Credit: Jonathan Ong
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When Prince William married Kate Middleton, the nuptials generated a whopping 6,765 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s 12 times the annual emissions of Buckingham Palace and more than 300 times the carbon footprint of the average wedding. Considering most Australian weddings drain the hip pocket by about $36,000, it’s hardly surprising our wedding footprints dwarf our mother-in-law’s guest list. Follow these tips to ensure the biggest day of your life has minimal impact on the planet.
The venue will account for 50 – 60 per cent of the total cost of your wedding, and has the potential to generate significant carbon emissions. If you’re planning a civil marriage, consider having the ceremony, photo shoot and reception at one location to save your guests’ transport miles, and their sanity.
If you’re getting married in a church, choose reception and photography venues located nearby. Even better, look for locations that are central to as many guests as possible.
For the reception, choose caterers that use locally grown, in-season, organic food and locally produced beverages where possible, and buy sustainable seafood. Or, go cruelty-free with a vego menu. “Vegetarian and vegan food take fewer resources to produce so, if you weight your menu to more vegetarian and vegan options your wedding footprint will be lower,” says Gillian Milne, director of Grassroots Productions.
How many overseas or interstate travellers are on your guest list? Transport miles are one of the biggest contributors to wedding emissions. For example, a return trip for two from London to Sydney generates about 11.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Then there’s the guests’ accommodation to consider.
If you can’t bear your grandparents or old workmates missing your special day, ask them to offset their transport emissions in lieu of a wedding gift. And for those who only need to travel across land, suggest they come by train or bus instead of plane.
Transport on the day of the wedding is also a significant emitter, but a little planning will help to reduce the environmental load. “Choose a venue with accommodation for guests onsite or nearby,” says Milne. “If there is a lack of accommodation near your venue, you can reduce individual car journeys by providing a bus service or organising carpools. If possible, track the mileage in an online survey when guests RSVP so you can offset their travel.”
Although you only wear your wedding gown once, it will live for generations in your photos. But your dress needn’t leave a lifelong eco-footprint. Your best bet is to buy a pre-worn gown from one of the many second-hand boutiques. Most are fitted out like top couture salons, so you’ll feel just as pampered in the change rooms. Alternatively, check out online shopping sites, but search locally to avoid shipping that $120 bargain from overseas. Or your mum might like to lend you her dress in the spirit of ‘something old’ and ‘something borrowed’.
If you’re set on a new gown, look for a dressmaker who will use eco-friendly fabrics, even if you need to take charge of the sourcing. Milne recommends natural biodegradable fabrics such as silk, or blends made from renewable sources such as bamboo.
After the wedding, it’s important to clean and preserve your gown. “Look for a specialist eco-friendly dry cleaner,” says Kellie Byrnes from Kindred Gifts. “When dry cleaning your dress after the wedding, avoid the harsh chemicals normally used, such as perchloroethylene.”
G Tip: Ask your bridesmaids to choose their own dresses in similar colours that suit their individual body shape so they'll be more likely to wear their dresses again.
Out-of-season flowers grown in hothouses create a significant eco-footprint. And they are often transported from interstate or overseas, generating a truckload of ‘flower miles’. Milne says the most sustainable option is to choose flowers and foliage that are in season and grown locally with minimal pesticides.
Byrnes agrees. “Use native flowers as centrepieces to reduce carbon emissions from imported flowers,” she says. “Another alternative is to use potted plants around the reception and ceremony venues, which can later be planted by yourself or guests. This is a beautiful keepsake from your special day.”
From invitations and place cards to ceremony booklets and thankyou cards, wedding stationery tells the story of your nuptials. Byrnes suggests using a stationery supplier that prints invitations on recycled
or sustainably sourced papers, and if you choose to create your own invitations, look for eco-friendly papers.
“Two of the most common certification logos to look out for with papers are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification),” she says. “Both programs ensure stock comes from responsibly managed forests.”
If you are willing to avoid using paper stationery altogether, consider designing your own wedding website. Even people without graphic design skills can master the basics of creating a site on WordPress or Blogger. Set up a personalised wedding email address to direct guests to your website and collect RSVPs. For a total of about $25, it’s a lot cheaper than customised stationery.
Your guests can contribute further to an environment-friendly wedding. “Instead of a gift registry, ask guests to purchase carbon credits to help offset the carbon footprint of your wedding,” says Kelly Hody from SaySo Weddings. “Also, further carbon offsets can be purchased in each guest’s name instead of bomboniere.”
If carbon offsetting is too much for your nanna, set up a gift registry with only items you want and need. Experiences such as a weekend at a local bed and breakfast or a spa treatment are perfect for the couple that has everything.
Another great ethical option is to nominate a charity or two that you would like to have your guests donate to in leiu of a gift. Websites such as Karma Currency (www.karmacurrency.com.au) make the whole thing easy for you.
Establishing that a gem is conflict-free can be difficult, and mining has a huge carbon footprint. Look for something old to lessen the load. A family diamond or vintage ring is a meaningful alternative. And don’t worry, it will sparkle just as brightly as a new stone.
If buying new, chose stores that are socially or environmentally aware, such as Utopian Creations (www.utopiancreations.com.au).