Yes they do exist! We here at Once in a Lifetime are extremely passionate about the environment. In fact, our 2020 Give Back donation was to the Ocean Conservancy. Without getting on our soapbox (I'll do my very best) we believe we only have one planet and whatever we can do to take care of it is well worth the effort. And you're not alone! We recycle whenever and however we can, we order our prints and goods locally right here in Colorado, and do our best to shop local for food and other goods whenever possible. Today we'll be talking about ways you can make your wedding day as environmentally friendly as possible!
The sad truth is that Weddings are one of the most wasteful events out there. The average wedding can produce almost 400lbs of waste; with a national average of 2.3 million weddings per year, that's over 1 BILLION pounds of trash! And it's not just trash; in just one day a single wedding can produce 63 tons of CO2 -- that's the equivalent five people would make in an entire year. It's a mess and no one talks about it. There is an unspoken expectation that couples have to host an over the top, extravagant, costly wedding because "that's how it's done," and anything less is judged and ridiculed.
But it doesn't have to be this way. A point we try to get across to all of our couples, no matter the subject, is that their wedding should be the way they want it; the way they dreamed it could be without feeling obligated to go above and beyond for the sake of what their guests think. Whether you want a large, extra detailed wedding or a simple get together, there are ways to cut emissions and avoid waste. Here is what we suggest:
Save-the-Dates and Invitations
Even without COVID causing the need for speedier communication of dates and times, more and more couples are reverting to electronic invites. A lot of websites like the Knot offer the opportunity to invite your guests electronically via email. However, if you are still wanting that paper aesthetic, search for all-natural or recycled paper products. Also try to limit the amount of separate pieces you send; keep it simple and sweet. You can find eco-friendly stationary on VistaPrint or Zazzle.
Catering and Tableware
While many venues these days have a required catering list, definitely do some research and ask your choice of caterers about in-season local and organic foods for your menu based on the time of year your wedding will be held. This will help reduce emissions caused by transportation of off-season ingredients and hopefully support local farms. In addition, be conscious of portion sizes and think about how many courses you actually need for guests to enjoy themselves. The more varieties of food you offer, the more resources that will be used.
While keeping your desired theme in mind, it's worth it to explore reusable tableware options from your caterer; while it might be a tad more expensive, it's much better for the environment. But if budget is an issue, perhaps explore compostable tableware options such as paper or bamboo plates and silverware. Even if plasticware says it's recyclable, avoid it like the plague, because you can bet your venue will not take the time to separate the recyclables from the rest of the trash.
Beverages can be a little more challenging, but you can always talk to your beverage provider about utilizing local breweries and wineries for your beverages to cut down on transportation costs while supporting local small businesses.
Venue and Transportation
While we never want to exclude anyone from spending our big day with us, it's important to really think about your guest list -- a good rule of thumb is if you haven't physically spoken to a potential guest within a year, you probably don't need to pay for them to be part of the biggest day of your life. It also saves you from having to find a large venue and paying for more table rentals. Not to mention, on average, it costs couples around $300 to host an single wedding guest.
When picking a venue, it's perfectly acceptable to ask them about their business practices: Do they use low-energy lighting, heating and electricity? Do they use certified organic materials in their décor or marketing materials? Do they honestly recycle? If so, what do they recycle? (plastic, metal, paper or all of the above?) If they can't give you a straight answer, they probably have no sustainability procedures in place.
For Transportation purposes, picking a venue that is either close to town or has nearby lodging saves you and your guests travel time and emissions. For destination weddings in the mountains or further away from major cities, encourage your guests to carpool (if it's safe to do so.) It is also highly encouraged whenever possible to host your ceremony and reception in the same place to avoid unnecessary travel and car emissions.
Décor, Lighting, Favors
It's no secret that a lot is put into weddings when it comes to theme and décor. Couples spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on their centerpieces, arches, and favors to wow their guests. But what couples and guests alike don't see is the end of the night when everything is left behind and thrown away. Your décor doesn't have to be crazy elaborate to be beautiful and noteworthy; a good way to save money and reduce waste is to pick a venue that already has great décor or rentable items.
Of course, we all dream about our wedding; every detail down to the type of candlestick, so definitely don't compromise your vision. If you must bring your own décor opt for solar lights or candles, both of which require absolutely no energy, and choose vintage pieces or re-use items to create upcycled decorations.
Favors are a slight pet peeve of ours, we won't lie... the thought of having to gift your guests for attending your wedding just seems backwards to me. Couples have enough to worry about and pay for than little gifts half of their guests won't even take with them (or do and throw away two days later.) But if you decide to incorporate favors or some sort of trinkets for table assignments, explore recyclable, compostable items such as the more and more popular seed pod favors and place cards.
Flowers are tough. 80% of real flowers sold in the U.S. are imported even if you shop at a local florist. With all that transport comes carbon emissions that damage the environment and contribute to global warming and climate change. When flowers (like our food) have to travel a long distance, they also require more resources to keep them fresher longer: plastic packaging, refrigeration, the works. What's more, according to The National Wildlife Federation, fresh cut flowers are often treated with pesticides. “There are no limits on the amount of pesticide residues on these plants,” Richard Wiles, VP for research at the Environmental Working Group, told NWF. “The result is a highly toxic workplace and a highly toxic rose.” In terms of location, the best way to find “sustainable flowers” is to follow the same rule of thumb as you would for food: buy locally. As with food items, locally sourced flowers equate to sustainably sourced flowers. So, the best thing you can do to find sustainable, fresh cut flowers is to source them at a nearby farmer’s market. The upside to real flowers is that they are all natural and compostable, so you can feel better about them being thrown in the trash, as they'll eventually decompose. If you prefer real flowers, shop local and try to stick with in-season florals to cut transportation and outsourcing costs.
Silk flowers are a sustainable flower option because the material can be sustainably sourced, as well as reused. While technically “faux flowers,” as they are woven with silk fibers, they have a longer lifespan (about two to three months in direct sunlight, longer if no direct sunlight) than cut flowers. They also do not require refrigeration resources. In fact, many brides opt to “rent” silk bouquets for their wedding in order to cut costs on flowers as well as do good for the environment. However, silk flowers do contain one caveat. The material of silk is spun from the work of silkworms, which are either exploited or, often, killed for their labor and product; for this reason, some vegans do not wear, use, or buy anything made from silk. One great things about using fake flowers is that they can be re-used; whether in your home or up-cycled to a new couple to use at their upcoming wedding, you have more options than simply throwing them in the trash.
It really boils down to your personal preference, local options and budget. Both aren't the most eco-friendly (or budget friendly) of options when it comes down to your décor, so it's best to pick what works best for you.
Attire & Accessories
Now I know what you're thinking, "you've gotta be kidding me, I have to think about my wedding attire as being sustainable or not?" Yep... When it comes to new garments, the most sustainable fabrics are natural, plant-based fibers such as organic cotton, linen, jute, hemp, or bamboo. The unfortunate reality is that Wedding dresses are most commonly made from fancy-sounding fabrics like chiffon, organza, lace, satin, crepe, and tulle. These fabrics are made from either synthetic fibers (meaning plastic-derived fibers) or silk (an expensive fabric made by worms, which, while often regarded as a natural fiber, is not vegan, and is pretty cruel to worms).
And while shopping secondhand dresses IS the most eco-friendly option, it doesn't mean you have to go to GoodWill. Colorado is home to The Green Bride Denver, a bridal shop that sells off the rack as well as pre-loved wedding dresses at a fraction of the price.
But if you're like most brides who want the experience of saying Yes to the Dress, do some research to find bridal boutiques who specialize in eco-friendly materials. If you're confident in what you want, there are also online-only options such as Wear Your Love, a wedding gown company that makes all of its dresses at a studio in Northern California. Wear Your Love uses eco-friendly fabrics like “ultra soft bamboo and lush organic cotton” in almost all of its dresses, and all of the company’s gowns can be made completely vegan by choosing chiffon from vegan (synthetic) materials as opposed to silk-based chiffon.
Even if you do decide to buy new, which is perfectly ok, you can always donate or up-cycle it for a new bride to enjoy rather than having it sit in your closet forever.
As far as Grooms tuxes and suits are concerned, the most eco friendly option is renting. So unless the groom already has a great suit, consider renting first. Renting, which is both extremely green and economical, is also a great option for groomsmen.
The second eco-friendliest option is to find a handsome, gently worn pre-owned suit. There are many men’s suits to be found in vintage and consignment shops and remember – slightly larger clothing can be tailored down, but it’s hard to make something smaller larger.
But if you are a groom, like my husband was, you can always splurge and buy yourself a suit you can wear to other special occasions. Mike, whether on purpose or accident I'm not sure, chose a suit that was made entirely of linen; the oldest known fiber, as well as one of the most sustainable! Linen comes from the flax plant, is absorbent, breathable, and stronger than cotton. The fibers are porous, and it’s great at keeping you cool in the summer but it can also be insulating in colder temperatures. It’s not very elastic, though, and is known for holding wrinkles so you'll definitely want it tailored and ironed before the big day.
As with everything else in this post, do your research and find what is best for your comfort, budget and vision.
We know it's hard enough planning a wedding and that going the extra mile to make it eco-friendly and sustainable is even more daunting. But just know it can be done and it doesn't mean you have to over over budget either; simply take it one step, one detail at a time and weigh all of your options.
(Soapbox, sorry not sorry) If we can make eco-friendly and sustainable options for weddings the new norm, we can completely revolutionize a wasteful industry and how weddings are viewed by couples, guests and vendors alike. There's no reason not to try, even by switching just one aspect of your day with sustainable options, especially with more and more options becoming available; treading the lessor known path to eventually turn it into the most popular path. Won't you join us?
We would love to hear about your sustainable and environmental friendly wedding ideas! Already had your wedding, how did you make a difference for the environment? Do you have additional resources for new couples, we want to know! Email us at email@example.com
Thank you for reading, as always! I sincerely hope this was not only eye opening, but encouraging. We can all make a difference in the world in our every day choices, but even more of a difference in the bigger parts of our lives. I hope you'll join us in protecting the environment and practicing sustainability! You can read more about sustainability in the upcoming Colorado Wedding Magazine's Winter/Spring Edition coming out next week! Until next time!
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