding. Normally, they are grown in another country and flown (refrigerated overnight) to the destination, then trucked to the wedding. That’s not to mention the fertilizers and water used to grow those flowers in environments not suited to them naturally.

What she is doing: Working with a friend who grows all the flowers locally, so they can be simply driven over on the day of the wedding. Additionally, they are all native species, so no funky fertilizers needed. The lily bulbs are not native, and are being shipped, but they do not require refrigerated or overnight transport, so it minimizes many effects there.

Decor: From centerpieces to random pieces scattered throughout the area, the decor is often made of one-time-use materials and can come from nearly everywhere in the world. The impacts can sometimes be substantial.

What she is doing: No landscape changes being made for event besides additional flowers being planted (all sourced locally). All centerpieces are constructed of recycled glass bottles, locally sourced flowers, and sea glass/sand collected from the backyard. Essentially, everything that will be used to beautify the event is 100% biodegradable and has almost zero carbon impact.

Purchased items: If you have enough at your home to provide for an entire wedding, then you’re a hoarder or the greatest party property. Whether it be table cloths or bowls, online purchasing tends to have large carbon impacts.

What she is doing: All shipped items were purchased direct from warehouses in bulk during their seasonal stock transitions (tiki torches, for example). This way, items come in as few shipments as possible, and were destined to be moved anyway. Paper lanterns were also purchased, but these will be resold following the wedding, making an economical form of recycling.

Invites: You can go really wild with this, with 12 sheets of paper, different plastics, and all kinds. Just read the latest wedding magazines to see what people do.

What she is doing: They made their own invitations (I have one on my desk; it’s adorable) with basic stencils, “wax-like” designs, and a fabric ribbon around it. Nothing excessive, and can all be recycled (hopefully people will). Additionally, this single invite covered all the wedding locations. Plus, the leftover paper from the wedding invitations will be used as confetti on the tables. All RSVPs are conducted through e-mail or phone, and no further wedding materials will be sent out (all additional information is available through their website).

Wedding favors: You’ve got to give something away, and so many of them are, “oh, that’s so nice, but what can I do with it?” Plus, it’s another “thing” being used.

What she is doing: Being a Southern wedding, the favor is a Mason jar mug, to be used as your cup during the wedding (no disposable cups being used at the event), then taken home to re-use. If people do not take them home, they will be donated or used at the house. No trash will result from this item.

Seating & eating arrangements: You can rent, you can buy; again, few have the resources for sitting down 100-something people.

What she is doing: All chairs, tents, and tables are rented from the most local company available to minimize transport emissions.

Food: One thing I remember from every wedding I’ve attended is the sub-par food, and the sheer volume of it. Sorry to all my friends, but the food just is rarely good. Plus, who knows where all the ingredients come from. Then there’s the cake, and it usually comes from a large company who ships it in (that, and the cake topper).

What she is doing: The caterer is a local person, and all foods are locally grown, sourced (again, Southern culture), and seasonally available. Additionally, all seafood being served will be sustainable (Check Monterey Bay Seafood Guide). There’s only so much one can do for the cake. The cake-maker is another local person who is also making the cake topper, reducing transport emissions.

Dress: I’m a guy. I know nothing of this topic.

What she is doing: Purchased a new dress (since they tend to be cheaper… don’t ask me), but it will be used for all three ceremonies. After the third in New Zealand, it will be sold (recycled).

Other wedding ceremonies (what she is doing): All wedding locales will be embracing the same ideas of locally sourced materials, foods, flowers and people for services. Plus, they will even be combining the New Zealand travel with an educational workshop (for their studies) and the honeymoon (in Tonga), so no back-and-forth travel to the States.

As you can see, the majority of the items being serviced/purchased are from small, local businesses (or one-person shops). This helps support the local community, fulfilling the people (and partially the profit) part of the Triple Bottom Line. The local foods, materials and flowers help benefit the global environment, but more specifically, the local one. We’ve now covered the planet part of the Triple Bottom Line. Finally, nearly every one of these sustainable steps also was economically friendly. It cost less to be sustainable!

Obviously, there are dozens more ways one can be sustainable in wedding planning and the event itself, but I think she has done a great job in putting some of these things together. I’m certain there are many more things being done that just weren’t mentioned. But, bottom line: None of these things increased the cost of the wedding. Every single one reduced the cost of having the weddings.

So be economical, be people-friendly, and be “green”. Go get married!”

2 responses to “Celebrating a Sustainable Wedding

  1. >For your bridesmaid dresses, if I could suggest something pastel green, that way when I show up in my tux from the set of 'Dumb and Dumber' I won't stick out. (On a side note, this isn't a shameless ploy to get an invite.)

  2. >I think I know who wrote this comment… And, you and your better half are absolutely invited to the wedding. That is, unless you say anything derogatory about the Gators.

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