Although my closest friends have jokingly called me "Captain Planet", I'm not exactly the most eco-conscious person. I mean, Gaia would not be tapping me as the next Planeteer. That's not to say that I don't try; but every week when I drive my household recyclables to the recycling dumpster at the gas station near my daughter's school (because my neighborhood does not have recycling #shrug), I realize how much plastic and cardboard my family uses. I think I'm a pretty average consumer in that regard; there are milk cartons and juice containers, cereal boxes, canned something-anothers, and plastic cookie trays. I always forget to check if my cereal's packaging is recyclable, I only remember to bring my reusable shopping bags into the store when I'm at the register checking out, ugh! And I have yet to venture into the fine world of composting.
With all that being said, I am very aware that there are actions I can take to do better and be a better caretaker of the planet. I wanted to make the point, that I am by no means a saint in this aspect (maybe others) but that we can all make small steps that will have less negative impact on the world we all share and our children will inherit.
Whenever I host or coordinate an event, I look for cost saving, eco-friendly ways that reduce our environmental impact but do not reduce the impact of the event. I once coordinated a wedding that used such a heart-wrenching amount of flowers and water that I felt guilty for weeks and vowed to find better ways of producing beautiful affairs without being completely irresponsible. So I've compiled a super simple list of 4 VERY easy ways to incorporate low-impact, earth-friendly measures into any event that can also save you money (cha-ching!):
1. Reduce or eliminate paper and plastics:
Paper and plastic dish ware, cutlery and table covers are inexpensive, convenient, and do not require washing, but they create a lot of trash. Disposable plates and cups are often contaminated with food or made of mixed materials, making them difficult to recycle. They can also be contaminated with non-recyclable inks and dyes. I wish I could tell you there are a lot of great options out there for recyclable, compostable disposables, but there aren't. The few that I think are worth mentioning would be Bambu, Susty Party, and Naturally Chic. Otherwise, opt for reusable plates, cutlery, napkins, and glassware. With a smart washer, these options are much easier on the environment than 100 greasy paper plates, cups and plastic forks.
2. Turn the water off:
I LOVE LOVE LOVE florals! Flowers are nature's art work that just light up any place or setting. I love the colors and the arrangements and the fragrances but...sigh, cut flowers for one day usage is just simply wasteful. I hate to say that and I know it won't change how they are used, but it really is a waste of beauty. I mean, how much do you love those floral chandeliers and ceilings dripping with orchids? I know I do, but the water required to keep them alive for the day can be enormous. Additionally, the shipping of large quantities of flowers from one country to the next is not exactly efficient (or clean). I'm certain there are levels of accountability when it comes to growing and harvesting the beauties but besides being stunning, growing and shipping them carry a huge carbon footprint (see Not Pretty: The Environmental Impact of Flowers)
The wedding industry is a Goliath in the usage of florals and there are no indications that this will change, but there are alternatives to using flowers and alternatives to using flowers better. Using local growers like Wollam Gardens in Virginia or florists who buy seasonal blossoms from local growers is a great way to keep your impact low. Other options include keeping the blooms planted in simple pots, using soy or beeswax candles, opting for rooted herbs, non-floral decor, or simply going for a less is more approach. And if you just MUST have a room full of flowers, a large barrel or buckets of water to fill vases with is a far superior way to conserve water than running a pipe or hose for an extended amount of time. Planted flowers spare lives!
3. Internet It:
There's nothing that says "Wedding" like those lovely invitations with intricate laser cut lace envelopes and translucent RSVP inserts. They're gorgeous, but they're not necessary. Greenvelope and Paperless Post are two very serious contenders for the card in hand option for your wedding and any special event; Evite also offers some fantastic premium options. If email invitations just aren't your bag, try using design houses that print in small batches, uses alternative materials like bamboo or hemp, or run an eco-friendly operation. We're partial to small businesses like Devine Design by Diesha and green companies like Bloomin that offer plantable cards and Paper Culture who uses 100% post-consumer recycled paper or alternative non-tree fibers.
4. Give Back:
This one is probably the easiest of the four because it doesn't have to affect the design or aesthetic of your event. It's simply giving back to the earth with gifts like seed packets, DIY indoor garden starter kits, planting a tree as a unity ceremony or donating monies to charities that benefit the planet. Easy right?!
From symposiums to weddings, we want our guests to walk away with lasting memories. Whenever possible, we want to keep those lasting memories from being hurtful to our environment; so take even the smallest of measures to protect our planet knowing that it doesn't necessarily have to change the beauty and magic of your special event.