Happy eco after: Planning a green wedding

In the summer of 2018, Cassandra Stinn got married in a dress made by a friend, fashioned by fabric she found at a sale. Guests chowed down on food they contributed themselves — potluck-style — using tableware they brought from home.

As co-founders of Saskatoon’s Waste Not YXE group, Stinn and her now-husband, Jesse Selkirk, aim to reduce waste in their daily lives, and their wedding was no exception.

“I think the culture of wedding one-up-man-ship is a generator of waste,” Stinn said. “When you’re engaged and you’re going to friends’ weddings, you see all these little things that you want to incorporate, and every wedding just gets bigger and bigger. Suddenly there’s a million favours and a confetti dance floor and balloons everywhere.”

Weddings’ carbon footprint can be just as hefty as their price tag. According to a student sustainability group at Stanford University, the average wedding clocks in at over 56 tons of carbon emissions, a number that includes factors like the venue, transportation, wedding dress and food.

Ness Creek is a multi-service site west of Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan and home of the Ness Creek Music Festival, which has been running for 30 years. Site manager Gordon Olson says they are working towards being carbon neutral. (Off Grid Producers)

Stinn and Selkirk got married at Ness Creek, a multi-service site west of Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. In their invitations, they told guests waste reduction is important to them and asked guests to avoid disposables. The reception decor involved a lot of compostable and upcycled items, like burlap and pinecones.

Ness Creek site manager Gordon Olson said they are working towards being carbon neutral, with initiatives like composting, gardening and powering some of their operations through solar energy.

“The underlying principle of how we operate is that we try to be sensitive to our ecological footprint. We believe we should reuse and repurpose as much as we can,” Olson said.

Couples can choose from outdoor and indoor options, including the on-site hall, which provides real dishware, glassware and cutlery to cut down on disposables. Composting and recycling options are also available on-site, and meals are served through a partnership with a local caterer. Many ingredients, like fish and wild rice, are sourced from suppliers in the area.

The Jack Millikin Centre is one of the indoor spaces available for those wanting to host their nuptials at Ness Creek. They provide real dishware, glassware and cutlery to cut down on disposables. (Gordon Olson)

“The natural setting is really important,” Olson said. “A lot of people who get married here are connected with the Ness Creek Music Festival, and I find they are already interested in any kind of green option they could have. But I think it’s a growing trend.”

Karly Shanks, owner of Saskatoon-based event planning business Pretty in the Pines and co-owner of Brick Loft Event Co., said the pandemic may also be influencing more environmentally conscious ceremonies.

“I think that the pandemic has allowed people who want smaller weddings to feel confident in planning [events that are] small and sustainable,” Shanks said.

For couples looking to reduce their wedding’s carbon footprint, Shanks shared some tips:

Ideas to reduce wedding waste

  • Shop local.
  • Avoid single-use decorations, like balloons or confetti.
  • Rent decor over purchasing it.
  • Check resell sites, like Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace, to buy items second-hand. Then, try reselling, donating or gifting what you used at your wedding.
  • Use locally and sustainably grown florals when possible. Compost florals once you are finished with them.
  • Nix wedding favours, or gift an item that won’t end up in the trash, like something edible or a plant.
  • Choose glassware and reusable plates and cutlery over disposable ones. If they have to be disposable, use a compostable option from a business like Calgary’s Dryleaf, which sells biodegradable dishware made from fallen leaves. 
  • Purchase alcohol in bulk to cut down on individual serving containers (kegs, boxed wine, etc.).
  • Avoid plastic water bottles and ditch straws. Set up a water station for guests. 
  • Store leftover food in an appropriate time frame, so that it can be eaten later or donated.
  • Have recycling and compost bins designated at the reception.

Stinn advised to keep it simple and carefully evaluate the amount of stuff you’re buying.

“If you just go to Facebook Marketplace and type in ‘wedding’ you will find everything you need, but you can also see how much stuff you really don’t need,” she said. “If you’re only getting it for one day, then it’s a little bit like, yikes!”

Cassandra Stinn and Jesse Selkirk told guests in their wedding invitations that waste reduction is important to them and asked attendees to avoid disposables. The reception decor at Ness Creek involved a lot of compostable and upcycled items, like burlap and pinecones. (Kas Rea Visual Arts)

Selkirk echoes this sentiment, adding that by doing less, couples are not giving anything up.

“A lot of people who have grown up in a consumerist culture think of having less and using less as a sacrifice, but it’s not that way at all. It’s actually a better, more fulfilling and more satisfying way to live.”