In 2020, more than 89,000 couples said “I do”. Whether that was in a grand church, barefoot on the beach, in their back yard or at Home Affairs, when asked whether they know how the average wedding affects the environment, many would probably say: “I don’t.”
The average wedding produces about 180kg of waste and emits 63 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is according to Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide.
More than love in the air
There are a number of ways that weddings negatively affect the environment, from travel, electrical demands and the production of once-off clothing and decor that emit CO2 into the atmosphere, to wasted food and litter strewn in the environment.
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But, sustainable practices at weddings can make an impact without compromising the couple’s vision.
“There are numerous adjustments that can ultimately lower the carbon footprint a wedding can produce and instil motivations in wedding guests to bring these practices into everyday life,” says a weddings and sustainability case study.
Here come the eco-brides
“One thing about me is that I hate wasting,” says Reinate van den Berg, who is currently planning her wedding to her fiancé, Niel-John Lord.
“I work in the hospitality industry and I witness a lot of waste,” says Van den Berg, “so that was really the main focus of the wedding.”
There are a number of sustainable practices that can reduce waste and environmental impact when planning a wedding.
Sending invites electronically, reducing or removing meat from the menu, avoiding single-use items or skipping wedding favours are all options for the eco-conscious bride or groom.
There are so many areas where sustainability can be incorporated into wedding day plans and it might feel overwhelming to consider them all, but South African brides are choosing to go green in these ways:
Using locally sourced flowers for the bouquet and reception decor are a great way to reduce waste and the impact of wedding day festivities on the environment. Local flowers are cheaper, don’t emit as much CO2 for transport and will not introduce invasive species to the local biome.
Van den Berg has taken her local flowers a step further by also incorporating them into her confetti.
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Flower petals are hand-picked and dried to be used as confetti because they are biodegradable and won’t take much time to pick up, she explains.
While beautiful, drying flowers for confetti takes time and it is not the only sustainable alternative. Some brides opt for rice, bird seeds or freshly picked local leaves.
Some florists reuse flowers for two weddings in one weekend and drop flowers off at a retirement home on Sundays, says Shannon Lavender, a wedding planner and founder of Lavender Creations.
Dress for the occasion
As of 2020, fast fashion is responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions. So cutting down on clothing that is worn once and discarded to the back of the cupboard is high on the agenda.
While some wedding parties choose to buy second-hand or use what they already have in their cupboard, some brides are going green in other ways.
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“One thing that’s super important to me is that the bridesmaids had to choose a dress that they will wear again in the future,” says Van den Berg, who set the colour but allowed her bridal party to choose the style of their dress.
But this goes for decor as well, as many decorative items are used once and then thrown away. Opting for organic decor or using what you already have can be far less costly — for you and the environment.
“Ditch the packaging and plastic,” says Lavender, who suggests opting to donate the money you would have spent to charity or a local community.
Food for thought
Roughly a tenth of all food at a wedding is never eaten and gets discarded as waste.
Van den Berg aims to reduce food waste at her wedding through careful planning and portioning of locally sourced food. “I hate when people overcater and waste food,” she explains.
Guests are encouraged to take home the food that is left so that it does not go to waste, says Van den Berg.
Another way to reduce your carbon output would be opting out of meat for the occasion. A vegetarian menu can decrease food-related emissions at events by as much as 75%, while the vegan option would cut 90% of emissions. This is according to the Environmental Working Group.
Value in the venue
Travel has detrimental impacts on the environment through the emission of carbon, so choosing a local venue can help reduce its footprint.
The venue Van den Berg has chosen is a short 10- to 15-minute drive away for most of her guests, is easily accessible by public transport and does not require an overnight stay.
But not choosing local is not the only sustainable option when it comes to choosing a venue. Wedding venues are now catering for environmentally conscious couples.
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“Many venues are moving towards solar as well,” says Lavender. “Load shedding is unpredictable, and makes your wedding look disorganised,” she adds.
One venue catering for eco-weddings is the Cederkloof Botanical Retreat, which specialises in eco-weddings. The venue incorporates a number of sustainable practices in its ceremonies, from locally sourced flowers to recycling waste and organic confetti.
Couples also plant a tree or sponsor a tree to be planted as part of their ceremony, in order to offset their carbon emissions and really let love grow.
This article first appeared on Daily Maverick and is republished under a creative commons licence. Read the original article here.