photo courtesy of Capture Light Photography, Ballston Spa
There are 2.5 million weddings a year in the United States, making up a $70 billion dollar industry. The impact on the environment from these celebrations is substantial and many couples are searching for environmentally friendly options. How can eco-conscious brides and grooms-to-be plan their special day without sacrificing style or the environment? Ecolocal publisher David DeLozier recently talked with Kate Harrison, author of “The Green Bride Guide,” to get answers.
David: First off, what is a green wedding?
A green wedding is any wedding where the couple tries to decrease the
impact of their event on the planet – and there are many ways to do
it! Every part of a wedding – from invitations to flowers to the
favors – has eco-friendly options worth considering.
David: Why would a couple want to have a green wedding?
Kate: I think having a green wedding has environmental, economic and spiritual benefits.
2.5 million wedding a year in the United States the environmental
impact from these events is enormous. Here are a few fun facts to put
things in perspective:
• The amount of paper used to make invitations every year could cover the island of Manhattan.
• If every wedding used a disposable aisle runner and they were laid end-to-end it would circle the globe twice.
• The amount of gold used to make just one ring produces 2 tons of mining waste – the equivalent of 12 elephants!
The bottom line is that every green choice makes a difference – no matter how small.
is a myth in our society that in order to be green you have to be
willing to spend more. In fact, having a green wedding can save you up
to 40%!! How is this possible? Well, let me illustrate with a few
examples from my own wedding. First there were the flowers. The
average couple spends about $2000 on flowers. My husband and I had a
fall wedding and asked all of our friends and neighbors to donate
hydrangea and other seasonal flowers from their gardens. We then
bought $200 worth of organic dahlias from a local flower farm and that
was that. Another example was my dress. Most gowns cost around
$1300. I bought a damaged gown (the train was stained) for $600 and
spent another $100 to have it tailored. I had the seamstress turn the
salvageable material from the train into a matching shawl and after my
wedding donated both to Brides Against Breast Cancer. For my shoes, I
bought once worn white silk Vera Wang shoes on eBay for $50 and resold
them after my wedding for the price – so I only paid for shipping.
Simple choices like these are not only better for the environment, but
can help stretch your wedding dollars.
there are the social benefits. When you start talking to vendors about
what you want to do you, and explain your choices to your guests, you
change the way people in your community think about what it means to be
green. You make being green seem possible and help get the word out
about sustainable alternatives.
David: How do people explain this choice to their family?
I think people today are more aware of the environment and conservation
than they were even a few years ago. Although you may get a few odd
looks, most family members and guests will not only be supportive, but
will actively applaud your efforts. By making your day not just about
the two of you, but about your future and your relationship to the
greater world, you add a level of meaning to your wedding that is very
moving. You are saying, “Our wedding is going to be sustainable, just
like our marriage.”
David: A big part of the green movement
is making a positive impact to our local communities and environment.
How can a green wedding play a part in this?
big part of going green is going local. When you choose local seasonal
flowers and foods you not only decrease the environmental footprint of
the event (because nothing has to be imported which produces emissions
and contributes to global warming), but you are also supporting local
business and your community. I always recommend couples serve local
delicacies and give locally made favors. It is a great way to create
a sense of place for your guests and to make your wedding more unique.
David: What if I can’t find a green option? Is it “cheating” if my limo isn’t a hybrid? Do they even make them?
In some parts of the country (New York and San Diego for example), you
can indeed find hybrid limo companies. But to answer your question,
one of things I really stress in the book is that you don’t have to be
puritanical. If you can’t find something, or you don’t want to choose
the green option at every turn, that is OKAY. I think of it this way –
if every couple just included one green option in their wedding it
would be 2.5 million green choices a year! So don’t fret too much – and
don’t let anyone try to convince you that if your wedding is not green
through and through you are being hypocritical. That’s ridiculous.
Just do what you can, and know it makes a difference.
My big view on the whole green thing is emphasizing locally grown,
locally made, and locally independent. Dollars spent locally have the
biggest impact in our communities, and supporting local merchants and
artisans keeps our communities strong. If the local cake-baker does
not use organic sugar, but uses locally sourced flowers to decorate it,
it’s part of the success.
Kate: I totally agree.
Although I think it is great to try to get local vendors to make
substitutions when you can. In the back of the book I offer vendor
worksheets – which are checklists you can use to talk to vendors about
green services they can offer. This also goes to your earlier question
about what to do if you can’t find local green vendors. For example,
you may not be able to find an organic baker, but you can ask bakers in
your town if they are willing to substitute in organic flour and sugar,
cage-free eggs – and you will have a green wedding cake. You will
quickly find out who is willing to work with you, and who knows – maybe
it will even change the way they do business in the future!
David: Is there anything else you want to share with readers?
Kate: Yes – I want to encourage them to take a look at my website.
In addition to finding pictures and stories from real green weddings,
they can find links to local products, services and vendors. The green
community is a grass roots movement and everyone’s help is needed. I
hope all of your readers will come back to the site and share their
experience with others. The more examples people have of ways to go
green, the easier the choice will be.
wedding veteran and environmentalist Kate L. Harrison offers the most
comprehensive green wedding book on the market, The Green Bride Guide:
How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget. It’s the perfect
resource to help couples make sure their big day is memorable, but
doesn’t leave a lasting impression on the Earth. The Green Bride Guide
includes hundreds of sustainable choices in one handy reference, and
it’s also a practical resource for budget conscious couples. Kate
provides low, medium, and high-end choices in every category, and
proves that you don’t have to break the bank to have a gorgeous green
event! Kate and her husband Barry planned their own green wedding in
2007. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.