A More Sustainable Wedding
10 Areas to Decrease Your Wedding's Carbon Footprint
“A typical 150 person wedding generally creates about six yards of waste.” - Cheryl of Bella Bolettino Farms in Palisade, CO.
While weddings are gorgeous affairs, the reality of the amount of waste produced by weddings is not as beautiful to behold. The Green Bride Guide states that an average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of CO2. With an estimated 2.5 million weddings per year, that is about 1 billion pounds of trash. In just one day a wedding produces the equivalent of the emissions produced by 4-5 people over the course of a year. Logan Dodds of Green Day Solutions in Montrose, CO echoed these regrettable figures, saying that a typical wedding creates between 400 and 600 pounds of garbage. Environmentalists like Leah Anderson of Compass Rose Florals saw this incredible waste coming out of weddings and decided to do something about it. At the conclusion of their own wedding night, Leah and her husband stood watching everything getting thrown away and felt that it was a big waste for just a few hours of beauty. Here you will read about some specific areas to be conscious about when making wedding-day preparations as well as my top five pieces of advice to those couples looking to reduce the carbon footprint of their wedding day. As you are planning your beautiful day that is authentically you, keep these environmental factors in mind.
#1 - Stationery
For each guest invited to your wedding, stationery will likely include a save the date, full invitation suite, programs, escort cards, and favor tags. The most obvious environmental impact of stationary at weddings is that stationery is traditionally are made of paper. Joe Famalette of Cander helps take this one step further by pointing out that, “It’s crazy when you actually look at what we have to do to create a card and the carbon emissions that goes into it. 1.1 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into our atmosphere by the production of greeting cards a year. Just one card produces 140 grams of carbon dioxide.” Companies such as Cander, Paperless Post, and Minted offer high-quality, user-friendly alternatives to paper invitations by taking invitations online. As an event designer, I believe that your invitations are the real first impression of your wedding. I am in favor of a digital save-the-date or e-vites to your auxiliary wedding events but am still a fan of the fanfare that comes along with receiving a physical invitation in the mail. Talk to your stationer or wedding planner about using recycled or seed paper for your invitations. The Crafthouse GJ is where I turn for any specialty stationery needs. Programs come in many forms and are definitely an area you can choose to limit your paper waste. Opt not to spell out every word of the ceremony for each guest and instead fit all pertinent information onto a single card for distribution. At the end of your ceremony, have one of your ushers recollect programs to be recycled.
#2 - Floral
Flowers are often a design focal point at weddings. With as much beauty and joy that they bring, the waste produced by flowers goes beyond the cutting and disposal of these stems. Moriah of Compass Rose Floral and Decor reports that florists using real flowers are likely to take the trash out two or three times a day with most of the waste being organic material. Compass Rose Floral and Decor is a company specializing in high-end faux floral arrangements. At Compass Rose Floral, nothing is thrown away apart from regular office waste. The majority of flowers in the United States are flown in from Columbia and Ecuador, contributing a considerable amount to carbon emissions. Compass Rose Floral prioritizes sustainability from the very beginning by utilizing shipping barges and recycling each of the boxes florals are delivered in. At the end of a wedding, arrangements are broken down and the flowers reused. Even when a flower gets stained, the team at Compass Rose Floral simply will dye it another color for reuse. The stems on the florals are interchangeable, so even when a floral needs to be cut short, such as for a boutineer, the same flower can be reused with a new stem at a future wedding. If you are looking for an alternative to real florals that are guaranteed pesticide-free, still have a real look, are better for the environment, and have a price tag of about 50% of the cost of fresh florals, get in contact with Compass Rose Floral. Another great advantage to working with a faux flower florist is that you will know exactly what your arrangements are going to look like as they are able to do full mock-ups for your wedding so that you know exactly what you will be getting months before your wedding date.
#3 - Bar
Stock your bar with real glassware as opposed to plastic. If you have a couple of favorite beers, consider having your bartender serve the beer from a keg rather than individual cans and bottles. Make sure your bartender is equipped with a receptacle for recyclables. If you are serving your drinks in single-use containers, place a recyclable bin by each trash so that recycling is easy for your guests. Logan Dodds’, of Green Day Solutions, number one piece of advice to couples looking to cut down their environmental impact is to, “Offer some sort of recycling option, particularly for cups/cans. Due to the nature of weddings, each guest will use on average 3-4 cups throughout the evening. Beer and soda cans could be easily recycled as well.” Your bar is an easy place to limit your wedding waste.
#4 - Food
Food waste is inevitable at a wedding. You need to make sure your guests have plenty to eat and I am a big proponent of “it’s better to have too much than too little,” that being said, there needs to be a plan. While there are certain regulations as to how long food can be left out at a wedding, many catering companies will have the ability to pack up any leftovers and send them home with you. Decide ahead of time where will be the best home for these leftovers. Even with being able to take home uneaten leftovers, there will still be a good amount of food waste. Logan Dodds of Green Day Solutions in Montrose, CO notes that, “The amount of green waste produced [at weddings] can be quite large, and being able to convert some of that waste into usable compost would be very beneficial.” Ask your venue manager or wedding planner about composting options near you. It is also important to think about the source of your food. Vegetarian dishes have a lower carbon footprint than those with meat. Opt for a caterer who uses local and organic produce if possible. Transporting food from far away uses fossil fuels for fuel and for cooling to keep foods in transit from going bad. By keeping your meal local you are supporting your economy, decreasing your environmental impact, and providing your guests with fresher cuisine.
#5 - Place Settings
While most couples opt to serve their wedding meal on reusable dishware for the aesthetic appeal, this is also a great way to cut back on the waste produced at your wedding. If you do plan on using disposable dishware either at your wedding or rehearsal dinner, opt to use bamboo or palm leaf plates which are biodegradable.
#6 - Decor
The best way to cut back on the environmental impact of decor at your wedding is to rent, reuse, and borrow. It may be tempting to purchase the $1 acrylic chargers from the dollar tree instead of renting them from your rental company, but in reality, if you do not have a use for 150 gold acrylic chargers, does it really “make sense” to purchase them. For items you do decide to purchase or create yourself, offer them to friends and family to use at their weddings. If you recently had a friend get married, ask to borrow decor elements that caught your eye. Consider picking up an old window from a thrift store for your seating chart or repurposing old frames for your table numbers. Thrift stores are a great way of upcycling for your wedding. Join local wedding Facebook groups that are giving away previously used design elements. If you do end up purchasing some design elements that you know you will not have another use for, consider donating them to your church or other charity that hosts fundraising events.
#7 - Favors
Although they come with good intent, many wedding favors either never make it home or go unused. To avoid this waste, consider asking your guests to choose a charity for you to donate to instead of providing favors. A fun way to do this is to have them place their escort cards in a receptacle at the end of the night for one of three charities you choose. If you would have typically spent four dollars on each favor, instead donate these funds to the charity. I suggest making one of these charities a carbon offset program! Don’t forget to recycle the escort cards! If you choose to still give out favors, check out this article on choosing favors that avoid the junk drawer.
#8 - Gifts
Between shipping, packaging, and wrapping, the ceremony of gifting expels a considerable amount of emissions into the atmosphere. I personally delight in delivering masterfully wrapped gifts to each celebration I attend, but there is a way to reduce the impact of our gift-giving while keeping these moments authentically personal and beautiful. The most popular wedding gift is money. This gift usually comes in the form of cash or a check in a store-purchased card. You may recall the previously stated statistic that one greeting card produces 140 grams of carbon dioxide and generally costs between two and six dollars. Companies such as Cander are working to eliminate this waste by making the gifting of money more authentically personal all while producing 0 emissions and having no harmful impact on the environment. Joe Famalette founded Cander after his father passed away in 2015. Joe realized he did not have any video messages from him and wanted to come up with a way that loved ones could memorialize a giving moment. First and foremost in Cander’s mission is to help create everlasting memories with the people that are most important in their lives on the days that are most important. As Joe stated, “We think there is a way to virtually create those memories that can live eternally.” Check out their website for more information on Cander’s virtual gift-giving and greeting cards and see if their platform would be a good gifting alternative for your wedding.
#9 - Transportation
If you are hosting your wedding in a more remote location such as a private ranch or an isolated venue, consider setting a central meeting point such as a church or hotel and provide bussing for your guests. Not only will this cut down on your carbon footprint, it will also ensure guests are not driving unsafely. If your ceremony and reception are taking place at separate venues, providing transportation between the two is another great way to cut back on emissions and ensure guests stay on schedule.
#10 - Attire, Jewelry, and Beauty
Unless you have purchased your wedding dress second hand or your plan on donating your dress after your ceremony, your dress is not likely to be worn again. The other outfits in your wedding party do not need to be this way. If you plan on dressing your groomsmen in suits, consider renting over buying. If your groom and groomsmen are going to be on the more casual side, pick something they will be likely to wear again. For your bridesmaids, consider giving them guidelines for their dress rather than requiring they all wear a specific dress. By allowing your bridesmaids to pick their own dresses you increase the likelihood of them wearing them at a later date. Most of us have become aware over the past couple of years of the chemicals included in personal care products. Not only do these products have a negative effect on your body, they also cause harm to the environment. Health and wellness company, Arbonne has become a certified B-corp and has partnered with TerraCycle to repurpose Arbonne hard to recycle packaging. These products are vegan, pure, safe, and beneficial. When deciding on wedding day beauty products consider a more ethical option that you will be able to use in the future. As you are choosing jewelry, especially gemstones, check into their origin to ensure they are sustainably and ethically sourced. Borrowing family heirlooms for your jewelry is another great option.
Top Five Tips to Limit your Wedding’s Carbon Footprint
Rent, Reuse, and Borrow
Donate to a Carbon Offset Program
Consider a Smaller Guest Count