Your Place in the World

I’d like to revisit a topic I wrote about many years ago, because once again I am seeing disturbing images of the damage we humans do to our environment. We may feel like we can’t change the world, but we can make good decisions about what we, personally, do.

Call it ‘green,’ call it ‘environmental,’ call it ‘eco’-friendly,’ or call it common sense, there is still a lot of buzz about how all this applies to weddings and any celebration, really. I hope people will continue to remain conscious of reducing, reusing and recycling. Eco-friendly isn’t a fad, its way to implement practices that will lead to healthier living for the planet and its inhabitants. An eco-friendly wedding is a way to express those values and make a difference. There are many ways to ‘green’ your wedding. 

First the bad news. Being responsible isn’t just choosing environmentally friendly materials its also being aware of what not to do. I recently read about how balloon releases have deadly consequences on the environment. I must admit that years ago I hadn’t thought about it, but once aware, you will not want to use balloons. Here’s the deal: balloons fall back to the earth and animals can ingest them and die from the balloon blocking their digestive tracts. There are some balloons made of biodegradable material, but still, before they do break down, well, there they are, and can cause damage. Likewise, ribbons or strings tied to the balloons can last years and become entangled in any animal that comes in contact with it. At a minimum they just create more trash, but the image of a bird hanging to death on a balloon string should be enough to convince you.

This is hard to look at but important to do so.

I’d also been briefly enamored of sky lanterns, until I l began to understand that they, too, return to earth as litter. Again, beware even those marketed as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘earth- friendly.’  Sky lanterns are made with treated paper, wires and/or a bamboo ring. They can travel for miles and will come down as dangerous litter. Not surprising – sky lanterns have caused fires. These flaming aerial devices have also caused serious burns to humans and have killed animals that eat the litter or become entangled in their fallen remains. Entire countries have banned the use of sky lanterns.

Who doesn’t love sparklers? Sorry to be a downer, but when checking out sparklers I learned that they contain heavy metals that are harmful to the environment. Plus there is some risk of injury. Geez? Is there nothing we can use? 

Here’s the good news: Alternatives to balloons and sky lanterns include the trusty old bubbles (pick up those plastic bottles, though, and recycle them) lighting candles, and using flowers and petals. Confetti cannons are cool, and I don’t see much of a down side to them.

Other eco-friendly tips include the following:

For gifts and centerpieces use potted herbs, cactus, or other interesting plants instead of cut flowers for centerpieces with the added bonus of having guests take the home.

Have the ceremony and reception at the same location, reducing travel, gas, and cost.

Let the bridesmaids pick their own dresses, ones they will be able to wear again. 

Forget disposables such as cameras that get tossed and all the plastic flatware and glasses. Instead use real china, flatware, cloth napkins and glasses – it looks so much better anyway!

Choose consumable favors such as jam, jelly, maple syrup, candy, free-trade coffee, handmade soaps, or anything folks will actually use. Buy them locally! Or donate to a charity instead of favors. 

A great gift or ‘favor’
Photo by Lisa Rhinehart

Paperless invites are beginning to be more acceptable. If you must mail an invite, include a website with lots of details, to cut-down on the paper.

Offer group transportation – it will not only cut down on gas and pollution, it will allow your guests to enjoy a drink or two without worry!

Lots of bloggers talk about vintage clothes – but I know it is difficult. You can make that happen, but it takes lots of patience. An easier eco-route for dresses is to borrow or buy used (or should I say: pre-worn). There are many wonderful sources of beautiful used wedding gowns. Think about it – it was worn only once, then dry cleaned and is most likely exactly like new! You save tons of money. After the wedding you can donate your dress to a number of charity organizations, or resell it. 

Some nursing homes and hospitals accept flowers from weddings to distribute to their residents. 

Everything you buy or rent comes from somewhere – so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Does this venue recycle? Where was this made, did it ship from a distance, or even worse – was it made by children or slave labor?

Is it going to change the world? Well, it would if everyone took part, but as things stand now – no, it won’t.  But it’s powerful to bring a consciousness to your wedding and remember you are part of something larger. Your ‘big day’ is about you, of course, but it’s also about your place in the world.

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois HeckmanImage

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