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Eco Friendly Celebrations

There are many ways you can make your celebration friendly to the environment. All it takes is a little advance planning and a desire to reduce waste, clean things up, and keep carbon and other emissions to a minimum. Getting things locally is a big way to reduce emissions. Keeping things simple is another way to reduce waste. Organic and seasonal items are more environmentally friendly than conventional ones. Many of the following suggestions are for weddings, but maybe they will give you some ideas for other celebrations. You can also find a list of resources for sustainable weddings on my non-traditional weddings page. Here are some ideas to think about:

Transportation:

Probably the largest environmental impact from any kind of celebration is from the transportation involved. Guests from other places and in-town transport cause inevitable carbon emissions. To reduce the environmental impact, you might encourage your guests to arrive by rail, by bus, or by carpool. Of course, if you have your event where public transportation is an option, you can help your guests to get around by local transit. If possible, reserve hotel rooms for your guests within walking distance of the party. If they will have to travel some distance, charter a bus for them. Or, try a pedicab.

Carbon offsets are one way to mitigate the environmental consequences of travel. Although there are some who question their effectiveness, you might know of a program you feel comfortable with. You could ask your guests to pay for carbon offsets instead of bringing gifts. Or it can be your gift to them in place of favors.

For an eco friendly honeymoon, try these ideas: honeymoon close to home; honeymoon at home (turn off the phone and tell everyone you've gone away); honeymoon by bicycle; or, most romantic of all, honeymoon by rail. (As my sister says, "Anyone who says romance is dead hasn't been on a train lately.")

Locations:

When choosing a location for your celebration, you can make choices which have a lower environmental impact. You can choose a LEED certified building, or rent from and support a location which has an environmental mission, such as a botanic garden or organic farm. You can also look at the Green Hotels Association to find a hotel with an environmental commitment. Celebrating outdoors, of course, reduces the power needed for lighting and air conditioning. If you do need power outdoors, see if you can get solar power. (And then please tell me how you did it. I'm still looking for a supplier.) If you're having more than one event on the same day (such as a wedding and reception), have them in the same location to reduce the amount of transportation needed.

Food and Catering:

Your food choices every day have an environmental impact, but especially when entertaining, the most environmentally friendly choice is to buy food and drink from local sources. It is also important to buy organic food, where it is available. Meat, dairy products, and eggs have more adverse environmental consequences than vegetables. A truly eco friendly meal is an organic, local, vegetarian meal. Whatever you serve, arrange to have the leftovers picked up by the local food bank instead of going into the trash (but check your local ordinances first).

Choose a caterer who will make environmentally friendly choices. If the caterer composts food waste and recycles as much as possible, that will have a positive effect. Consider renting dishes instead of using disposables, and find a rental company close to your event location to minimize trucking time. If you must use disposables, use compostable disposables and be sure that they are composted afterwards. And you can reduce waste and save money at the same time by serving beer in returnable kegs instead of bottles or cans.

Clothing:

You are probably going to dress up for a special occasion, but you can do it with less environmental impact: You can rent clothes, borrow them, or buy them second-hand (call it "vintage"). If new, they can be made of organic fabrics, natural fabrics, or even local fabrics. They can be made locally. If you buy something you think you won't wear again, minimize its impact by donating it so someone else can wear it. If you are getting married, try letting your bridesmaids wear something they own already, or at least avoid the synthetic fabrics so common to bridesmaids dresses. You might also skip the dyed-to-match shoes which will only be worn once. Also, think about what it will take to clean all these garments. If you can wear clothes which don't require dry cleaning, you can avoid the chemicals involved in that process. Or, find a wet cleaner or CO2 cleaner near you: It's just like dry cleaning only safer for the environment.

Jewelry:

Maybe you don't know it, but gold and diamond mining are very dirty enterprises. Diamonds are also implicated in human rights abuses. All that is not to say you shouldn't have them, but to avoid the worst effects of your jewelry, try wearing vintage jewelry; or find a custom jeweler who uses reclaimed materials. A very nice kind of wedding ring is one which has been in your family for a few generations. (I wear my husband's great-grandmother's wedding ring, which is very special and I highly recommend the practice.)

Gifts:

If anyone asks you what kind of gifts you want, you can tell them that you would prefer donations to your favorite causes (including environmental ones), instead of material gifts. There are even ways to set up a donation gift registry. For those who insist on giving material gifts, ask them to use recycled wrapping paper--and then reuse it when you give a gift. If you have a stack of presents, be sure to recycle the wrapping paper, boxes, and packing material.

Decorations:

The watchword for environmentally sound decorations is, "Less is more." You can keep disposable decorations to a minimum by finding a venue which needs minimal or no decoration (such as a historic house or a botanic garden). If you need decor, you can rent nice pieces, rather than buying them, or make your own from local materials. You can also use potted plants as decoration. Local, organic, seasonal flowers are an ecologically sound choice, as are edible centerpieces. If you are having more than one event in a few days, you can find ways to re-use the decorations, rather than buying separate ones. Favors can be small and made from local materials, or from organic sweets. If you want to make a real statement, give your guests compact fluorescent lightbulbs as favors or make donations in their honor to causes you care about. Finally, be kind to other creatures and don't release butterflies.

Invitations:

There are some easy ways to minimize the impact of your party invitations: Use postcards as your reply cards; keep the invitations simple; use recycled paper for your invitations; ask for replies by e-mail or online. If you feel comfortable with it, you can even send online invitations. There are also invitation suppliers who specialize in eco-friendly invitations. Look around in your area for designers and printers who use environmentally friendly techniques.

What Does it Cost?

An all-green celebration will cost more for organic, local food and beverages, but you can probably offset at least part of that cost with savings in decorations, clothing, and even your location. In the end, it is up to you to decide how green to make your party.

Do You Have More Ideas?

If you have tried other things to make your celebration eco friendly and would like to share your ideas, I would be happy to include them. Drop me a note so I can add to this list and we can all work together to bring our lives and our celebrations more in balance with the natural world.

 

“If I need to plan another large party in the future, be assured I'll be calling you.” Mindi R., recent satisfied client

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Photo by MWD Photography





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