Tips to Green Your Wedding
Are you putting the final touches on a spring wedding or in the midst of planning a lovely summer celebration? Even if you are just starting to talk about your future with your special someone, you might already be thinking about how you can make your wedding day as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. After all, a beautiful celebration of your love does not have to equal a ton of food waste or plastic party favors—or break the bank.
While you can marry in a low-key, simple fashion in your backyard or living room, perhaps you are drawn to a more traditional affair or have hundreds of relatives who must be there for your special day. If that is the case, but you want to be as environmentally friendly as possible, then consider your options in the follow major areas of wedding planning.
The greenest invitations would be paperless—those sent electronically—which will also save money. If you have your heart set on pretty paper invites, then consider tree-free (such as hemp or recycled cotton, available from such retailers as Green Field Paper Company) or recycled paper along with non-toxic soy or vegetable-based inks. Same goes for wedding ceremony programs, which, if you distribute, consider recycling in a lovely basket at the ceremony.
There are several considerations when choosing the perfect place for your celebration. First, you should pick a place that means something to you. Second, consider a space that will benefit from your event, such as a museum, historic home, cultural organization or art gallery. Third, consider having your ceremony and reception at one, centralized locale, to reduce transportation needs. And go local, if possible, to benefit the local economy.
As you scout venues, ask about their policies on such things as recycling and avoidance of disposable dishware.
If you are marrying during daylight hours, an outdoor wedding makes a fine option. This will eliminate the need for additional lighting, with the added benefit of a beautiful natural setting. A botanical garden or arboretum that is run by a nonprofit are a couple of great outdoor possibilities.
Gold mining is one of the most polluting industries, as well as rife with human rights abuses. But don’t despair. Earthworks’ No Dirty Gold campaign has tips to follow so you don’t have to worry about “tarnishing your love with dirty gold.” You can also search for rings designed with recycled gold and conflict-free diamonds. The Green Bride Guide offers a selection of eco-friendly wedding rings.
A great alternative to buying news rings is to use heirloom or vintage rings.
A good way to go green with a wedding dress is to wear your mother’s, grandmother’s or another relative’s gown. If there isn’t such a dress you can personalize with a few tweaks, check out consignment shops and find a vintage gown that speaks to you. Or, buy a wedding gown for a cause.
If you buy a new dress, be sure to check for one created with sustainable materials (and not petroleum-based) such as peace silk, organic cotton and hemp.
The best way to be eco-friendly when planning your reception menu is to go as organic and local as possible. Search for organic farmers in your area and work with a caterer who offers sustainable and local food for a low-impact option.
Again, a good option is to go as organic and local as possible when planning floral arrangements for your wedding. After the wedding you can send flowers home with guests or donate them to a local shelter or retirement home. Or, consider decorating with potted native plants, which can then be planted and incorporated into landscaping.
Fresh flowers are not the only option. Try dried or silk flowers, which you can reuse or resell after your big day.
According to the Green Bride Guide, a 100-guest wedding produces an average of 7.7 tons of greenhouse gases. Yikes. And with more than 6,000 weddings happening daily in the U.S., this can have quite a toll on the environment. One way to minimize this impact is by having your wedding ceremony and reception close to each other and the majority of your guests.
Also, consider the mode in which you and your wedding party will be transported. Consider a solar-powered vehicle or eco-friendly options such as a horse and carriage to reduce emissions. The Knot has seen couples depart via canoe, bicycles and more.
In honor of your special day, guests will want to shower you with presents. But will you really need a cabinet full of crystal or 12 ladles? The Nature Conservancy reminds to register for gifts that you actually need, will definitely use and (if possible) are healthy for the planet.
You can also ask guests to donate to your favorite charity or to nonprofits through such sites as JustGive.org, which offers a gift registry option.
Décor and party favors
Your wedding can be beautiful, and personalized, without breaking the bank or devastating the environment. The Knot emphasizes reducing and reusing: “The key to an eco-friendly wedding that's still style-conscious is to simplify. Reusing accents or materials doesn't just save money, it saves resources.” Work with what’s nearby and in season as much as possible. Also, use decorations that can do double duty at the ceremony and the reception, if they will not be at the same locale.
The Bridal Association of America estimates that an average couple spends more than $400 on wedding favors for guests. Seem like a lot for a few pounds of mints or candied almonds? Consider handmade, sustainable party favors instead. Green Wedding Shoes has a DIY section, from terrarium place holders to hot cocoa favors, and a whole range of wearable, edible, personalized projects in between.
And then of course there’s the honeymoon.
The environmental impact of your trip is reduced the closer you stay to home. If you have your heart set on a change of scenery or an exotic locale, consider eco-trips. The Rainforest Alliance suggests four romantic rainforest retreats, which are environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and casually luxurious. No matter where you honeymoon, you can always buy energy offset credits to counter the toll your travel has on the environment.
If you have planned a green wedding and have additional tips, please share in the comments below. If you are planning a wedding, congratulations!
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By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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