A wedding should be one of the happiest days of a couple’s life. The event brings friends and family together in a celebration of love. Drinks flow, food is devoured and, hopefully, everyone goes home having had a great time. In all the excitement, it’s easy to overlook the impact a wedding might have on the environment. Sustainability is being spoken about more now than ever. Luckily, if this is something you want to take into account on your wedding day, you can.
The Perfect Way to Host a Sustainable Wedding
Let’s find out how, as we explore the perfect way to host sustainable, zero-waste, ethical weddings. We’ll break down the damage a regular wedding has, before introducing alternatives for you to try.
Introduction to a Sustainable Wedding
Do you know how much of an impact your big day could have on the world around you? Here are some startling statistics that might make you reconsider how you want your wedding to be.
Waste Generated by the Wedding Industry
Everything we throw away that can’t be recycled has a negative impact on the environment. If something isn’t biodegradable, it could take thousands of years to break down naturally. Plastic is unsurprisingly at the heart of the issue.
"Reports suggest that 4,910 tonnes of unrecyclable plastic was used up and left behind at British weddings last year. That’s the equivalent to 47 Blue Whales."
Individually, one wedding can produce as much as 20kg of plastic waste. What’s more, the black bags used to collect the rubbish are themselves potentially harmful. They can take as many as 90 years to break down under the ground. But it’s not just plastic that has an impact. Food waste is also a common theme for most weddings. A study from Sainsbury’s reveals the extent of this. Their figures show that:
- On average, £488 is wasted on food at every wedding
- 15% of people would only eat one or two of their three courses
- The same number, 15%, of newlyweds would throw the remains of their cake away
- 37% of guests don’t eat edible wedding favors
To put the wedding wastage into context, the average family home will throw away roughly £700 in food in one year. In other words, a few hours at one wedding can account for 65% of a home’s wastage across an entire year
The Carbon Footprint of Wedding Celebrations
Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have directly led to warmer global temperatures, as warm air is trapped within the Earth’s atmosphere. As NASA highlights, this has directly led to shrinking ice sheets, warming oceans, and a general rise in global temperature. Sadly, UK weddings are again one of the chief offenders when it comes to CO2 contributions. As many as 14.5 tonnes of gas will be created during an average celebration. That’s a startling figure, given annual carbon emission per capita in the UK is just 9.1 tonnes. With roughly 250,000 weddings taking place every year, that’s a net result of 3,625,000 tonnes of gas being emitted.
The Worst Sustainability Offenders at Weddings
Some wedding troupes are more harmful than others. Here are a few common inclusions that you might not realize are having a negative impact on the environment.
Often made of materials that don’t break down, balloons contribute to overflowing landfill sites. They also pose a serious choking hazard for wildlife like birds and sea creatures.
Throwing confetti is a common tradition, but have you ever considered where it ends up after the celebrations are over? Unfortunately, this is another example of a material that won’t degrade naturally. That means it often ends up being consumed by animals.
It’s not something that immediately springs to mind, but transporting flowers that aren’t seasonal means you’ll need to move them from relatively far away. The net result is a higher level of CO2 emissions, as well as the use of potentially harmful chemical fertilizers which can pollute the soil.
Paper comes in handy at a wedding, but it’s still worth considering where you can limit its use. Bunting, banners, and even invites can use up resources that might not be sustainable. Either cut down on their use or make sure you’re only utilizing sustainable materials.
Don’t worry, though. These are all common aspects of a wedding - which means alternative, eco-friendly options, have already been created. In chapter two, we’ll look at exactly what those options are.
Organic and Low-Impact Flowers
While all flowers are by their very nature 'organic', sustainability can still be taken into account when it comes to decorating your wedding. Aside from the carbon footprint, you accrue when transporting flowers from across the world (most flowers used in Western Europe are grown in Kenya, Colombia, Vietnam, and Ecuador), there can also be issues of exploitation in the supply chain.
In extreme instances, it’s been reported that women in Colombia can work for 15 hours a day, earning just £24 a week. That’s less than half the living wage in the country.
There are steps you can take to avoid funding these kinds of enterprises:
Buy Local and Seasonal Flowers
Using a website like Flowers from the Farm, you can search for the exact type of flower you want, even specifying by things like pesticide usage. This allows you to make a conscious and measured choice about the distance your flowers have to travel and the impact you might be having.
Grow Your Own
A tried and tested method, there’s no harm in cutting out the middleman and growing your own. Even if the finished product isn’t as polished as what you might get from a professional florist, there’s a certain charm to self-grown decorations at a wedding.
Check for Certification
Organizations like LEAF, the Soil Association, and the Rainforest Alliance are all quality checkers when it comes to the ethicality of flowers being sold in the UK. Look for their stamp of approval on any bouquet you’re buying.
Find a Sustainable Florist
As with most sectors, there are a growing number of florists who are making sustainability a priority. You can spot a sustainable supplier by looking for those who:
- Don’t use floral foam or plastic
- Source local or ethically certified flowers
- Are transparent about how they work and where their flowers come from
Who would have thought so much consideration went into something as simple as a flower? Make sure to keep all this in mind when choosing your bouquets.