Going Green

By Kristen Castillo

May 1, 2013 6 min read

From recycling paper to using reusable bags, you have green habits every day, so why not make your wedding a little "greener," too?

"Green weddings have become the hot new trend," says Jen Hansen, owner of Gracious Events Management.

Anja Winikka, site director of TheKnot.com, says that "for many couples, this is the happiest time in their lives, and they want to share that joy by doing some good in the world. An easy way to do this is to be eco-friendly about the proceedings."

Going green is getting easier and easier as the concept grows more popular.

*Think Local

When you want to minimize your wedding's environmental impact, you need to consider what your carbon footprint will be. You can track your carbon footprint online at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, your carbon footprint is "the total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by a person, family, building, organization or company."

One of the best ways to keep your carbon footprint low is to focus on doing things locally.

"Limiting travel reduces expansion of the carbon footprint and encourages the use of local vendors and products," says Hansen. "For your venue, consider a beautiful garden, museum or historic building using the space 'as is,' eliminating the need for extra flowers or additional decor."

*Natural Decor

Keep things minimal to avoid increasing your carbon footprint.

"Think of your centerpieces as pieces you could use in your own garden or dining room," says Sarah Shewey, CEO and founder of Pink Cloud 9, a curated wedding coordinator service.

She recommends using recycled mason jars as vases, fashioning used wine corks as place-card holders and displaying your table numbers in mismatched photo frames from around your house. Paint the frames in one color to unify the look.

Whenever possible, use renewable resources like soy wax or beeswax candles, instead of paraffin, which is made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.

*Eco-Conscious Invitations

Weddings typically involve lots of paper, including save-the-dates, invitations, programs, place cards, menus and more.

All that paper isn't good for the environment, but you can use recycled paper if possible or look for green alternatives.

Instead of paper place cards, Hansen suggests writing the seating arrangement on the glass windowpanes of an antique French door. Another option? Writing out the seating chart on a chalkboard.

*Green Garments

Many environmentally conscious brides are wearing previously used wedding gowns. In some cases, the bride's mother or a friend wore the gowns. In other cases, the gowns are purchased at thrift shops or online from vintage retailers.

"The use of a vintage wedding dress, as long as significant alterations are not required, can be an inexpensive solution that is also environmentally conscious," says Hansen. "Thrift shop bridesmaid dresses are popping up all over Pinterest and wedding blogs."

Shewey suggests websites like tradesy.com, where you can get a previously worn gown, and nearlynewlywed.com, where you can sell your wedding gown after your big day.

*Eco-Friendly Food

While a great wedding menu will be a focus of the reception, it's also possible to make the menu good for Mother Earth.

Winikka and the Knot team suggest working with a caterer who specializes in local and organic produce and meats. You can also ask your caterer to use local and seasonal foods, which won't require lots of shipping and will keep your carbon footprint low.

Be sure your caterer and venue have a plan to recycle your event's glass and plastics. Don't waste your event leftovers, either. Tell your caterer to donate the food to a food bank. If that's not possible, ask them to compost the food waste.

You can also serve organic wines at your celebration. "The use of organic wines is very hot," says Hansen. "Many vineyards are opening their doors to host weddings and pairing their wines with locally grown foods."

*Affordable or Expensive?

Does going green cost a lot of green? That depends.

"Some items may not be worth the extra cost," says Winikka, explaining that items like recycled paper for invitations and organic gown fabrics can be pricey.

Still, many eco-friendly decor items, such as flowers, can be more cost-effective than you think, especially if they're local.

"Reducing waste helps keep your budget in check by staying mindful of what you bring in and take away from a wedding," says Shewey.

Keeping your guest count manageable can be good for both your budget and the environment. You'll save on food, decor and stationery, plus you'll reduce the amount of travel extra guests would incur.

So go ahead and go green. A sustainable wedding shows your commitment to the environment and each other.

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