More and more, brides and grooms are looking at the environmental impact of their weddings. The average wedding produces 400 lbs of waste and 63 tons of CO2, according to the Green Bride Guide. With 2.23 marriages in the U.S. in 2017, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 446,000 tons of waste created from weddings.
There are a number of steps that you can do to make your big day more sustainable. Here are 20 easy ways to make your wedding greener.
Venue and Transportation
- Consider a Single Venue
If your guests have to travel between a ceremony site and a reception venue, you’ll be creating a caravan of greenhouse gas emissions. Couples who choose to have a single site for both the ceremony and reception can help eliminate travel and keep guests from spending too much on gas.
- Offer a Shuttle Service
If your guests will need to get from point A to point B, be it between ceremony and reception sites, from a hotel to a venue, or from the airport, consider offering a shuttle service. Many van lines can be rented to help transport your entire wedding party, keeping the number of cars on the road down.
- Opt for an Outdoor Wedding
A great way to reduce the amount of energy required for your wedding is to host it outdoors. There are many outdoor venues to choose from, ranging from arboretums, luscious botanical gardens, or refurbished barns. Hosting an outdoor wedding reduces the need for heating or air conditioning and requires less lighting.
- Destination Weddings
If you’re set on a destination wedding, keep your guest list small to minimize the number of people contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions of travel.
Invitations, Programs, and Signage
- Go Digital
Many couples are choosing to go digital for all wedding communications. Try setting up a wedding website with all necessary information like dates, times, and an RSVP option. Something as simple as a Google Form can make collecting “yes,” “no” and “chicken” or “fish” much easier and greener than handling all that mail.
- Use Eco-Friendly Materials
If you do want paper keepsakes to remember your wedding by, consider what materials you are using for paper correspondence. For the best environmental effects, be sure to use recycled paper and vegetable-based inks.
Traditional petroleum-based inks can be bad for the environment because they contain high VOCs or volatile organic compounds. These VOCs can be harmful to the environment, wildlife and people. Benzene, one VOC, is a common carcinogen.
Vegetable-based inks, on the other hand, contain fewer VOCs and are made of linseed, canola, soy or other natural materials.
- Limit Communications
Be mindful of what you print. Do you need separate papers for save the dates, invitations, programs, readings, seating charts, and everything else? While it is important to let your guests know when and where the wedding is, some mailers and signage may be redundant. Limit paper materials and be thoughtful before you print.
- Repurpose Signage
Instead of paper signage, consider upcycling a more permanent form of decor that you can keep after your big day. Some chalkboard paint can turn most surfaces into a reusable sign that you can reuse after your wedding reception.
Catering, Bar Service and Cake
- Shop Local
Local produce has a significantly lower environmental impact that it’s foreign-produced cousins. By reducing the distance your produce has traveled, you’re both lowering the amount of greenhouse gas emissions your wedding menu is creating and enjoying fresher produce.
- Know Your Vendors
Choosing who should cater your wedding is a big decision, and it’s even more important if you’re looking to be as environmentally friendly as possible. When choosing vendors like caterers, bakeries, and bar service, ask questions about their ethical practices. You’ll be looking for obvious wins, like farm-to-table sensibilities, local produce and wine, and sustainable practices, and maybe surprised by even more environmentally-friendly practices like restaurants that use sustainable cooking oil collection (cooking oil that would otherwise be thrown away is turned into clean energy biofuel).
- Eat Your Greens
Research suggests that a vegetarian or vegan diet has a lower environmental impact that an omnivorous or carnivorous diet. If you really want to make a statement at your wedding, consider eliminating meat from the menu. And if you still want some options for carnivores, the New York Times reports that the greenhouse gas production per serving of chicken or pork is about 20% that of a serving of beef.
- Eat Seasonally
Similar to local produce, if you eat foods that are in-season during your wedding, your produce will travel a much shorter distance to your wedding and have a significantly lower environmental impact. This chart is a great resource for what vegetables are in-season when, so you can plan a wedding as unique as the day you get married.
Flowers and Decorations
- Local Flora
Much like produce, keeping your wedding decorations and flowers locally sourced eliminates cross-country shipping and the greenhouse gas emissions that come with it. An added benefit of using local flowers is that they can be much fresher than those that were grown elsewhere, keeping your day looking bright and beautiful.
If you are set on a flower that isn’t in season and a seasonal replica won’t work, look for flowers that are VeriFlora-certified. This means that the blooms aren’t grown with chemicals or under harsh working conditions.
- Beautiful and Reusable
When it comes to centerpieces, decorations, and other visual elements, try to eliminate single-use items from your wedding decor. This can also apply to flowers. Consider a company that will pick up the arrangements and reuse them, like Rebloom or Repeat Roses.
If live blooms aren’t your style, you can use and re-use silk flowers or more unique decorations like bouquets of thrifted brooches or something else that reflects your personality.
- Liven Things Up
An eco-friendly option that keeps blooms as part of your big day is to use live plants. Potted herbs or succulents make great table decorations and it’s even possible to use potted plants as a bouquet. As a bonus, small potted plants make great wedding favors for your guests.
- Go Vintage
There’s no shame in giving something beautiful a second day in the spotlight. Vintage candlesticks, picture frames, and mirrors all make wonderful wedding decorations. When you’re shopping for decor for your wedding, consider items that have been used before.
Dresses and Rings
- Consider the Source (Conflict-Free Stones)
Depending on where your diamond is mined, there are a number of environmental and ethical factors you’ll want to consider. One major consideration is finding a conflict-free stone. Conflict-free diamonds are certified as mined and shipped without connection to rebel or terror groups. Procedures and agreements like The Kimberley Process are in place to guarantee that diamonds are mined and shipped according to certain ethical standards. Diamonds that are not certified as conflict-free are called blood diamonds or conflict diamonds.
- Maybe Lab-Made is For You
Due to both cost and environmental factors, many brides are turning to lab-grown diamonds, if they’re still planning on wearing a diamond ring at all. According to research by Frost and Sullivan, a market insights firm, producing lab-grown diamonds uses significantly less energy and water, in addition to releasing fewer carbon emissions.
According to the report, a mined diamond consumes more than 126 gallons of water per carat, while lab-grown diamonds require only 18 gallons. For energy, mined diamonds use 538.5 million joules per carat, while grown ones use 250 million. And a lab-grown diamond produces just 6 pounds of carbon for every carat produced, compared to more than 125 pounds for a mined diamond.
- Recycle Your Dress
Eco-friendly brides are turning to vintage or pre-worn dresses, which eliminates some environmental impact. If you find a used dress that is close but not perfect, you can work with a seamstress to make it unique to you. There are a number of websites that offer or rent pre-worn gowns, including Nearly Newlywed.
And when it comes to your wedding party, consider letting the bridal party wear clothes they already own or borrow from rental sites like Rent the Runway. You can give guidelines like colors, lengths or cuts, but let everyone find a dress that they feel comfortable and beautiful in.
- It’s All In the Fabric
Choosing a sustainable fabric is a quick and easy way to make attire more eco-friendly. Natural fibers like cotton or hemp are usually environmentally friendly, but there are also new materials that produce little emissions and keep your white gown green.
The First Step to a Sustainable Wedding is Planning
Very few brides can have a perfectly sustainable wedding. Whether your grandmother has to fly in from another state, or your menu has foods that are out of season, you may have to make some concessions on your path to a green wedding. But the best thing you can do is start planning. By using some of these tips, you can do your part to celebrate your big day and keep the planet a little happier. Congratulations on your wedding!