It has been estimated that the average American wedding, with 100 or so guests, generates more than 400 pounds of garbage and 60-some tons of carbon dioxide. Those stats refer to the main event alone. Once you start contemplating ancillary fetes (engagement parties, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, bachelor and bachelorette weekends), and the approximate two million U.S. couples who marry each year, the collective environmental impact of getting hitched becomes horrifyingly clear — before anybody dares utter the phrase “blood diamond.”
In love and eco-conscious? Tempted to call the whole thing off? Keep reading. We’ve rounded up sustainable alternatives for nearly every step on the path to the altar, all intended to soothe global-warming-induced cold feet. After taking the following advice to heart, you should be able to vow confidently to honor both your betrothed and our planet.
The Engagement Ring
You’ve no doubt read about the millions of deaths and extensive environmental damage wrought by Africa’s diamond-mining trade. But a clean conscience needn’t mean settling for a man-made rock. When shopping for a ring, insist on “conflict-free” or “ethically sourced” diamonds, ideally from Canada, where the industry is strictly regulated. Or sidestep the issue entirely with an antique ring. All the better if it predates 1880, according to The Green Bride Guide author Kate Harrison, as that’s the year truly harmful large-scale diamond mining first took root. Check out The Good Trade for a comprehensive list of ethical jewelry brands.
Source: Bario Neal
Invitations and Other Paper Goods
Though Paperless Post is perfectly acceptable in this day and age, weddings tend to elicit yearnings for actual, analog invites, even amongst the most tech-savvy brides and grooms. Our favorite source for sustainable stationery, Paper Culture, relies entirely on post-consumer recycled paper, offsets its carbon footprint via the Carbon Fund, and plants a tree as part of each order.
The Bridal Gown and Bridesmaid Dresses
Any gal who’s ever been a member of a wedding party knows that “you’ll wear it again” is, well, a big fat lie. Ironically, the only dress less likely to earn an encore performance belongs to the bride.
An obvious solution to such wasteful “single-use” apparel can be found on Rent The Runway, which now boasts a boutique devoted to wedding-centric loaners. A quick search of the online fashion marketplace Tradesy turns up scads of high-end designer gowns that look brand new, while Etsy offers more quirky vintage styles. Once Wed deals exclusively in gently used bridal and bridesmaid dresses.
Will you be able to source six identical bridesmaid dresses, in six different sizes, from secondhand stock? Probably not. Do you want to? Many modern brides give their attendants a Pantone chip and let them choose any dress in that color, or supply fabric that maids can have sewn into whatever frock best suits their body type—you know, the kind they’ll really wear again.
If you must have matching bridesmaid dresses, and your gown represents “something new,” we recommend Reformation. The Los Angeles label uses the most earth-friendly materials possible, including organically farmed natural fibers and recycled or “dead” stock; offsets it carbon emissions, water use, and waste; and treats its factory workers ethically.
Hair and Makeup
Refuse to contribute to the plastic pollution epidemic by making smart beauty choices on your big day, and every that follows. Elate’s cosmetic palettes and compacts are made from renewable, fast-growing bamboo and can be refilled over and over again. The company also insists on fair-trade ingredients, 90 per cent of them organic. When it comes to hair, we may be a little biased, but Seed Phytonutrients’ Volume Texture Spray, which relies on natural rice protein to amp up limp strands, is packaged in a compostable, recycled paper bottle with a slim post-consumer plastic liner. For sleek updos, consider our Anti-Frizz Smoothing Cream, formulated with organic Jojoba seed oil to tame flyaways and control frizz. There’s no need to compromise between performance and the planet!
Did you know that 80 per cent of the cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imported? And that the majority of them hail from South American farms which engage in unfair labor practices and rely heavily on chemical pesticides and fertilizers? The best blooms are local, in season, and organic. But if that’s not possible, at least ensure that yours were farmed by domestically, by looking for the Certified American Grown seal or checking the online directory at slowflowers.com. After the fact, donate arrangements to local nursing homes and hospitals.
Think about the number of weddings you’ve attended. Then think about how many wedding favors managed to make it into your suitcase, much less your life. Now ask yourself: Are these things necessary or merely destined for the garbage heap? We’re guessing the latter.
Thanks to the “Farm to Table” movement, nearly every American town has at least one restaurant that serves local, seasonal, organic fare and is capable of catering special events. Just be sure to request that the staff deliver any leftovers to an area food bank or soup kitchen.
The Gift Registry
In this country, the average bride and groom are seven years older than they were in 1960. And by age 27 and 29, respectively, many of us have already managed to amass a decent number of towels, sheets, and dishes. So instead of registering for yet more stuff, why not ask your guests to chip in for an experience, like your honeymoon? Both Honeyfund and Zola make it easy for friends to help finance the trip.