In 2020, more than 89,000 couples said yes. Whether it was at a large church, barefoot on the beach, in her backyard, or at home affairs, many would probably say, “I don’t know,” when asked if they know how the average wedding affects the environment.
The average wedding produces about 400 pounds of waste and emits 63 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So says Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide.
More than love in the air
There are a number of ways that weddings negatively impact the environment, from travel, electricity needs and the manufacture of one-of-a-kind clothing and decorations that emit CO2 into the atmosphere, to wasted food and waste scattered throughout the environment.
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But sustainable practices at weddings can make an impact without jeopardizing the couple’s vision.
“There are numerous adaptations that can ultimately reduce a wedding’s carbon footprint and motivate wedding guests to incorporate these practices into everyday life,” says a case study on weddings and sustainability.
Here come the eco-brides
“One thing about me is that I hate waste,” says Reinate van den Berg, who is planning her wedding to fiancé Niel-John Lord.
“I work in the hospitality industry and I see a lot of waste,” says Van den Berg, “so that was really the main focus of the wedding.”
There are a number of sustainable practices that can reduce waste and environmental impact when planning a wedding.
Sending out invitations electronically, reducing or removing meat from the menu, avoiding single-use items, or skipping wedding favors are all options for the environmentally conscious bride or groom.
There are so many areas where sustainability can be incorporated into wedding day planning and it may seem overwhelming to consider them all, but South African brides are choosing to go green in these ways:
Using locally sourced flowers for the bouquet and reception decorations is a great way to reduce waste and the environmental impact of wedding day celebrations. Local flowers are cheaper, don’t emit as much CO2 for transportation, and don’t introduce invasive species into the local biome.
Van den Berg has taken their local flowers a step further by including them in their confetti as well.
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Petals are hand-picked and dried to be used as confetti because they’re biodegradable and don’t take much time to collect, she explains.
Drying flowers for confetti, while beautiful, is time-consuming and not the only sustainable alternative. Some brides opt for rice, birdseed or freshly picked local leaves.
Some florists reuse flowers for two weddings in one weekend and deliver flowers to a retirement home on Sundays, says Shannon Lavender, wedding planner and founder of Lavender Creations.
Dress for the occasion
As of 2020, fast fashion is responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions. Therefore, reducing clothes that are worn once and disposed of in the back of the closet is high on the agenda.
While some bridal parties choose to buy second-hand or use what they already have in their closet, some brides are going green in other ways.
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“One thing that is very important to me is that the bridesmaids had to choose a dress that they will wear again in the future,” says Van den Berg, who specified the color but allowed her bridal party to choose the style of her dress .
But this also applies to decoration, as many decorative items are used once and then thrown away. Going for organic decor or using what you already have can be far more economical – for you and for the environment.
“Throw out packaging and plastic,” says Lavender, who suggests donating the money you would have spent to charity or a local community.
food for thought
About a tenth of all food at a wedding is never eaten and ends up being thrown away.
Van den Berg aims to reduce food waste at their wedding through careful planning and portioning of locally sourced food. “I hate when people overeat and waste food,” she explains.
Guests are encouraged to take leftover groceries home so they don’t go to waste, says Van den Berg.
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint would be to not eat meat for the occasion. A vegetarian menu can reduce food-related emissions at events by up to 75%, while the vegan option would save 90% of emissions. This is reported by the Environmental Working Group.
value in the venue
Travel has a negative impact on the environment through carbon emissions, so choosing a local venue can help reduce your footprint.
The venue chosen by Van den Berg is a short 10-15 minute drive away for most of their guests, easily accessible by public transport and requiring no overnight accommodation.
But not going local isn’t the only sustainable option when it comes to choosing a venue. Wedding venues now cater to eco-conscious couples.
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“Many venues are also moving towards solar,” says Lavender. “Load shedding is unpredictable and will make your wedding look disorganized,” she adds.
One eco wedding venue is Cederkloof Botanical Retreat, which specializes in eco weddings. The venue integrates a range of sustainable practices into its ceremonies, from locally sourced flowers to recycling waste and organic confetti.
Couples also plant a tree or sponsor a tree to be planted as part of their ceremony to offset their carbon emissions and really let love grow.
This article first appeared on Daily Maverick and is republished under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.