It's a Nice Day for a Green Wedding
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something ... green? It's really not as out of the ordinary as it sounds - last year, Brides.com estimated that approximately 33% of future brides and grooms in the U.S. are planning an eco-friendly wedding.
Today, The Nature Conservancy is issuing tips for planning a greener wedding or commitment ceremony (http://www.nature.org/activities/art25063.html), with ideas from invitations through the honeymoon to help reduce your celebration's impact on the planet - and maybe even reduce the impact on your wallet as well.
"There's no need to sacrifice your dream wedding for a green wedding," said Sanjayan, lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy. "Just imagine the power of one simple change - be it as small as reducing wedding travel or serving organic food at the reception - multiplied by the thousands of couples who plan to marry this year. The littlest changes really add up, and can leave a positive impact on the Earth for generations to come."
Invitations: Sending invitations electronically or on recycled paper stock will save money and trees. Bonus for going the electronic route: You'll save on the fuel used to deliver the cards.
Gift registry: Register for gifts that you actually need and will definitely use, and if possible, are healthy for the planet. Many of your favorite stores probably carry organic and environmentally sound products already, and with a little research, you can ensure that your new ice cream maker has a minimal carbon footprint.
Reducing consumption can have more of an impact than simply buying recycled/recyclable products. If you don't need anything, ask your guests to donate to your favorite charity.
If you're set on fresh flowers, try decorating with potted plants native to your area. What's fresher than still-living flora? You can even plant them when the ceremony is over - wedding décor and landscaping in one fell swoop.
Fashion: The Condé Nast Bridal Group estimates that most brides spend about $900 on just their gowns - and that's not including the many accessories most brides need to polish their look. An environmentally and cost-friendly solution is to wear a vintage or hand-me-down dress. A female relative or friend's gown has likely (hopefully!) only been worn once, and you do need something borrowed, right?
If you'd prefer a new dress, look for one that's made of certified organic cotton, since polyester is petroleum-based, and most other cotton is grown with harsh pesticides. Grooms and ushers can get on the all-natural natural-fiber bandwagon as well by wearing a dress shirt made of hemp or organic cotton.
Do your bridesmaids a favor and forgo the puffy sleeves and universally unflattering fits, and select a gown that your girls would gladly wear again. If you're stuck with a frock reminiscent of an '80s-era prom nightmare, forgo dumping that hideous gown in the garbage, and check out HGTV's suggestions for turning sequins and taffeta into stylish home accents.
The Rings: The production of one tiny band of gold results in 20 tons of mine waste, according to Earthworks, an organization that works to protect the environment from the impact of mineral development. Show your commitment to your brand new spouse with a recycled or heirloom ring, or start a new trend by sporting silver bands, since the mining of silver is a bit gentler on the environment.
The Location: Holding your festivities in a central location will cut down on travel for your guests, which will make both them and Mother Nature even happier to be a part of your joyous day. Another thing to consider when choosing a wedding locale: ''Believe it or not,'' said Sanjayan, "big cities might be better than country locations because cities, for the most part, have less energy use in terms of per capita carbon."
It's possible to keep the travel to a minimum once your guests have arrived, too. When Evan Parker, The Nature Conservancy's manager of digital membership, got married last October, he and his bride-to-be chose a church and reception site within walking distance. Post-ceremony, the bride traded in her formal shoes for sneakers, and the couple and their guests walked to the reception, held at a restaurant just blocks from the church.
Food: Feeding your guests unpronounceable pesticides is no way to show your appreciation for their attendance, so consider serving organic food and wine at the reception. Local produce is also a great, low-impact option, and your menu will be fresher for guests and easier on nature.
Favors: The Bridal Association of America estimates that the average couple spends over $400 on favors for their guests, which seems like a lot for a couple pounds of after-dinner mints. A greener option? Donate the amount set aside in your budget to a favorite charity.
The Nature Conservancy offers a number of favor options with a minimal carbon footprint. Help reforest Brazil's Atlantic Forest by contributing to the Plant a Billion Trees campaign, or adopt a few acres of Costa Rican rainforest in honor of your guests.
If you absolutely must give your guests a sweet treat, try organic, local goodies like chocolate or wine. Really, does anyone need yet another tiny lace pouch of Jordan almonds?
The Honeymoon: The party might be over, but the honeymoon fun's just begun - and it's easy to maintain a green theme throughout your romantic getaway. One way to lessen your trip's environmental impact is to forgo a far-flung destination. (And as the cost of fuel continues to rise, keeping it local will also save you a bundle in travel costs.) If you'd prefer to spend your first few days as husband and wife in a more exotic locale, remember that many travel companies offer eco-trips or environmentally friendly excursions. You could even go on a Nature Conservancy Conservation Journey!
No matter how you decide to spend your honeymoon, you can buy energy offset credits to offset the toll your travel has on the environment.
... And Baby Makes Three?: If there's a baby on the way, or you're planning to start a family soon, have eight trees planted on your child's behalf, said Sanjayan. "Eight trees will offset the amount of carbon a person releases by simply breathing during an average lifetime." While you're at it, why not plant a few for yourself as well?
For more information on going green, visit www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.