As someone in her 30s, I can confidently say there is no shortage of weddings to attend all spring, summer and fall. But when you realize that each one has the potential to produce up to 400 lbs of waste and 63 tons of CO2, you’ll want to leave the venue and go directly outside to hug a tree. And that’s just an average-sized wedding. For just one day.
The reality is that the majority of wedding waste comes from the decor—everything from lighting to flowers can add up to a LOT of energy and waste. Thankfully, the eco-friendly movement is on the rise in the wedding industry, so there are many ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and still have the big day of your dreams.
We spoke with the experts—wedding planners, florists and venue operators—to help identify those key opportunities, both big and seemingly small, to minimize your wedding decor waste without sacrificing taste.
Start with hiring green vendors
The first step to reducing waste on your wedding day starts with the people who will be part of it from start to finish. When it comes to choosing wedding planners and vendors, first consider those who use green initiatives in their products and as part of their company policy.
For example, Crystal Adair-Benning, owner of highly acclaimed wedding and event design agency Distinct Occasions, starts the eco-friendly journey from the very first steps of planning. Striving to make her company as minimally wasteful as possible, Adair-Benning implements paperless and emission-reducing strategies. She uses, “online tools for couples and staff [and] video chats for meetings whenever possible,” while also limiting the use of excess packaging when it comes to food and event decor.
Your food vendors are also key to minimizing waste on the big day—from making arrangements for food leftovers to what goes into the cake itself. If your goal is to have a green gateau, ask your baker for zero-waste options. This will mean designing a cake that is entirely edible, which may require foregoing multi-tiered creations that require internal supports. Also ask if the bakery uses organic ingredients and can create edible cake decorations, as opposed to using plastic or metal flourishes that tend to get discarded.
Opt for an eco-chic venue
We know the setting for your big day has to be fire for the ‘gram (after all, if your wedding isn’t Insta-worthy, did you even get married?), but the wedding venue can also make the biggest impact on how environmentally friendly your event will be. Consider buildings that are LEED-certified with energy-efficient features, such as the popular Toronto wedding venue Wychwood Barns. This renovated heritage structure has been given the ultimate Mother Earth makeover and now uses water-conserving plumbing, geo-thermal HVAC systems, stormwater harvesting, energy-efficient lighting and 100% recycled sliding panels.
If you don’t have access to LEED-certified locations, there are still plenty of fabulous venues that offer eco-friendly decor options with the elevated look you desire. Plus, sometimes that look can do the work for you for free. For example, Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, BC offers a stunning natural setting that doesn’t need a lot of dressing up to make an impact—far easier on the setup and on the wallet. The events team at the lodge also suggests eco-friendly decor ideas that complement the look and feel of the setting, such as rustic chic tables that don’t require linens, meaning you can save energy by avoiding laundry, too.
Bonus tip: Holding your ceremony and reception at the same venue not only saves your guests the hassle of getting from Point A to Point B, but also saves the environment from carbon dioxide emissions from the excess travel—win-win!
Get lit the right way
The lighting industry is no stranger to developing eco-friendly options and, thankfully, the designs are only getting better, so you can make sure your wedding is green and lit AF. Go ahead and ask venues if they use energy-efficient lighting, or go next level with solar lighting! And never, ever underestimate the power of candlelight to set a romantic mood. Just be sure to to use natural candles made of soy or beeswax and, if scented, done so with essential oils rather than synthetic chemicals.
When in doubt, rent it out
It seems like there are more and more wedding rental companies popping up every year because, #realtalk, why would you buy new for just one day? Whistler, B.C.-based company Whisteria Design and Rentals sources the majority of its items—like beautiful mix-and-match china plates and on-trend vintage rattan chairs—secondhand from antiques dealers and thrift shops. What’s so extra about this (in the absolute best way) is that it gives your wedding a unique look and feel, but also, as owner Carin Smolinski says, gives back by supporting local businesses and charity stores. “Our items can be reused indefinitely, avoiding unnecessary waste,” says Smolinski.
Flex your green thumb
The rule of the green thumb—for gardeners and eco-conscious brides alike—is to stay local. This not only means using local blooms, but also working directly with local florists, as opposed to big suppliers, to eliminate excess packaging and shipping.
Also, jump on the trendy bandwagon with the #NoFloralFoam movement and ask for reusable and eco-friendly products like chicken wire, reusable buckets, water tubes and biodegradable bouquet wraps to keep your arrangements together instead.
But the number-one piece of advice the floral experts give? Be open-minded. Most florists find clients want something very specific, which may need to be imported, and don’t often want to consider local options. The arrangement pictured above, from Toronto-based Coriander Girl, features a majority of Canadian-grown plants including cafe-au-lait dahlias, white dahlias, black scabiosa, white lisianthus, white snowberry and forsythia greenery—and it looks freaking stunning!
Top your tables with personal touches
The DIY wedding trend only continues to grow with every new Pinterest board, and it’s becoming more and more common when it comes to centrepieces. Now, this doesn’t mean whittling your own wooden sculptures or hand-sculpting vases on a pottery wheel (unless it does, in which case, you’re my hero). Rather, it’s a simple way to add a unique and personalized touch to your wedding decor by using items you already own—like framed photographs, trinkets from your travels together, even items you saved from your first dates. These personal touches can help reduce the amount of waste produced from buying new items and, bonus, tend to be great conversation-starters for your guests.
However you decide to top your tables, there’s one thing to 100% avoid: plastic glitter and confetti. Pretty, sure, but these microplastics inevitably end up in our waterways and that’s definitely not chic.
Say thank you with meaningful favours
First of all, you don’t need to have wedding favours—let’s be honest, unless they provide some specific use for each and every guest, they’re likely be left or tossed. But if you’re still all about the thank-you takeaways, go for something universally useable and/or recyclable. Even better if it’s locally sourced! Think locally farmed honey, potted plants (hold the floral foam, please!), or natural handcrafted soaps.