Your wedding day! It takes months of planning for that one special day, everything from venue arrangements, flowers, food, invitations and more! It’s no wonder that a thought of having minimizing your wedding’s carbon footprint isn’t necessarily top of mind. Meanwhile, the average wedding creates 63 tons of CO2e. That is like driving 150, 000 miles in a passenger car! It may seem like eloping is the most sanity-saving and sustainable wedding option! Don’t panic –TerraPass has got you covered with a few simple tips and ideas to have a carbon balanced event so you’ll have no trouble (sustainably) tying the knot.
Put a ring on it
Sustainable wedding and engagement rings are a romantic gesture with deep symbolism and a must for any wedding. Each year in the United States, 17 tons of gold are crafted into wedding bands for the newlyweds. Even though wedding rings are a luxury item, more often than not, regular jewelers don’t know where the gold comes from or its environmental impact.
All of those rings, not to mention necklaces and bracelets used for bridesmaid and grooms gifts have a huge impact on the environment because the metal they are made of have to be mined. In the process of making 1 new wedding ring, an average of 20 tons of toxic waste is created by standard mining practices. Two-thirds of newly-mined gold is extracted from huge open pit mines, many of which can be seen from space.
- One gram of gold creates an average of 11.5 kg CO2-e emissions and up to 18 kg of CO2-e. That’s 195,500 metric tons of CO2e per year in USA from just wedding rings! The same amount of CO2e is produced by energy use of 195,500 homes annually.
- Should you decide to have that diamond on your ring, it will add 64.86 kg of CO2-e per carat.
- Is an heirloom ring an option? That’s the way to go – no added environmental impact, plus the history of the ring makes it even more valuable. Vintage rings usually have a unique design unlike any you can find in stores. If the style or the size is wrong, just get it adjusted at a jewelry store. Buying antique jewelry is also an eco-friendly option.
- If a heirloom ring is not an option, consider a ring from recycled gold. Using recycled gold eliminates 20 to 80 % of gold’s carbon footprint.
- Look at other materials and specialized vendors. Many jewelers are elevating their standards to create pieces that are sustainable, but don’t want to sacrifice style. Click here for a list of sustainable vendors for brides-to-be.
- Instead of real diamonds, consider artificial ones. Artificial diamonds produce 45 kg per carat of CO2e. That’s less than one-fifth of the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from mining diamonds. Replacing one mine’s annual diamond production with synthetic diamonds could save the equivalent of about 483 million miles’ worth of auto emissions!
A girl cannot imagine a wedding without a marvelous dress. Many of us have dreamed about it since we were little girls. Few brides would give up the tradition of finding the best dress for their wedding, but the dress is a source of emissions. It takes chemicals and dyes to make your dress pretty and snow white.
The environmental impact of the fashion industry is massive. For example, polyester, the most widely used manufactured fiber for wedding gowns, is made from petroleum. In the United States, the textile industry is the 5th largest contributor to CO2 emissions. The average wedding emits approximately 14.5 tons of CO2e. That is the same as putting 3 cars on the road for a year!
- For your sustainable wedding, you can purchase a pre-loved style from a number of online retailers that specialize in reselling wedding dresses and it can be half the price of a designer gown. If you’ve already taken a walk down the aisle consider re-using or recycling past items.
- Search for organic, environmentally responsible fabrics. Click here for a guide on the environmental impact of different fabrics.
Food is a major part of any celebration but it is also a major part of an individual’s carbon footprint. We have some great tips on how to make your wedding dishes sustainable and tasty.
- Implement the 100-mile seasonal diet rule to make sure your food doesn’t create emissions through travel. In other words, try to refrain from going with the tropical fruit platter unless, of course, you’re in the tropics.
- Lean on your sustainable caterer for the best options. Nowadays there are a few who might know the source of your food right down to the farmer who grew it!
- Avoid bottled water at you sustainable wedding. Sure, it’s convenient, but the bottle is made from plastic – a material with a high carbon footprint. Plus, it is destined for a landfill, where it won’t degrade for years. In the U.S. we are blessed with safe tap water, so purchase a refillable container instead and fill it up as you go. Besides, a beautiful container is much fancier!
- Make your sustainable wedding memorable by going vegetarian. Meat is one of the top contributors to methane, one of the world’s most potent GHG gasses. By going vegetarian, you can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding and slow down climate change.
Read our blog for more on the impact of food.
The Guest list
The more people you invite – the larger the footprint of your event becomes. People need transportation, room, and board, which all create carbon emissions. Even the invitations have a footprint. Are you sending those by mail and then to a landfill? What about party favors and decorations – are they just amusing trinkets destined for the dump?
- Skip printing your invitations and use an online greeting to invite your family and friends. Digital sites now design stunning and unique invites, saving you big bucks and eliminating waste.
- Give out sustainable party favors, like food items or potted plants. These won’t end up in a landfill where they contribute to global warming. Things like home-made bird feeders, soaps and plantable cards are just some Ideas. Click here to see more.
- Decorations are another reason to have your wedding outdoors. With the beautiful weather and summer flowers in bloom, you get instant living décor. If you end up indoors choose local and in-season flowers. Anything that has to travel a long distance or needs to grow in a greenhouse during its off-peak months has an effect on the environment.
Picking the right venue is a major part of reducing the carbon footprint of your wedding. Guests travelling to and from the venue for and represents a whopping 73% of its total carbon footprint, while overnight accommodations eat up 11%.
- Opt for a local wedding. With more and more people opting for a fly -in “destination wedding,” the impact and cost of attending (!) increase dramatically. While you may want your once-in-a-lifetime experience to be in an exotic place, there are benefits to keeping it local. Your friends will thank you for a reduced cost, your community will appreciate the business, and Mother Nature will be grateful to you for not burning all that jet fuel. Offset your guests’ travel with Terrapass carbon offsets.
- Pick a venue with a place to stay for guests so everyone can walk to the event. Booking lodging at the same site as your wedding allows your guests to cook meals in their houses, eliminating extra trips to town. Opt for a sustainable hotel, with a plan to reduce its carbon footprint.
- Think about your power source. Hosting your event outdoors, avoids lighting a large hall and saves energy. Otherwise, consider a venue with a renewable energy source, such as solar power. If these options are not available, consider reducing you power consumption by having instrumental music and energy-efficient lighting. You can purchase Renewable Energy Credits to support clean power sources in compensation for the unavoidable use of conventional electricity.
Organizing a sustainable wedding takes creativity and initiative to ask questions about the products you use. If you don’t have the time or, in some cases, the ability to be as environmentally conscious as you would like, check out the TerraPass calculator and find out exactly what the carbon footprint of the day will be and invest in carbon offsets to balance out the whole event. Even if you do your best to minimize your footprint, there are always impacts you cannot avoid.
In any case, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, so calculate the carbon footprint of your wedding with the TerraPass events carbon calculator . At TerraPass, we wish you many years of health and happiness. Cheers to the happy couple!
Harrison, Kate (2008). The Green Bride Guide. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks. ISBN 978–1-4022-1345-8.
Terry Norgate, Nawshad Haque, Using life cycle assessment to evaluate some environmental impacts of gold production, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volumes 29–30, July 2012, Pages 53-63, ISSN 0959-6526, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.01.042. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652612000947)