Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Green Wedding vs a Sustainable Wedding

I am thrilled, genuinely THRILLED, that eco-friendly wedding planning has become mainstream. In fact, there was a big green wedding planning event just this past weekend in Los Angeles that seemed to have a few really worthwhile speaker panels. 

I didn’t go.

Why? Both because I'm not at the "details" planning point and because I’m somewhat leery about green wedding planning being treated like any other commodified wedding “trend,” like favors or birdcage veils.  This sort of bridal fetishization can easily lead to another level of wedding consumption competition – instead of just a giant fondant cake, I’ll get an ORGANIC fondant cake! Instead of a standard invitation suite (card, reception info insert, map insert, reply card, etc) I’ll have the whole thing letterpressed on recycled paper made from reclaimed wood and mixed with vegetable seeds so you can grow a garden!  Yay – now it’s green and eco-friendly!

Let me be clear - there is nothing wrong with organic cake and recycled paper invitation suites, and they are vastly preferably to their standard wedding equivalents. But I've noticed a trend in mainstream bridal media as it does the same thing to “green” wedding planning as they’ve done to wedding dresses, cakes, favors, and other wedding day details – they’ve made it part of the ultimate photo shoot, with every item Oscar-photo ready. "Green" has gone high-end, and it's just another detail to worry about in crafting the perfect, aspirational wedding. (Please note that I have no idea if this past weekend's event stressed green products over sustainable planning, since I didn't go, so I'm not commenting on the specific event but on general green wedding trends).

Except to me, sustainability is a critical driving force in my career and personal life.  In fact, my career is dedicated to large-scale sustainability practices and projects (so far, in the vehicle and alternative fuel sector) and sustainability will definitely impact how we plan our wedding and our lives together.  To me, a sustainable wedding isn’t about buying the same old wedding stuff but making sure it’s made from “green” materials, it’s about thinking about each detail, and whether it really matters and is necessary for the joy of our day.  If it adds to the real beauty and sentiment of the day, great, and let’s figure out how simplify it, buy it secondhand, make it, rent/borrow it, or buy it new with recycled materials.  If not, and it’s just stuff, I don’t have to care.  

Don’t get me wrong on green event planning - given that large lavish-ish events will always exist in some form, I’d definitely prefer for them to use organic catering, d├ęcor crafted from recycled metals and various post-consumer reimaginings, and LED or low-VOC options for lighting (for example).  And if you can afford couture (and/or were already planning to go the couture route), I’d heartily recommend using a local dress designer who makes her art in non-sweatshop-conditions using sustainable materials.  Maybe even something beautiful like this:

But as for me, the bride-to-be who can’t afford couture, I’m okay with sustainable.  And I’m hoping this blog will reflect the simple, stylish side of local sustainable options. 

Thrift store mismatched dishes and homemade cloth napkins from a Backyard Wedding

So does anyone have any local thrift store gems to recommend?

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