As reports about climate change have become unavoidable, people have gained greater knowledge about their environmental impact. This knowledge has spread to the world of weddings, with people wanting to have more sustainable and environmentally friendly weddings.
In our previous piece on sustainable weddings, we covered how to budget for a sustainable wedding properly, how you can find eco-conscious wedding attire, how you can search for ethical and sustainable wedding jewellery and how you can make your wedding gifts more environmentally friendly.
Here are some other ways you can make your wedding more sustainable.
Have a more sustainable approach to wedding flowers
Lanty / wonderful sustainable wedding flowers, picked from local meadows
Flowers are often a highlight of any wedding, and can really add to the occasion's atmosphere.
While all flowers are by their very nature “organic”, sustainability can still be taken into account when it comes to decorating your wedding. Flowers are often grown in an energy intensive manner and flown to the UK from exotic locations like Colombia or Kenya; meaning that they can have a great cost to the environment.
Aside from the carbon footprint you accrue when transporting flowers from across the world (most flowers used in Western Europe are grown in Kenya, Colombia, Vietnam and Ecuador), there can also be issues of exploitation in the supply chain.
In some of the worst cases, it has recently been reported that women harvesting flowers in Colombia work for 15 hours a day, but are given only £24 in that week. That’s less than half the living wage in the country.
But there are ways you can bring wonderful flowers to your wedding, whilst remaining sustainable.
Buy local flowers that are in season
Sage Flowers / wonderful floral arrangements, sourced sustainably
If you want to find locally sourced flowers, you can use a tool like Flowers from the Farm, which will find you flowers at a local farm. You can then filter for the exact flowers you want, separating them by season or factors like pesticide usage. This allows you to select flowers that have been grown nearby and consciously avoid selecting flowers that have travelled a vast distance for your wedding, and the environmental impact that would have.
Grow your own wedding flowers
Joshua Butler / home grown wedding flowers
If you want to have a paired back and natural looking wedding, a minimalist approach to flowers can certainly be welcome. When you take this approach, in many cases you can source your flowers by growing your own and collecting items like greenery from backstreets, canals and country roads. You may not get a perfectly polished result that you would from a florist, but if you want a rustic look, collecting your own flowers provides a certain charm to the decorations at a wedding.
Find a sustainable florist
If you want a more intricate set of flowers at your wedding, you might need a professional florist. Luckily there are now a large number of florists who will be able to sort out flowers for your wedding whilst making sustainability a priority.
In your search for a sustainable florist, you can sort the wheat from the chaff by looking for those who:
- Does not use disposable plastics in their arrangements.
- Use local or ethically sourced flowers.
- Are open about how they work and where their flowers come from.
Jonathan Borba / decorations can still be sustainable
With the emerald green wedding theme taking over the internet, green decor in both senses of the word are very popular.
There is no need for compromising on the quality of your decor. There is perfect wedding décor out there which will still allow you to make your wedding as green as possible.
One way you can save energy is through your use of lighting. Try to make the most of the daylight for your wedding while you can, if you are having a daytime wedding. If you have the ability, setting up solar panels at the site and allowing them to power up during the day can help provide you with the energy for lighting later in the day if your wedding reception is carrying on into the night.
Or if solar powered lighting doesn’t appeal; a more atmospheric option is lighting up your space with hundreds of beeswax candles. You can attach these to the walls or hang them in candelabras from the ceiling; and they will provide lovely ambient lighting for the reception.
Whilst it might feel romantic, paper wedding invitations are a tradition that can be replaced with a well designed digital invitation. Save that paper from being used.
An electronic save-the-date with good graphic design, can be just as interesting as a paper wedding invite; and also allows you to ask people to confirm their attendance online.
Whilst pictures of couples drenched in confetti are very romantic, traditional confetti is not biodegradable and can be very damaging to local wildlife. Luckily there is a brilliant alternative to traditional confetti in the form of dried out flower petals. These keep the wonderful look of confetti, but break down naturally in the environment without doing any damage. Ask your guests who want to throw confetti to bring their own dried out flower petals.
Make use of natural materials
Decorations that will be used throughout the wedding can be sourced from sustainable materials. Whether it is the tablecloth or your napkins, there are plenty of places where you can find decorations that are made from natural materials like hessian, hemp or pure linen.
Sustainable and organic food and catering
Al Elmes / sustainable catering at a wedding
The world of food and catering is an area of impact that we often ignore in terms of its sustainability. We mentioned it in the first article about sustainable weddings, but the sheer amount of food wasted at weddings is worthy of a horror movie.
It is obviously important for you to take things like guests’ dietary needs into account, but in terms of sustainability it is equally important for you to pay attention to how the food arrives onto the plates at your wedding.
When considering the food, finding a catering company who can provide your wedding guests with filling food in a sustainable manner is of utmost importance.
In your search, there are certain things you should be looking for;
Locally sourced food products
We’ve already discussed the benefits of local products in terms of gifts, flowers; but now we will mention it again with food. Reducing the need for long distance food transport is great for the environment; but it also helps your local smaller farming communities who have been struggling in recent years.
Organically produced food
Pesticides have their obvious benefits and they have enabled large swathes of the world to enjoy life without starvation. But they also contain chemical pollutants which could end up harming us and most definitely the environment in the long term. Make sure to ask your caterer if they use organic products.
Food waste policy
Arguably the most crucial in reducing the way in which weddings damage the environment with food, is by reducing food waste. Ask the catering companies that you approach about their policy towards food that is unused or not eaten after being prepared. Most sustainable catering companies should offer food that hasn’t been cooked to food banks or charities. Meanwhile, food that didn’t get consumed can be turned into compost.
Donate leftover food
Even if the catering company doesn’t have a set policy about leftover food, there are ways you can save it. Anything that isn’t eaten and won’t perish can be donated to a food bank, who need people’s help more than ever.
Other ways you can reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint
Blake Cheek / you can have a brilliant wedding with a low carbon footprint
Finally, here are our last few tips on ways you can reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding.
Keep a small and selective wedding guest list
It is understandable that you want to share your special day with a wonderful collection of family and friends, but this also moans that you have to make decisions about who not to invite.
One of the benefits of having a small and selective wedding guest list is that you will have a smaller carbon footprint. With fewer guests coming to your wedding, you are naturally going to have a smaller impact on the amount of CO2 emitted as a result.
Pick the right time of year for your wedding
Whilst Summer is a popular time for weddings, and it can be harder to find a free slot in the hotter months, it is worth putting the effort in because Summer weddings consume less energy. The natural heat provided by the warmer seasons will help to keep you and your guests comfortable, without needing to use devices like fans or air conditioning.
Organise group transport for your guests
One of the best ways you can reduce emissions for your wedding is by reducing the number of cars on the road. Be that encouraging people to get public transport or arranging transport like a coach; giving your guests the option to not drive goes a long way to making your wedding more sustainable.
Look for vintage or repurposed products where you can
It is not true that all vintage products were created sustainably or with natural materials; but reusing or repurposing old products is better than buying new products and letting vintage ones go to waste. Reuse vintage items of tableware, dress or decoration to cut out the need to have something new for your big day.
Do It Yourself where you can
Whilst big wedding planning companies are popular, they don’t have sustainability in mind. So where it’s logical, try and plan, source and create things for the wedding yourself. We already briefly mentioned doing your own flowers, but you can also create handmade wedding decorations, tablecloths and other little trinkets. Think about what you can do yourself, and also ask others to help you out.
Have a post-wedding recycling plan
Whilst the wedding itself should be about fun, make sure people are able to be responsible and recycle during the event. Also it’s a good idea to have a detailed plan in place for what you’re going to do with anything that’s leftover at the end of the day.
You can give anything you didn’t use to local food banks or charities; and as a way to offset their emissions you can ask your guests to make direct contributions to non-profits or environmental charities on the day itself.
Think about packaging
This is an obvious one, but worth restating. You should try to limit the amount of plastic packaging you’re using at your wedding. In a lot of circumstances, you won’t have direct control over this. But in general, think about making a conscious shopping choice based on how a brand chooses to store their products.
Light bulbs and LEDs
You may not be able to replace the lighting at your wedding venue, but if you can, LEDs use a lot less energy than regular light bulbs. They won’t burn as brightly, so you may need a few to account for the absence of the original bulbs.