Weddings are often extravagant affairs, costing tens of thousands of dollars with no regard paid to the ripples they may make on the environment or your community. Whether you want to go all green or are just looking for a few easy ways to reduce the impact on the environment, there’s lots of eco-friendly things you can do without sacrificing the elegance of a grand wedding.
1. Go paperless: There are lots of possibilities here. Maybe just send electronic save-the-dates, and still go for traditional invitations. Or you could do it all online, from the save-the-dates to the invitations to the registry. If you strongly prefer paper goods, opt for invites printed on post-consumer, recycled paper.
2. Go vintage: By now, many people are familiar with the concept of blood diamonds. Avoid supporting conflict gems and environmentally devastating metals by buying rings at a consignment store or estate sale, using a family heirloom and/or recycling metal from jewelry you no longer want. You can also opt for synthetic gemstones or ethically sourced gems from retailers like Brilliant Earth or Fair Trade Gems.
3. Stay local: Nothing increases your carbon footprint like travel. Pick a wedding venue that’s easy for most of your guests to get to (i.e. few have to fly or drive long distances) and consider having the wedding ceremony and reception in the same place to cut down on extra travel. If you are doing separate locations, organize carpools for guests, rent a bus or do something fun like bike taxis to shuttle guests in between.
4. Grow local: Ask your florist to source locally grown flowers. They’ll be fresher, travel less and you’re supporting your community’s economy. If possible, consider fair-trade and/or pesticide-free flowers for a truly eco-friendly wedding. And lastly, reuse the arrangements. Designate a friend to move the ceremony arrangements to the reception tables for extra environmental (and financial) savings.
5. Eat local: Like flowers, local food will be fresher, travel less and help support your community. Plus, it’s going to taste a lot better. For added impact, ask your caterer for organic foods and to incorporate a few vegetarian dishes – meat has a much greater impact on the environment than food that comes out of the ground. And for your meat dishes, opt for free-range, grass-fed or cruelty-free – whatever applies in your case.
6. Sort through the junk: For an eclectic look, pick out plates and silverware from a thrift store. Then re-donate them when you’re done.
7. Separate out the junk: Keep recycling and compost separate from true garbage. Make sure your venue has recycling and compost on site. If not, some caterers will cart it off for you and recycle and compost themselves.
8. Skip the junk: If you’re giving wedding favors, give your guests something they can actually use. Locally made cookies, natural soaps, a reusable tote bag, etc.
9. Honeymoon smart: Ecotourism is huge now, and in places like Central America, staying in a classy eco-lodge in the middle of a rainforest is downright cheap compared to even a mid-level hotel in a major European city. Check out the International Ecotourism Society’s resources for ideas.
10. Purchase off-sets: Use a carbon footprint calculator like this one from Terra Pass, and purchase carbon offsets to make your wedding truly carbon-neutral.