My Big, Fat Green Wedding

A wedding is cause for joy and celebration. It is also a time to pause and think about personal values and your environmental footprint as you step into your future life.

Start with the basics: Print your own invitations on recycled paper and register for energy-efficient appliances. Offset guests' travel instead of purchasing traditional favors. Then, get creative about ways to make your special day a little greener. As always, choose local businesses and organic products first.

The Rings
The first step in the journey to matrimony, once you have met and wooed the right person, is thinking about an engagement ring. The standard diamond set on a gold band from the mall jewelry store is surprisingly wasteful, something I wish I had known before my own engagement. Before your head starts swimming with colors and carats, consider that gold mining is one of the dirtiest businesses in the world. Producing a single gold ring results in 20 to 30 tons of waste products and pollution, not to mention the political corruption and human toll surrounding many of the precious metal and jewel-mining industries.

Fortunately, socially and environmentally friendly options abound. Use family heirloom jewelry. Look on eBay or in antique stores for used rings. For a newer look or your own design, many companies recycle old jewelry by melting down the metals and resetting the stones to create new rings. Others make custom-designed rings out of renewable materials such as wood.

The Dress
Many of us dream about the perfect dress from the age of 5, but buying a dress that you only intend to wear once is wasteful. Before you commit to a dress that will live indefinitely in your attic after its debut, check out other options. Alter your mom's dress. Find a gently used or vintage dress at the local consignment shop. Rent or borrow a dress. Make a dress out of environmentally friendly fabrics such as natural hemp/silk blends. Pick a white or ivory dress that is suitable to wear on other occasions after the wedding, or even buy a standard bridal-shop dress, then sell or donate it after your wedding to extend its useful life.

In the end, despite at least three generous offers of beautiful dresses from my female relatives, I wanted to find the perfect new dress of my own and preserve it in my attic for my hypothetical daughter. However, I made so many other environmentally friendly choices with food, favors and flowers that I felt it was an allowable indulgence.

The Flowers
What type of flowers will you carry with your gown or pin to your tuxedo lapel? The standard florist fare is pesticide-intensive, and usually grown out of season and outside the country, accruing high levels of transportation-related pollution. Also, the workers who help grow the flowers suffer health problems as a result of exposure to chemical pesticides. So make the choice to green your bouquet.

There are simple solutions to the problem of flowers. Choose an outdoor location for your wedding, so that you need fewer flowers to decorate with. Borrow or rent live plants from a florist or garden center, which can be sold later after you return them. Order organic flowers online or request them from your neighborhood florist. You can also arrange dried or silk flowers and reuse them. Grow your own wedding flowers with the help of compost and organic seeds, or buy locally grown flowers from the farmer's market. Prolong the life of your flowers by donating them to a hospital, church or nursing home after the wedding.

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