While much has been written about how extravagant weddings can deal a blow to couples’ finances, concern is just beginning to surface about the toll they take on the planet. Travel emissions, food waste, flowers shipped from faraway and then discarded—at the end of the day, it all becomes a hefty contribution to the landfill and climate change.
But, what about the green alternatives? Some brides say fashioning a wedding ceremony with sustainability in mind can actually make the event feel more personalized, authentic and reflective of their values.
For advice on how to minimize a wedding ceremony’s environmental impact, Xpress sought out event-greening expert Georgia Malki, president of Asheville-based Seven-Star Events. Malki’s event-planning team has “greened” such high-profile affairs as the Chicago and San Francisco green festivals. The bottom line, she says, is that being green on your wedding day doesn’t mean sacrificing any of the elegance—on the contrary, it shows that you’ve got enough class to consider the earth.
Flowers are a universal aspect of weddings, says Malki, but it’s rare for a bride to factor in the pesticides, fertilizers and miles of travel that went into their production.
“So often brides are not thinking of the season, but simply, here’s my colors, and they’ve got to match,” she says. “But the flower industry is extremely toxic.”
Fortunately, there are alternatives.
“Organic Bouquet works with farmers in the U.S. to produce a beautiful product, they are guaranteed pesticide and herbicide free,” Malki suggests. “You may also want to consider looking into to local vendors. Even if they aren’t certified organic, they may have some natural processes.”
Potted orchids may be another consideration. “With orchids, you continue to have a living item. They can be kept, or given to guests to take home. They can even be rented. Here in Asheville, there is an extensive orchid selection at the White Gate Inn, which can be rented for a wedding. They’re extremely elegant, reusable and organic.”
Choosing the right dress for a green wedding, says Malki, means asking the right questions to ensure that “the gown reflects the same beauty as the ceremony.” A socially conscious bride may ask herself: “Do I really want to wear a gown that’s the product of sweatshop labor?”
The conventional cotton industry goes heavy on pesticide use, so Malki suggests choosing an alternative fabric. “They now have beautiful hemp-silk mixtures of fabric,” she says. “Hemp is extraordinary—it gives you all of the qualities of lush fabric, and none of the pesticides from cotton. A sustainable product, great longevity, great wear, and there are a lot of designers that make fair trade, responsibly manufactured gowns.” Another green option? Wear an heirloom or vintage gown.
At the venue, the little things add up: “Making sure staff are aware of that they should be closing doors so that heat doesn’t escape, turning off lights when they leave a room, etc. You may want to go with organic hand-washing soap or organic lotions for guests. Look at the paper products you’re using: are they made with some recycled paper content? Are you using hand towels or paper towels?” Also, make sure that you are able to set up a recycling and composting system for the event. Composting food waste, says Malki, is especially important because of the greenhouse-gas emissions they’d otherwise produce in the landfill.
What’s the least environmentally harmful food? “It goes without saying that the carbon impact of meat is extremely high,” says Malki. “A good chef doing a vegetarian menu can delight guests in ways that can be quite extraordinary. If meat is necessary, we suggest keeping it to one item, and requesting that it be kept to organic fed, hormone-free, and free-range meats.”
If vegetarian food has the lowest impact, chicken is the next step up and seafood and beef are tied for the highest, according to Malki. Better seafood options can be found at seafoodwatch.org. Malki suggests looking for a caterer who is versed in cuisine made from local and organic ingredients, so you can offer seasonal dishes.
“There’s so much to be said about selecting wines that are organic,” says Malki. “Badger Mountain, for instance, is carried in stores locally where you can do a taste-testing. Or consider organic beers.”
As for nonalcoholic beverages, “Stay away from pre-packaged drinks, and instead use things that are made in bulk.” For instance, “Tirani syrups … are elegant, fun, sophisticated, and alternative.”
Seven-Star Events will soon be bringing a wedding coordinator on board. Visit www.sevenstarevents.com for more information.