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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

{Green} The Myth of a Green Wedding

You're not having a green wedding. I'm not having a green wedding. We'd all probably like to think we are, but truth is we're not.

Well ok, you might be... You might be having a super simple wedding. One where you and your groom wear clothes you already own, take public transportation (or walk or ride a bicycle), as do your local witnesses, to City Hall or your local courthouse and say "I Do." No invitations. No bouquets. No boutonnières. No travel.

Seriously though, how many couples are going to have simple, truly green weddings? There are some brides who dream of white weddings from their earliest memories. Regardless of how they label their wedding, they won't be green. They won't be eco-friendly, earth friendly, etc. Chances are guests are going to have to travel from somewhere. Chances are that you've probably been planning your wedding and making selections that include words like these:

Green. Eco-friendly. Earth Friendly. Sustainability. Organic. Handmade. Recycled. Upcycled. Rescued. Renewable. Carbon Offsets.

What do all these terms have in common? They're marketing hype.

How do I know they're hype? The eco-friendly ribbon made from recycled post-consumer waste paper I so carefully selected is Made in the Philippines. The bags made from recycled PET I selected for our Day Of survival bags are Made in China. And the affordable palm wax candles I purchased aren't made in the US. Neither are any of the renewable materials used for our paper goods.

Every one of these green products had to be shipped to me; they're not available in local stores. Those products made in China, Thailand, and Nepal traveled half way around the world. Regardless of how you look at it, that's a lot of fuel consumed in transport.

And here's a scarier thought... there's so little information around on the manufacturing process for these "green" goods. Where does the PET they're recycling come from? Hopefully not the US - that, if true, would mean the items had circled the globe before they arrived on my doorstep. Shudder.

You're being green by having a Green Registry with servingware made of bamboo? That's not really green either.

Perhaps the biggest concern about bamboo comes from the fact that it can't be sustainably grown on a large scale in North America and Europe, meaning it has to be imported from abroad. Currently 80% of the world's bamboo production comes from China, where regulatory standards for organic and sustainable production are either non-existent or largely opaque.
(Source: Guardian.co.uk)

Basically there's no such thing as being green. And it is very hard (almost impossible) to find greener products locally, especially for a couple trying to stick to a budget. When you get past the marketing hype, you'll invariably find something like this:

"[Insert Vendor Name Here] products are made in [Insert Country other than United States (or Where You're Having Your Wedding)], where hundreds of fair-wage jobs have been created."

We're trying to make greener choices for our wedding, but the more we try, the more I realize just the fact that we're having a wedding makes us eco-unfriendly.

Steps we've taken to be greener:
  • Venue is located near a variety of public transportation options.
  • Ceremony and reception are in the same venue to reduce amount of travel.
  • Local designers upcycled/reconstructed vintage clothes.
  • Local or US-based designers chosen for new clothes - corset, birdcage veil, and groom's and groomsmen's shirts.
  • Vintage keys, platters, cookbooks, and train cases, as well as recycled beer and wine bottles, are used for decor.
  • Recycled corks are used for escort card holders.
  • Most of our paper products are 100% "renewable" or rescued from the recycle bin.
  • Unscented, dripless taper candles made from palm wax were selected for our candles.
  • Compostable cups made in the US were chosen for our bar.
  • Menu for dinner includes in-season, locally available options.
  • For items purchased outside of the bay area, ground shipping when available was used.
  • Gifts for the wedding party are made from recycled materials.
Impact of "greener" choices:
  • Raw materials for our paper products were imported from Costa Rica, Thailand, or Nepal.
  • Items made from recycled materials (survival bags for the wedding party, fabric for reusable snack bags, etc.) were Made in China.
  • 25% of our guests are traveling via airplane to attend our wedding.
  • Majority of the items purchased had to be transported.
What steps have you taken to make your wedding greener? Were you surprised to find out your "eco-friendly" items were Made in China?

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