Tuesday, September 16, 2008
If you’re the type who tries to live green by practicing simplicity in everything you do, then the very prospect of planning a big, elaborate wedding probably makes you want to throw up your hands and run away screaming in terror. If that’s your attitude, then you’ll probably want to consider eloping. And if you do elope, considering keeping everything local, including your honeymoon. Remember that flying anywhere increases your carbon footprint to a great degree.
Besides, eloping has so many pluses when you compare it to planning even a modest wedding. For one thing, you don’t have to find a venue for the reception, which means you’ll save on all the catering and liquor costs, nor will you be shelling out large amounts of cash for flowers or renting all the tables, chairs, plates and silverware you’d need to feed your guests.
If you don’t ask people to travel from other locations, some of them far away, then you’re already shrinking the size of the carbon footprint your wedding will create. Now, if you’re really ambitious about staging a green wedding, use mass transit to get to where you’re getting married, and tell everyone you’re going to Bali for the honeymoon, but stay at some gorgeous local destination. When you get there, turn off your phones, ice down the champagne, and just relax and enjoy yourself. Taking drastic steps like I’ve just described can help to reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding to practically nothing. What a great way to start your new life together!
Of course, anytime you break the rules and try something different, there are bound to be hurt feelings from friends or family who don’t understand your decision. When dealing with them, it’s important to be tactful and understanding and let them know that they are loved, they just won’t be present when you get married. You can always record your wedding on video and then invite your dearly beloveds over to your home and show it at a special wedding dinner that doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. You could also get one of those online wedding websites where you can post your wedding photos for everyone to see. The important thing is to keep everything relaxed and fun.
The most important reason to elope is to simply say no to excessive consumption. If you want the world to be a better place, and for those around you to start reducing their levels of consumption, what better way to be a good example then by staging one of the ultimate green weddings, an elopement?
Monday, September 15, 2008
Okay, folks, if you want to know the bottom line about having a truly green honeymoon, here’s the straight info: stay close to home. I’m not kidding. Although ecotourism is a term that’s widely bandied about, it’s mostly a misnomer. If you take a jet plane to any destination, no matter how primitive or picturesque it is, you are vastly increasing your carbon footprint. I don’t care if your ultimate destination is a solar-powered yurt made from local materials, if you have to fly to get there, then you are not living green. It’s as simple as that.
If your green conscience won’t allow you to fly, what is a new married couple to do who just want to get away to somewhere beautiful? Well, for starters, you can go to The International Ecotourism Society website and consult these experts for the best way to travel green. Another choice that most modern couples have forgotten about is taking a train to your destination of choice. It’s slow, old-fashioned, and much more ecologically correct than flying. It’s also a holdover from a much more romantic era. Think of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint taking their honeymoon in their sleeping car in North by Northwest or Sean Connery and Daniella Bianchi playing house aboard the Orient Express in From Russia With Love, or if you want to go way back, the starry cast of the film Twentieth Century living it up in luxury sleeping cars. Face it, trains are much more romantic than the flying cattle cars that airliners have become. You can just sit back and enjoy the gorgeous scenery rolling past your cabin window after a night of wedded bliss, or enjoy a cocktail in the lounge car while somebody else takes care of the driving. Trains are a wonderful alternative for green minded couples. To get a better idea of your options for transcontinental train travel, visit this site: www.seat61.com.
Of course, there’s always the old alternative of traveling by car, especially if you drive a hybrid or an electric car. You can travel to any of the fabulous green resorts in places like Sedona, Arizona, or the Thousand Waves Tea House in New Mexico, or one of a hundred other green destinations that you can find online. For the ultimate in a green honeymoon, why not try camping out somewhere beautiful like the rim of the Grand Canyon or a campground in Northern California among the majestic sequoias? In fact, starting your marriage among the host of America’s natural splendors could be the finest wedding gift of all. And the best part is, you’re having a green honeymoon. What could be better than that?
You’ve already settled on a green wedding and you’ve made arrangements to have a green menu or locally grown organic food, your flowers are organically grown, and you’re having a small wedding so that you can reduce the size of your carbon footprint. What else can you do to make your wedding more green? Have you considered what you’re going to wear? Well, as an advocate of green weddings, I’m a big fan of brides reusing their mother’s wedding gown. If that’s not practical, have you considered wearing a dress that can be reused after the wedding for other formal occasions? When my wife and I got married, my wife wore a wide-brimmed white hat with a veil and a simple white suit. It wasn’t a wedding dress in the conventional sense, but she looked smashing, dignified, beautiful and classy. And then afterwards, she had the suit to wear whenever she needed something formal to wear.
Another good way to simplify your wedding is by having the maid of honor and bridesmaids wear their own clothing instead of making them buy some hideous polyester monstrosity with poofy sleeves that they’ll never wear again. Who says all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen must be attired identically? I think it’s ecologically correct to have the groomsmen and groom rent tuxedos for the occasion, so why not look into renting dresses for the bridesmaids, too? That would ensure that the clothing would be reused, and the bride and her bridesmaids could put their heads together to pick out dresses that look good on everyone. I think it’s important to be tactful and considerate and not force anyone to wear anything that makes them look heavy or awkward.
These are all good ideas for making your wedding greener, but can you go even further? Sure! Have you considered having your wedding gown made from renewable organically grown hemp or cotton? You can get a wide range of different fabrics and garments made from hemp these days. You can even get hemp underwear if you’d like to be green right down to your dainty underthings. Really, with a bit of thought and some good planning, you can put an end to wasteful practices like buying a wedding dress that you’ll only wear once. Personally, I’m a big fan of buying clothing that you can later restyle and reuse for other purposes. In these times of diminishing resources, the idea of a one-use garment just seems incredibly silly and extravagant.
Friday, September 12, 2008
It’s a fun custom at modern weddings to put a disposable camera on every table at the reception and allow the guests to snap away. The disposable cameras are then collected at the end of the wedding reception and sent off to have the photos developed. As I said, it’s great fun, and many, many couples have acquired a wonderful and utterly unique record of the wedding reception from this approach. However, using disposable anything is a terrible idea, and I hope that this is a custom that will die out.
Did you know that the United States, all by itself, uses over 24 million disposable cameras? That’s enough to create a small mountain of non-biodegradable waste. So, banish all thoughts of using disposable cameras and instead, go digital. Because of the expense of digital cameras it may not be practical or even possible to put a digital camera on every table at the reception. But who says you need a camera on every table. Why not borrow a nice selection of digital cameras, say half a dozen or so, and leave them at strategic locations throughout your wedding reception venue? That way, you can still have a variety of people taking photos throughout the reception and you’ll probably wind up with a great sampling of wedding pictures of your nearest and dearest partying and carrying on at the reception.
Another plus about using digital cameras is that you’re spared the expense of developing every photo, even the ones you might not want, like the ones drunken cousin Ernie took of his own butt after he’d had one too many wedding toasts. With digital photos it’s easy to delete the inappropriate images, the bad ones, and anything that’s blurry, out-of-focus or looks too dark.
And let’s face it; the photos you get from disposable cameras are frequently pretty lousy. They’re grainy, they’re out of focus and the colors are garish. Plus, you have to consider the environmental cost of developing photos. The chemicals used to develop conventional film aren’t exactly good for the environment. When you go digital, you’re bypassing a lot of the garbage that gets pumped into the environment from conventional photo developing. If you have the right kind of inkjet printer, you can buy photo paper and print your own photos at home, which costs a whole lot less than sending pictures out to be developed and is a whole lot better for the environment as well. So go digital and make your wedding photos as green as your wedding menu, your venue, and your trousseau.
When planning your green wedding, you could plan a green wedding menu with an array of organic, meatless dishes instead of the usual beef & chicken. Now, before you start thinking about how Uncle Bill just loves his steak, read on. With wedding menu implementations like these, he may not even notice.
These days even the most confirmed carnivores should think twice about how much meat they’re eating, and not just because of health concerns either. Face it, folks, eating beef is bad for the planet. It takes around a thousand gallons of water to grow a pound of beef if you factor in all of the water a cow drinks, plus all the water needed to raise the grains and grass that cattle require to grow to a salable size. Plus, all of the grain that is fed to cattle is grain that isn’t going to directly feed the world’s growing human population. So if you want to add an extra layer of green to your wedding, find a caterer who specializes in vegan weddings or vegetarian food. Or, if you’re operating on a tight budget, and you’re a good vegetarian cook, why not try being your own caterer? Not only will you save money, you can create exactly the kind of delicious vegetarian dishes your wedding guests will be raving over for weeks afterward.
It used to be that vegetarian meat substitutes were pretty bland, tasteless stuff, definitely deserving of all the scorn heaped on them by carnivorous types. But that’s simply not the case. Vegan and vegetarian wedding food doesn’t just mean boring blocks of tofu garnished with a few bean sprouts. If you go to upscale grocery stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, you can find a wide array of tasty meatless dishes that are ideal for serving to your wedding guests. For instance, Trader Joe’s sells meatless meatballs that are almost indistinguishable from real meatballs. Put those in a chafing dish with some pineapple chunks and sweet and sour sauce for a truly yummy appetizer. You can also find a mock beef product called seitan at Whole Foods that is superb when broiled, grilled, or stir fried. Tempeh strips marinated in teriyaki sauce and grilled on skewers make a hearty meatless dish that even the most confirmed carnivore will probably love. Soy is so versatile that you can also find soy substitutes for chicken, ground beef and even cheese. Put out a tray of cubed soy cheese on toothpicks and most people probably won’t even notice.
Just remember, a vegetarian wedding menu doesn’t have to bland. You can add dishes from the Japanese, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisines for an international feast that will just be bursting with unusual flavors, textures and colors. And since you’re going totally meatless, you can serve up a lavish buffet that’s healthy, inexpensive, it and won’t bother your green conscience. Bon appetit!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
In your quest to have the ultimate green wedding, have you considered what you’re doing about your wedding flower arrangements? Depending on where your flowers came from they can have a big impact on the carbon footprint your wedding will generate. For instance, if you’re really trying to go green with this wedding, then flying in flowers from another country is a big no-no. You should also try to avoid using flowers that are trucked in from somewhere else, whether it’s south of the border or just a neighboring state. The very best way to have green flower arrangements is to: A. Grow your own; or: B. Buy only locally grown, organically–raised flowers. They’ll be fresher, plus when you buy from a local greenhouse or florist, you’re helping to support the local economy, which is always a good idea.
Do you want some other ways for having the greenest flower arrangements possible? Read on, because I may have some suggestions for you here that never occurred to you. I mentioned above that you should only purchase organically grown flowers. That’s because you don’t want to expose your wedding guests to pesticide or herbicide residues. It’s better for all concerned to go organic. And if you’re buying from local growers, you can showcase the flowers and plants from the area you live, to help make your green wedding and reception extra-special!
If you absolutely must order flowers that come from another country, be sure that they are fair trade flowers. Fair trade flowers are those grown only by vendors who pay their workers a fair wage and give them decent working conditions. If you don’t know how to do this, then go online or ask a local florist about this. If you’re like me, then the last thing on Earth you want to think about on your wedding day is that the poor farm workers who raised the flowers in your bouquet are exploited by their employer. It is far better to purchase fair trade flowers that can be enjoyed with a clear conscience.
Finally, don’t be wasteful. After your green wedding, arrange to have all of the flower arrangements moved to wherever the reception is being held so that they can do double duty. And then, when the wedding and reception are all over, recycle the flower arrangements yet again by having them dropped off at a hospital or retirement community. Don’t waste anything!
So, you and your partner have decided that you’re really having a green wedding. You’ve done your research, talked to your green-thinking friends, and you’ve made up your minds that a green wedding is the only way to go. That’s excellent! You’ve taken your first steps along the road to making our battered old world a better place.
Now, one of the first thing to do after you’ve compiled your modestly scaled guest list is to e-mail a request to your attending guests that they find some way to offset their travel. How do they do that? First, they need to find a carbon calculator online then use it figure out how much carbon they’ll generate with their travel. Then, once they know the size of the carbon footprint they’ll generate, they can purchase carbon offsets from various sites such as: https://climatefriendly.com/ or www.GreatestPlanet.org or any of dozens of sites that offer this service. If you can afford it, you can also be proactive and just go ahead and purchase a carbon offset for your entire wedding to save your guests the trouble. If you’re having a wedding that includes, say, 16 guests, which is a reasonable number for a modest green wedding, you can purchase carbon offsets for the entire affair for about $315.00 US dollars. Doing it that way guarantees that you can stage your wedding affair with no guilt pangs, and is the act of a considerate and forward-thinking host. Of course, you can also tell your guests that you’re doing this, and then tender the invitation that they also offset their own travel at their expense. Now that makes for a truly green wedding.
For the wedding itself, you could choose to arrive at the wedding ceremony via a horse-drawn carriage. That is not only an excellent green mode of traveling, it’s also beautiful, picturesque, and doesn’t create any kind of a carbon footprint, although someone will have to clean up the horse poop afterwards. (Oh, well nothing is perfect. In real life, you always have to make some kind of compromise.) Another green wedding tip is to encourage guests to use hybrid or electric vehicles or to carpool. You can also check out green forms of mass transit, such as a limo company that only uses vehicles like a bio-diesel-powered stretch Hummer. If you don’t know where to start there, trying consulting the greenrideglobal.com website for green transportation alternatives in your area.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
“Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify, simplify! ... Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.”—Henry David Thoreau
One of the big problems with most weddings is that they’re just so huge. If you’re getting married soon, ask yourself if it’s really necessary to stage an affair that’s on the same scale as one of those old Cecil B. DeMille biblical epics with thousands of extras and set details encrusted with gold leaf? A surprisingly simple way to make a green wedding is to keep your affair small. Every guest who arrives from a distant location increases the carbon footprint of your wedding that much more. Plus, the larger your wedding is, the larger your wedding venue needs to be, the more food that will need to be purchased, the more lodgings arranged for out of town guests. Scaling back just makes so much sense from the standpoint of using fewer resources. Unfortunately, we Americans are just so used to conspicuous consumption that this may be a very hard habit to break.
For the new century, all of us must learn to think smaller, to scale back our wants to what is easy to sustain. A humongous wedding might be fun and exciting, but ask yourself: just how much attention could you give any of your guests if there are 200 of them? A smaller wedding is more fun, more intimate, and gives you the opportunity to really spend quality time with your nearest and dearest. Handle your small wedding tactfully, letting all your friends and family know that you love them and wish that they could be there, but that you have decided to walk softly upon the earth and have only a small wedding that includes immediate family and only your closest friends. And you know what? I think that most people will probably understand and respect your wishes without giving your grief about it.
There are so many advantages to having a small-scale wedding from the lack of stress in planning a smaller affair to not having to worry about how you are going to feed 200 people, to not worrying about booking a fancy venue for the wedding reception, to…well, you get the idea, right? Scaling back means making everything simpler, easier, and above all, green! We Americans must keep our eyes firmly fixed on the idea of simplicity. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and be happy.
Have you ever considered getting married in nature’s cathedral? I’m referring of course to having an outdoor wedding. This is only one more option to consider when planning for your green wedding. For one thing, having your wedding and reception outdoors gives you a much bigger canvas to create on. You could have your wedding in a local park or botanical garden that’s close to home. Do it in daylight and you won’t have to use any electricity to light up a church or rented hall. For your reception you could have a picnic instead of a more conventional sit-down meal. It’s more casual, but it could also be a lot more fun. If you stage your wedding in a botanical garden, whatever fees you pay for the rental of the garden will be going to a good cause, rather than being pocketed by whoever owns the hall you might rent instead. Plus, a botanical garden offers a breathtaking setting in which to get married, and as an added plus, your wedding photos will be absolutely gorgeous when you and your new spouse are photographed surrounded by flowering plants and other magnificent examples of natural splendor.
Another plus to having an outdoor wedding is that it will be fun for any children who are attending the affair. After the wedding ceremony is over, they’ll be free to run around and play and you don’t have to worry too much about the kids knocking over something expensive or delicate. If you have it in a park you have built-in entertainment facilities for all of your younger guests. Just be sure that they have plenty of adult supervision if there’s a lake or a pond on the property. Kids are our most precious resource and have to be carefully supervised to ensure their safety.
Having an outdoor wedding not only uses less resources, it makes it more obvious what you’re working to preserve. After all, all the guests have to do to be reminded of how beautiful and precious our natural world is, is to look around themselves and take in the clear blue skies overhead, the fluffy white clouds, the green grass, and the birds singing in the trees all around you. For an extra special outdoor wedding, consider staging it outdoors around sunset. You’ll have a gorgeous backdrop for your wedding ceremony that won’t cost you a dime, but will leave you with wonderful memories of a very special day.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
If you could see the carbon footprint of the average wedding staged in America, you’d probably be horrified. The sheer waste at most weddings is monumental. We’ve all got to start thinking in a new way to reduce the amount of resources that we use in our weddings.
One of the easiest ways to make your green wedding greener is to start with your reception. Plan the amount of food you’re serving carefully. Don’t overfeed your guests. You can probably reduce the amount of food you’re planning by about 25% and no one will leave hungry. Don’t waste food. If there’s any left over after the wedding reception, ask the caterer to save and freeze what he or she can. If that’s not possible, ask if the leftovers can be taken to a local food pantry or be given to the homeless. That’s a wonderful way to start any relationship, by giving to others and considering the impact of what you are doing on the world.
Here’s a great way to make your green wedding greener: rent all of the silverware, glasses, tablecloths, napkins, serving dishes and so on that you will use. Try not to use anything disposable; it will just wind up in a landfill. Sure, the reusable dishes and glasses will require energy to be washed, but it will be a lot less than what was required to manufacture it. And, when it is clean, it can be reused for someone else’s affair and it won’t be part of the tons of waste that wind up in landfills every year, taking up space and doing no one any good. So, insist that your caterers and even wedding planners only employ reusable plates, etc. when they are setting up your wedding. You’ll feel better knowing that you’re part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Another way to make your green wedding greener is to only use recycled materials for your decorations, invitations and other paper goods that you must use at a wedding. Insist that the caterers and cleanup crew have to use garbage bags made from recycled or biodegradable plastics. In fact, if you have to use any plastic goods during your wedding or reception, try your hardest to find items made from recycled plastic. With a little research and planning, you can stage a green wedding, and it’ll still be a fun, colorful and special affair.
A gold wedding band is traditional in America and many other places, but I imagine that most brides would be horrified to know the full extent of the environmental devastation that gold mining leaves behind. It churns up arsenic residues that are left in the soil, uses incredible amounts of water and electrical power to process the ore and refine the raw gold into the beautiful, gleaming metal that looks so lovely under the subdued lighting in the jewelry store.
The bottom line is this: mining gold for a wedding ring is bad for the environment, and it’s bad for the world. Most of the people mining gold in third-world countries are not well-treated and do not have adequate health care. What bride wants to be a part of environmental degradation and the mistreatment of mine workers? Just thinking about these things can cast a pall over the wedding of any young couple. But what if I told you there was a way to get a gold wedding band guilt-free?
How is this possible? Why, by using recycled gold in your wedding band and other jewelry. There are several ways to accomplish this. For instance, you can visit local pawnshops or a gem and mineral show to buy old gold. Or, you can take heirloom jewelry that you’ve inherited or been given by relatives and have the gold melted down and recast into whatever shape you crave. One of the truly amazing things about gold is just how malleable it is. It truly is a wonder metal and can be shaped or cast into just about shape you can imagine. When it comes to reusing gold, there really are no limits to what you and your jeweler can accomplish. And just imagine how great you’ll feel knowing that your wedding band didn’t cause any environmental damage or cause any workers to be exploited in far-away lands. I think for any bride with even a smidgeon of environmental awareness, this would be a big deal.
Another aspect to consider when trying to find green jewelry is the environmental havoc wreaked by diamond mining. Diamond mines are some of the worst environmental offenders in the mining industry and are notorious for the way that diamond miners are treated, especially in places like South Africa, which produces the bulk of the world’s raw diamonds. And face it, diamonds’ value is a hoax, perpetuated by the diamond cartels to create the illusion of scarcity. There are literally tons of diamonds stockpiled around the world. Diamonds are not rare stones. So when you’re thinking of creating a wedding ring, why not go with both recycled diamonds and recycled gold?