“Getting married shouldn’t cost the earth” is the motto of British-based eco-wedding.com. It’s something to think about. When couples begin planning their nuptials, all the details—where to hold the reception, what sort of rings to buy, what kind of cake to order—are overwhelming enough. Figuring how to accomplish the myriad tasks that amount to the wedding gauntlet is sufficiently taxing without also calculating the carbon footprint.
Still, it’s worth asking: If weddings are about vows of love, why abuse the planet in the process? Guests driving or flying in from around the country use fossil fuels. Then there’s food that needs to be shipped in, a venue that requires heating or cooling and electric lights, dishes to be washed or disposed of and hauled to the landfill, stationery made of wood pulp and wedding rings festooned with politically incorrect diamonds.
When you think about it, a couple’s big day can amount to a big bummer, environmentally speaking. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way—and, thanks to local and global resources, planning a green wedding can actually be a fun way to make a positive statement.
Ric Zeller from Asheville-based Quality Forward (qualityforward.org) suggests creating a carbon-neutral ceremony, for starters. “We’re working with a group to start a tree-neutral service,” he explains. Quality Forward will offer businesses a way to reduce their environmental impact by donating to an organization that plants trees, thus balancing out paper waste.
Similarly, groups like Conservation International (conservation.org) allow you to calculate the carbon emissions of your event and then learn how to reduce CO2 emissions or offset them through actions like donating to environmental groups, wind-power projects and reforestation efforts. “A wedding involving 100 or more guests who travel to the event and stay overnight in a hotel generates roughly 7.5 tons of CO2,” the Web site notes.
Other earth-saving advice includes buying locally and using regional resources. “The average distance our food travels is 1,200 miles,” Zeller notes. “If you work with a caterer who buys from local and organic sources, you’re eliminating all that petroleum used in transport.”
Beyond food, alcohol runs up a large tab—ecologically, that is. Often, wedding parties special-order cases of wine from great distances, or drive around to several locations shopping for what they need. Local wine stores can help. “When a store like ours gets a delivery, the same truck delivers at all the stores in Asheville, so that’s just one truck, which reduces emissions,” reasons Karl Heide at the Asheville Wine Market.
He adds that the store carries many North Carolina wines, especially those produced around Lexington and the Yadkin River Valley. “We also carry organic wines,” Heide says. Consumers can help the earth by purchasing products made without chemical pesticides. The Asheville Wine Market carries such wines from Argentina, along with biodynamic wines from France and biodynamic beer from Germany.
Want to keep the drinking strictly local? Consider a beer bar. Asheville is home to numerous microbreweries which can supply a party with a sophisticated range of brews.
Looking for eco-minded wedding favors? Zeller suggests giving plants or energy-efficient light bulbs. “If folks want to be creative in other ways, ask for alternative gifts,” he says. After all, who needs another toaster? These days, most couples already have enough furniture and kitchen wares; guests are better off making contributions to groups that plant trees (check out the National Arbor Day Foundation at arborday.org) or advocate for green power (visit ncgreenpower.org).
Because the biggest part of most weddings is the reception, venues play an important role in keeping things earth-friendly. The Secret Garden in Weaverville does its part: “We use 100 percent organic sheets and towels, plant-based products, and we garden with indigenous plants,” explains owner Jacob Lyons. “It’s very Zen.” While Lyons is quick to point out that the inn isn’t an eco-wedding destination as such, he does say that “we try to do business with other socially conscious businesses.”
Finding a venue, B&B, hotel, caterer or planner dedicated to environmentally sound practices makes all the difference. Organicweddings.com offers an online planner, tips on ceremonies, receptions, and ecotourism locales for honeymooners.