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An Eco-Friendly "I Do"

Sep 28, 2012 06:20PM ● Published by Anonymous

Planning an environmentally friendly wedding requires a balance between expectations and realism. You might not grow your own food for the wedding—though we've heard of brides that have, and we think it's pretty cool—but there are simpler ways you can green up your wedding without sacrificing elegance.

Jewelry

The path to an environmentally friendly wedding begins at the proposal, so make sure your beau knows your eco-conscious intentions. The mining of both gold and diamonds has controversy at its roots, but with a little knowledge, you can avoid wearing "dirty gold" and "conflict diamonds." Look for a company that adheres to "The Golden Rules," from the nonprofit organization EarthWorks, which indicates the company has taken steps to eliminate dirty gold from its stores. Alternatively, you can purchase a ring made of recycled gold or platinum, identical in quality to jewelry made with new gold.

To avoid wearing a conflict diamond, check that the diamond has been certified conflict- free. The Kimberly Process Certification allows you to be sure that your sparkling gem was mined and shipped in a humane way, and all reputable jewelers will be able to explain your diamond's history. Contrary to popular belief, you can find conflict-free diamonds with origins outside Canada, Russia, Australia, and some African countries that participate in certification.

But there's no reason why you have to wear a natural diamond at all. Plenty of brides these days are choosing alternative gems, such as white or blue sapphires, rubies, or other jewels to grace their ring finger. 

Bridal Fashion

Finding your wedding gown is a special experience for all soon-to-be brides, but it's possible to find your dream dress while incorporating Earth-friendly aspects into the search. The two easiest ways to do so are:

Reuse a dress, such as your mother's or older sister's wedding gown. You could also find a previously worn gown at a local consignment shop or on a second- hand website, such as Oncewed.com. If the dress doesn't fit perfectly or needs to be restored, take it to a local tailor or dry cleaner who can help it look brand-new and fit like a glove.

Choose a dress made of environmentally friendly materials, such as silk, hemp, or organic cotton. A gown made of salvaged fabric, such as lace and cotton that was previously in another garment, is better for the Earth, as well. Take into consideration where the dress is made—a gown made in the United States is more eco-friendly than one shipped from China, and it supports our country's economy.

When the wedding is over, keep the eco-friendly school of thought going by donating your dress (hello, tax write-off!) or selling it to a consignment store so another bride can reuse it.

Catering & Food

The eco-savvy bride already knows to choose a wedding menu that uses local, in-season ingredients, but she might not know about the additional waste the food often creates because of the standard 10 percent rule. It's typical for caterers to order 10 percent extra food for an event to ensure all guests are fed and happy. Ask your caterer if he adheres to this standard, and if so, ask him to decrease it to three to five percent extra food to reduce waste.

Décor & Flowers

You might assume that all blooms are eco-friendly by nature, but that's not entirely true because of the pesticides used to farm the flowers. Additionally, any flowers for your bouquet, centerpieces, or décor that come from another state requires fuel to ship. Look for seasonal blooms that come from our own state—Black-Eyed Susans, Maryland's state flower make for a lovely bouquet. An alternative is choosing VeriFlora-certified blooms, which ensures the flowers are sustainably grown.

Honeymoon

Whether your honeymoon will be spent on a beach with a cocktail in hand or traversing through Europe, ecotourism helps you stay green as newlyweds. Ecotourism isn't as rustic as it sounds; rather, it's a commitment to traveling responsibly by choosing hotels or resorts dedicated to environmentally and socially responsible practices and contributing to the local economy.

Start by considering a honeymoon registry in lieu of traditional gifts. Guests can purchase gifts such as a couples massage or snorkeling excursion instead of new towels that you might or might not need. From there, do your homework about specific locations, resorts or cruise lines, and activities you plan to do while on your honeymoon. Look for companies that have been awarded certifications because as ecotourism grows, more and more businesses slap an "eco" label on themselves to attract more customers. For more information about traveling the globe responsibly, visit the International Ecotourism Society's website at Ecotourism.com.

When you return from your honeymoon, the green living tips you learned while planning an eco-friendly wedding are transferrable to your everyday life. Turn that green wedding into a green marriage for a healthier, happier life together.

Carbon Off-Sets

Despite your best efforts, planning a wedding will come at some cost to the environment. Some couples take it a step further and buy carbon offsets to try to minimize the environmental implications. Websites such as Carbonfund.org have calculators that give you a donation price based on the estimated pounds of carbon your wedding produces, based on how many people travel and other factors. The money you donate to buy offsets go to companies that invest in renewable energy, reforestation, and other eco-friendly projects.

Planning