Commitment: The Green Bride Guide is an incredibly helpful guide to planning a “green” or earth-friendly wedding on any budget. What inspired you to write this book?
Kate L. Harrison: This was the book I wish I had had when my husband Barry and I were planning our wedding in 2006. What I discovered while we were planning was that there were actually hundreds of eco-friendly wedding products and services available on the market but they were scattered. I spent hours pouring over magazines, books, and wedding blogs and at the end of the day, collected everything I had found and put it in one place - organized by price so that others could save time, money, and hassle. I really wanted going green to be as easy as possible.
Commitment: What exactly is a “green” wedding?
Kate: I define a green wedding as any wedding any wedding where the couple tries to decrease the impact of their event on the planet. Even making one green choice can make a difference, when you consider the fact that there are almost 2.5 million weddings a year in the United States!
Commitment: Although The Green Bride Guide is written for women planning a wedding, it seems that the advice you impart can be used for any big party or life event. Is this true?
Kate: Absolutely! And not just parties, there is a lot of everyday stuff in there too (like how to find local recycling centers, green dry cleaners, etc.). I also included vendor worksheets in the back of the book, so even if someone does not have a vendor who is advertising themselves as eco-friendly in their area, they can use the list of questions in the back to talk to any vendor about simple substitutions to help them go green – no matter what the occasion!
Commitment: If for logistical or other reasons, a person cannot plan an entirely earth friendly event, what are the main parts of the event she should focus on?
Kate: My general rule of thumb is that the more something costs, the more impact you can have by making a green choice. As three of the largest wedding expenses are food (~$10,000), jewelry (~$6,000), and flowers (~$2,000) I encourage couples to try to focus on these items. For food and flowers, go local and seasonal whenever possible, so nothing has to be shipped in from overseas. In addition to decreasing the carbon footprint of the event, these choices can save you a ton of money! For jewelry, I suggest using vintage or heirloom stones and having your rings made out of recycled metals.
Commitment: How important is it to plan a green event?
Kate: When thinking about the impact of weddings on the environment, I like to use the example of disposable aisle runners. It may not seem like a big deal to buy one of these, but if every couple did and they were laid end to end, those aisle runners would wrap around the earth twice! (And that is just the aisle runners for weddings in the United States for one year). Conversely, if every couple spent just 10% of their catering budget on organic ingredients, it would add $2.5 billion to the organic movement a year. The impact from these events is gigantic and every green choice matters.
Commitment: Are there different degrees of green products or services? How can a bride-to-be distinguish between them?
Kate: There are many shades of green and it is often hard to decide which choice is “best.” For example, when you buy organic produce from Chile, you decrease the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used on the earth and increase the demand for sustainably produced food. That’s good. But when you buy locally grown conventional produce, it has a smaller carbon footprint, which effects global warming. So that is also good. Experts debate back and forth about which option is better and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and disheartened by the question of which option is the “greenest.” Instead, I encourage couples to find the choices that are right for them, without worrying too much about whether they are the best. The fact that they are thinking about it at all is a great step! That said, greenwashing is a problem, and I have worked hard to create a system for vetting the vendors I feature in the book and on our website. I also encourage couples to seek out certified eco-friendly products (e.g. organic, fair trade, etc.) whenever possible.
Commitment: What are some ideas for environmentally friendly party favors?
Kate: I am very fond of the tree and seed favors, but I also have the luxury of having a big garden! For our wedding, my husband and I carbon offset our guests’ travel in lieu of favors, and a donation to your favorite charity is always in style. That said, organic and fair trade chocolates are fail-safe crowd pleasers.
Commitment: Many of your ideas – using organic rose petals as an aisle at an outdoor wedding, wearing all natural cosmetics and hair dyes, borrowing shoes from a friend – are both creative and original! How did you come up with such ideas?
Kate: Many of the ideas I saw at weddings I attended, or read about online. Some of the more unusual ones, like decorating tables with “objects de art” (e.g. books, old tools, vintage watering cans, etc.), or placing flowers in unique containers, I got from watching my husband. He is a tinkerer and likes to refurbish and repurpose antiques, so our house is full of objects used in unusual ways. It really frees the mind.
Commitment: Is planning an eco-conscious wedding more work than a traditional one?
Kate: Not anymore! You can find everything you need in one handy, inexpensive reference book (wink). But really, you have to make all of the decisions anyway. You have to choose invitations, and napkins, and a dress, and so all that it takes to plan a green wedding when you boil it down is keeping the environmental impact of those choices in mind as you decide. In some ways it can be easier to plan a green wedding, because it can limit the realm of choices to a more manageable number. For example, there are probably 100,000 invitation designs, and only 1,000 eco-friendly options. As a thousand is more than most couples want to look through anyway, it can make the task easier.
Commitment: Is it important to inform the guests at a green wedding about the green decisions the bride and groom have made?
Kate: I think it is really important to let guests know about the green choices you make. In addition to being better for the environment, having a green wedding is an opportunity to show friends and family members that you don't have to sacrifice style or comfort to go green. Because many eco-friendly options look just like their conventionally made counterparts, guests won't know they are green unless you tell them. I suggest including a small blurb on the back of the program, on your wedding website or on the inside of the seating cards explaining what you did and why. Letting guests know about your choices can also help you realize them. For example, if they know recycling is important to you they will be more likely to separate out their trash and won’t throw away your compostable plates.
Commitment: Do most green brides go on to become green wives, green mothers, etc.?
Kate: I have not seen any studies on this, but anecdotal evidence suggests that people who identify themselves as green keep those values throughout their lives. It is hard to imagine that someone who takes the time to consider the environmental impact of their wedding wouldn’t take the same amount of time worrying about the environmental impact of the world on their newborn baby. Once you see how easy some of the options are (like using biodegradable cleaners, or organic shampoo) it is hard to go back – and when those choices save you money, like Energy Star Appliances, you see that going green just makes sense.
Commitment: Where can readers get more information on planning a green event?
Kate: I would encourage them to come poke about on my website (www.thegreenbrideguide.com). There they can find pictures and stories from real green weddings, lessons from couples after the big day, eco-friendly products, and much much more. I also encourage them to come back and share what they find with others. The green community is growing every day. There are now hundreds of ways to save money and be eco chic at the same time. Go green!
Kate L. Harrison is a Yale School of Forestry graduate with a J.D. in Environmental Law. Kate is gardener, potter, and outdoor enthusiast.
For more information about planning a Green Wedding, visit Kate at her website, www.thegreenbrideguide.com.
To purchase The Green Bride Guide, click here.