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Articles - Buying Green: A Match Made in Heaven Begins with the Earth

Buying Green:
A Match Made in Heaven Begins with the Earth

By Amy Rutledge
Center for a New American Dream
Enough!, Summer 2003

The term "earth-friendly wedding" used to conjure up a 1960s image of a denim-clad wedding party with dirty, bare feet. However, with the publication in 1996 of Carol Reed-Jones' Green Weddings that Don't Cost the Earth, earth-friendly wedding planning began to move out of the commune and into the mainstream. Today, couples who want a green wedding can pretty much follow the same planning route as "traditional" weddings. In fact, more and more couples are choosing to build their ceremonies and receptions around the sustainable living concept.

Center board member Alicia Gomer and her fiance, Mark Wittink, are planning their special day to reflect not just their commitment to each other, but to the earth. "We wanted to do something in line with our values," said Gomer, whose save-the-date card is printed on recycled junk mail. Gomer and Wittink are dedicated to promoting a sustainable lifestyle and they aren't about to give up on their principles, even in the face of the massive American wedding machine. According to Gomer, "Our wedding will give people a chance to see earth-friendly weddings can be just as lovely, just as festive and just as tasty as a 'normal' wedding."

Gomer and Wittink used the comprehensive green wedding planning resource Organic Weddings (www.organicweddings.com) for both their save-the-date cards and for their wedding invitations, which are printed on handmade, recycled cotton paper embedded with wildflower seeds. Wedding guests can put the invitation in water and watch the seeds sprout. Once sprouted, the invitation can be planted, giving guests a unique remembrance of the happy couple.

While it's true that planning an earth-friendly wedding is easier than it's ever been, it still may take a little more time and money. One of Gomer's more troublesome planning tasks was finding a venue that would support and assist her in planning an organic menu that sourced local farmers as much as possible. Organic Weddings founder Michelle Kozin agrees that many wedding-related businesses are reluctant to try something new. Most venues already have relationships with non-organic vendors and caterers and are unwilling to find new vendors for just one wedding. One solution is to book a hall or location that will allow you work with a caterer of your selection. According to Kozin, the caterer is one the most critical choices a couple makes - caterers have control over sourcing organic food and beverages, reducing and recycling the disposables, minimizing paper products, composting scraps and donating leftovers. Even if you know that a specific site won't accommodate an earth-friendly wedding reception, call and inquire anyway. Gentle public pressure - and loss of business - are effective aggents for change.

Weddings are complex organisms. Whether it's a simple, intimate ceremony for a few family and friends or a luxurious indulgence of your inner princess, you don't have to compromise your dreams for your ideals.

The Rings

Just coming into the public consciousness is the issue of sustainable gold mining. Heirloom rings are a great solution - from your family or an antique store. Most jewelers can re-size and re-set rings to reflect your style, and some sell rings made with recycled gold. If diamonds are in your plans for the engagement ring or the wedding set, the Physicians for Human Rights website (www.phrusa.org) lists jewelers participating in their Conflict-Free Diamond program.

The Dress

Organic Weddings features dresses made from silk and hemp blends. A Different Daisy, (www.differentdaisy.com) offers elegant special-order hemp dresses. (Its wedding page also contains helpful tips for those planning a vegan wedding.) Does hemp seem awfully expensive? Consider reusing a formal dress you already own, or buying a formal dress you'll be able to wear again. Many less expensive formal dresses are actually better made, because they are intended to be worn more than once.

The Invitations

In addition to the selections offered by Organic Weddings, Twisted Limb Paperworks also sells beautiful handmade invitations made from 100 percent recycled paper. Contact them at www.bloomington.in.us/~twistlim/Weddings.html or 812-323-7529.

The Food

Choose organic and locally-grown as much as possible. For seafood choices, check out Audubon's seafood guide at www.audubon.org/campaign/lo/seafood/. And if Uncle Joe complains about the lack of shrimp cocktails, send him to us at www.newdream.org/tttoffline/actions.html and tell him to check out Action #3.

The Flowers

Due to different growing seasons, organic flowers can be found almost year around. However, like food, try to stay with locally-grown sources to minimize transportation-related pollution. Work with a local florist who can give you creative arrangements using what's available seasonally and locally - everything from daffodils to evergreen boughs.

Wedding Favors

A popular choice for wedding favors is the National Arbor Day Foundation's gift trees, found at www.arborday.org. These tiny evergreen trees make lovely, living gifts at a minimal cost.

The Presents

Got toasters in your future? Register with the I Do Foundation, founded by four people concerned about the disconnect between how people live their lives and how they plan their weddings. The foundation encourages charity to be a part of wedding planning by teaming up with various retailers to donate a portion of your registry gift sales to charitable organizations. There are a number of different ways to donate and a couple can nominate their own charity. The I Do Foundation also suggests other tips for having a charitable wedding at www.idofoundation.org.

Low-Cost, Low-Key Ceremonies

Eliminating less important items from your wedding can save even more resources, money and hassle than green alternatives. For example, favors are nice, but usually unnecessary. Having fewer guests, a smaller cake or simpler table decorations are other options, depending on your priorities. Sometimes it helps to ask - maybe the bride's mother doesn't want a corsage or the flower girl already has a pretty dress. For those unafraid of bucking tradition, a potluck ceremony can save hundreds of dollars, reduce food waste and ensure that people like what they're eating, since they made it themselves. (Potlucks can also provide some of the tastiest, fanciest food options, as your family's favorite chefs show off their time-honored specialties.)

Additional Resources

The Green Guide recently published a comprehensive resource on environmentally sensitive weddings, available free on the web or by ordering issue number 96 at 212-946-4598. (A printed issue costs three dollars.) Green Weddings that Don't Cost the Earth by Carol Reed-Jones is also still in print from Paper Crane Press and is available at libraries and bookstores.


Reprinted with permission from:
The Center for a New American Dream
6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 900
Takoma Park, MD 20912


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