Today’s environmentally aware couples are going out of their way to find green wedding ideas to minimise waste and reduce the carbon footprint of their ceremony and reception. It’s not easy, but with a little planning and following eco advice your big “I Do” can be much more friendly to Mother Nature.
Here are 10 ideas to get you started on planning your eco-friendly wedding:
1. Travel light
Reducing the amount of road and plane travel required by you and your guests may be the largest earth-friendly contribution to lowering your wedding’s carbon footprint you can make. Gas and airplane miles can add up pretty quickly, so it’s best to focus on minimising this.
How? Here are some ways to keep travel to a minimum:
- Choose a venue that’s close by
- Coordinate it so that all out of towners have booked eco-friendly accommodation, and preferably at the same location
- Coordinate a shuttle to the venue
- Keep out of town guests to a minimum
- Choose a reception and ceremony venue that are close by, or both located at the same place.
If you’re lucky, you can even hit the green trifecta by renting a hotel block and using the same hotel for your ceremony and reception. That way the only traveling most of your guests will have to do is down the elevator. Bonus points if it’s a hotel known for its eco-friendly practices!
2. Source local food
Not only is commercial food usually sprayed with synthetic pesticides, but it probably used way too much water to grow and may have travelled long distances to reach your plate. Opt for locally sourced food as transport-related carbon emissions is minimised, it also supports local business. Win-win.
This green option takes a little bit of legwork because you’ll have to plan your menu around it. Consult with your suppliers, caterer or the venue organiser as early as possible to determine what will be in season during your celebration and let them know how many guests to prepare for.
Of course, you could luck out and find a caterer that exclusively works with environmentally friendly produce, but you’ll still need to complete your research as early as possible.
3. Sustainable wedding gown
If you’re a first-time bride, chances are you’re in your twenties or thirties, and it’s highly unlikely that your wedding dreams involved a used wedding gown. But modern problems call for modern solutions. The conscious bride understands the strain on the environment that the process of creating a wedding gown causes and is more than willing to either:
- find a designer (or off the rack option) that is entirely composed of recycled materials, up-cycled or sustainable fabrics; or
- find a previously-loved wedding gown (you could wear a used gown from you mother or relative for a layer of sentiment or check out eBay, Gumtree and even Facebook groups for leads); or
- borrow or hire a wedding gown.
4. Green wedding venue
When it comes to how to an eco-friendly venue, things can get a little tricky. You would assume that a barn wedding would be fairly low-impact, but what about the environmental cost of running power to the structure, heating it in colder months, bringing in portable washrooms and disposing of the waste?
Your best bet would be to find a LEED-certified venue that takes pride in its low carbon footprint. Many of these buildings require very little power to heat and cool and use solar or other renewables for the power it does use. LEED focuses on all facets of environmental impact, and these buildings are recognized for using the best materials and most modern sustainable solutions to using power, water, and other resources. In many cases, they give back to the grid rather than taking from it.
That being said, it may conflict with the location advice we gave earlier. You’ll have to compare and contrast the benefits to find the best balance.
5. Mother Nature’s favors
You actually have many nature-friendly options when it comes to wedding favors. Skip the etched shot glasses and dish out mason jars filled with bird feed to keep the birds singing. Or, better yet, perennial flower seeds. Your guests will remember your Happily Ever After – which is what wedding favors are for – every time they see the bees coming by.
If that’s not your style, there are plenty of handmade gifts that you can provide. Think all-natural soaps, teas, or bookmarks. You could even heal two birds with one stone (see what we did there?) by planting small trees as the centerpiece and sending your guests home to plant them.
6. Eco-friendly printables
Weddings require tons of paper. There are:
- Save the Dates
- Wedding Invitations
- Rehearsal Dinner Invitations
- Table Cards
The list goes on. When you have hundreds of guests this sure adds up quickly. One of the easiest ways to reduce your wedding’s environmental impact – since it’s so readily available these days – is to use recycled paper for wedding invitations and other stationery. There are also lots of ideas on how to design and create green stationery. One thing that people sometimes miss is the ink. Make sure that yours isn’t the toxic type so that your paper can be recycled again once you’re done with it.
Or if you want to go paper free, just send invites online and create a web page for your wedding. Greenvelope.com is a great option, with heaps of designs to choose from and electronic RSVP tracking for seamless wedding planning.
7. Reduce the guest list
Working on how to be more environmentally friendly can be tough sometimes, and this is most apparent when it comes to the guest list. Each and every attendant contributes to waste, water use, fuel consumption, food production, and packaging.
A significant contribution to your eco conscious efforts is reducing the guest list as much as possible. When you were young, it’s likely that you dreamed of a massive affair involving hundreds of enthusiastic guests. But if low environmental impact is high on your list of priorities, or if lowering the cost of your wedding is, you should seriously consider cutting the list down to only your closest friends and family members.
8. Pass on the plastic
Straws, cups, and any other single-use plastics are high on the radar for almost everyone these days (who hasn’t seen the pictures of garbage island and those poor sea creatures being choked by plastic?) and so disposable plastic should 100% be avoided.
Multi-use plastics, although recyclable, should be avoided as well. Yes, you can extend their life through the recycling process, but considering that trucks need to be sent out and tons of energy needs to be used to melt them down and reformed into something new, it’s best just to skip them.
Simply pay attention to when plastic is being used and try to find a replacement.
Plastic forks and knives? Use the real deal and wash them.
Plastic packaging for wedding favors? Use banana leaves or paper instead
Some choices will require a little extra effort or compromise, but it’s well worth it. Check out our guide to planning a plastic-free event for comprehensive ideas doing just that.
One area of a wedding that many people usually don’t consider ‘greening’ is the flowers, because, well, they’re green and biodegradable. But, they require lots of water to grow and are only used for that one event. When choosing your flowers, plan early. You can even grow them yourself if you have a backyard, using the water from a rain barrel, and scoop them up afterwards for compost. This way you control the entire lifecycle of your flowers without a single negative impact to the planet.
If you don’t have the will or the time to grow your own, just chat with your wedding florist on sourcing organic and locally grown natives and flowers and decide how to compost them afterwards.
10. Skip the rice
The ancient tradition of throwing rice is tied to good luck and fertility. Sorry, but we tricked you here, throwing rice doesn’t make birds explode. It doesn’t harm them at all. The main reason rice is banned at some churches is because it’s difficult to clean up – myth busted.
That being said, wasting food isn’t cool. As a replacement, distribute flower petals that you gather from your neighborhood. The bright colors make for better photo ops, they’re (slightly) easier to clean up, and whatever doesn’t get cleaned up adds nutrients to the soil. Everybody, including the planet, wins.
The fact that you care enough to consider planning an eco friendly wedding is a great step in the right direction. Nobody will judge you for not nailing 100% of the possibilities, it’s the effort and intention that counts. Every little bit counts, and you’ll find that it all adds up quickly. Do what you can, and make sure that any recycled wedding items are passed along to the next bride to keep the green ball rolling. Make sure to document your results to inspire the next happy green couple, and if you’re really game, get in touch and tell us how you managed to green your wedding and we’ll try to share your ideas with others too! Good luck for the big day!
Ryan from Wedding Forward is an environmentally conscious wedding blogger and wedding planning expert providing hints, tips, and guidance to engaged couples for several years.
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