Today we have a wonderful guest post coming to you from the lovely Caroline Moore, a punk rock wedding photographer out of Pittsburgh, PA. One of her specialties is being environmentally conscious, so today she is going to share some tips on how to have an environmentally friendly wedding:
Sustainable and eco-conscious weddings are for everyone
Having a more earth-friendly wedding doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Anybody can work some environmentally friendly practices into their wedding day. You don’t have to be a zero-waste pocket-composting freegan to care about the world you live in, or to make more conscious choices about the things that you buy. But where do you start?
Make decisions rooted in your personal values
If all of the options feel too overwhelming, start with what resonates with you as a couple.
If you’re serious about upcycling, you can shop vintage or pre-owned for clothing, linens, and other wedding decorations. If you hate to waste, choose a venue that takes that seriously, donate your food leftovers, and give your flowers to a local senior center. Look for locally made, ethically made, and fair-trade goods if treating workers fairly is at the top of your list.
And if you just aren’t sure, it’s always an option to reduce your overall consumption, choose suppliers that give back as part of their business model, go plastic-free, or donate to a cause that you care about. Consider things that can go on to have use outside of your wedding. If you’ve got too much of something that someone else can use, pay it forward.
Simple can be beautiful
You can elope out in the woods, and let nature handle the decor. Or you can get married in a cathedral, but invest in wedding items that last beyond that one day.
Having a sustainable wedding doesn’t mean giving up all the things that make a wedding day special, it means bringing intention to your day and incorporating only the traditions or rituals that resonate with you. Instead of approaching it from a place of having less, embrace your own story and focus on the things that matter most to you, and make that beautiful.
Leave No Trace
If you do opt to run off to the forest for your wedding, learn about Leave No Trace practices. Leave No Trace is about awareness, whether you’re on a heavily trafficked trail or out in the backcountry. It asks you to consider what you can do to reduce your impact on the environment, and on the experiences of the people who will come there after you.
I’m a guest out in the woods, so I pay attention to where I step, pack out my garbage, and generally leave things the way I found them. If you’re having an outdoor event, be mindful of what you leave behind.
Consider your planet and your community
Talk to your vendors about their practices. Personally, I love prints. Small ones, framed ones, prints in albums, I think you should have tangible photos. So I do what I can to find products that limit the impact they’re making on the Earth. I shop with vendors who offer handmade products and have ethical business practices wherever I can.
Here are some questions you may want to ask before you purchase something:
- Where was this made, and was it made fairly?
- Does it have to be new?
- How can we benefit our local community?
- How far has this traveled?
- Do we really need this?
- For food and flowers, is this in season?
- Does this add meaning to our day?
- Can we borrow instead of buying?
I source my products, the props I buy for sessions, and my gifts locally as much as I can. It helps the environment by cutting down on shipping things across the country (or the globe), and it helps my community by putting cash back into the hands of the people who live here.
I’m also happy to help couples to do the same – I know some great local shops in Pittsburgh for everything from flowers, to jewelry, to super niche gifts.
Learn the five Rs
Refuse: The easiest way to prevent putting waste out is to not include it in the first place. Consider anything that’s part of your wedding planning that you’ll only use once, and then throw away. Plastic water bottles can be replaced by glassware, and canvas bags can be used instead of disposable ones.
Reduce: Simply having less stuff, and putting value on the things that you do have. Consider what’s really essential to your wedding day, if you already have something similar, and if it’s something you can possibly reuse. This is also my general philosophy on figuring out a budget for your wedding – save your money for the things you really value. There are a million different things you can spend money on when it comes to planning a wedding. Spend on things you really value, and save on things you don’t.
Reuse: Why throw something away when you can reuse it? There are reusable versions for just about any disposable item, many can be purchased from the secondhand market (thrift stores, yard sales, and the like). Buying pre-loved items means less resources used to make new ones, and saving perfectly good items from sitting in a landfill.
Rot: Not a word that comes up much in wedding planning. But composting is a big part of zero waste, and it may be something that your venue or caterer are already doing.
Recycle: This is sadly not a perfect system, and that’s why it’s the last step. Glass and aluminum can be recycled indefinitely, but plastic can only be downcyled (it can be turned into a park bench, and when it’s outlived its usefulness it goes to the landfill.)
Progress, not perfection
It’s easy to look at all of this and be completely overwhelmed. These are all ideas and goals to bring to your planning, and not a checklist of all of the things you must do. Being a business that focuses on making intentional, eco-ethical, sustainable choices is a process. I’m not always going to get it right, so I don’t expect you to either. Am I going to judge you for having plastic forks? Hell no.
Getting married mindfully shouldn’t be a thing that adds more stress to your planning, it should be something that frees you from that stress of everything being Pinterest Perfect. One way to do that is to focus on one set of core values, whatever matters most to you.
Honor your guests in these decisions as well. Maybe you’d love to get married on a mountaintop, but your grandmother can’t make that hike. Maybe you have friends with disabilities that can’t forgo straws. Meet your people in the middle, and do what feels right for you.
It’s not about perfection, it’s about making conscious choices.