According to SAGE (Sound Advice For A Green Earth), the average American wedding produces over 56 metric tons of carbon dioxide. This number is more than double what the average American produces per year, and nearly 15 times more than the world average. Kinda scary, right? To save our planet, we need to drastically cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. Here are some eco-friendly wedding ideas to help you do just that!
1. Say “I Don’t” To A Destination Wedding
Destination weddings may be dreamy, and we’re by all means for ’em if that’s your thing, but if you’re really trying to help the environment, ditch the destination and have a local wedding. Travel and transportation is the biggest source of wedding day carbon dioxide emissions.
According to science, a round-trip flight across America emits nearly 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide per person. That represents over 5% of the average American’s carbon dioxide emissions for the year (and about 33% of what we should be producing!). Driving cross-country is even less eco-friendly.
On our list of eco-friendly wedding ideas, this one has the biggest impact. Opt to keep things local to minimize the amount your guests need to travel.
2. Pick An Eco-Friendly Venue
A beautiful wedding at a Minnesota vineyard | Photo: Michelle Huber Photography
Getting married outdoors is a major way to cut down on energy, because you’re letting the sun provide all your lighting and air-conditioning. Botanical gardens, hilltops, lakeshores, backyards, barns, farms, and vineyards are all excellent choices for an eco-friendly venue, and there are lots of these to choose from in the Midwest (tip: browse our articles about venues!).
If outdoor events aren’t for you, try to make your indoor event as eco-friendly as possible. We recommend holding your ceremony and reception in the same place, as this will eliminate the need for traveling between locations (and thus reduce your carbon footprint!). We also suggest flat out asking your potential venue about its practices. How will trash be managed? Can compost bins be set up?
3. Choose Plastic-Free Drinkware (And Dinnerware!
Choose glass, not plastic! | Photo by chuttersnap via Unsplash
We know those red Solo cups are oh-so-charming, but single-use plastic is awful for the environment! Instead, find a good party rental company and opt for reusable glasses, plates, and silverware. You can also purchase these things from a thrift store, then donate them after the shingdig. Your guests will love eating on sturdy real plates rather than ugly paper or plastic ones, and the earth will thank you, too!
Alternative: if you really must have disposable ware, try looking for compostable options.
4. Cue The (Biodegradable) Confetti
Leaves, flowers, petals, herbs — anything is better than paper confetti! | Photo: Isabella Romussi via Unsplash
Perhaps one of the most simple thing on our eco-friendly wedding ideas list: have your guests throw leaves, dried flowers, fresh herbs, rose petals, and bubbles at you rather than rice or bits of paper. Make them available to your guests in recyclable bags or glass jars that can be cleaned out and reused.
5. Choose Local Flowers That Are In Season
Local flowers > Imported flowers | Photo: Rob Sarmiento via Unsplash
Select in-season, locally grown flowers and food whenever possible. Try to avoid imported flowers because they need to be transported from far away, which increases fuel consumption. Delicate flowers may need to be transported with lots of packaging to protect them, like plastic tubes, that aren’t too great for the environment.
As centerpieces or wedding favors, consider plants that guests can take home with them and care for in their homes or yards. After your event, you can also donate your flowers to a hospital to cheer someone up!
6. Plan An Eco-Friendly Menu
Go buffet-style to eliminate waste!
Like flowers, it’s best to choose in-season, locally grown food whenever it is possible. To help out the environment even more, opt for plant-based dishes and opt to serve food buffet-style. The latter will cut down on waste because people only take what they want.
7. Pick Wedding Clothes With Care
This wedding gown from Celia Grace was made from repurposed silk
The most helpful thing for the environment (and your wallet!) would be to get a wedding dress that has already been worn, like mom’s. Alterations can be made to make it look modern and new. If you’re not looking to buy brand new, there are so many resources out there to find the dress of your dreams, from online options like NearlyNewlywed and Poshmark to local thrift stores. You can even rent a dress from Rent The Runway.
The same goes for bridesmaids dresses! You can also consider letting your girls wear a dress they already own (hey, mismatched bridesmaids dresses are in right now!).
If you’re committed to buying new, seek out eco-friendly lines and organic fabrics. Avoid synthetic materials wherever possible!
8. Choose Your Ring Responsibly
This engagement ring by Olive Avenue Jewelry features moissanite instead of a diamond, making it more ethical and affordable!
When shopping for your engagement ring and wedding bands, take extra care to make sure you know where your diamond is coming from. Today, most diamonds come from stable countries, but still around 20% come from areas that engage in mining practices where environment, health, and human rights abuses are a concern. Be sure to ask your jeweler about where their diamonds are sourced.
Or, totally change it up and opt for a diamond-alternative ring! (We stan moissanite hard; it looks similar to a diamond but is more ethical and inexpensive!) You could also reuse an old ring by buying vintage or using a family heirloom.
9. Send Out Eco-Friendly Invitations
Opt for wedding invitation suites that have been printed on recycled paper | Photo by Amanda Vick Creative
The most obvious eco-friendly choice here is to simply eliminate paper and only send out electronic invites. As much as we love the thought of reducing our carbon footprint, we just can’t imagine going without printed invites! In that case, we recommend invitation suites that are printed on recycled paper. And remember to encourage your guests to recycle, not trash, the invites after the wedding, too!
10. Choose Edible, Usable, or Grow-able Wedding Favors
Soap makes for a usable, eco-friendly wedding favor! | Photo by Kristina Balić via Unsplash
Everyone loves food! Opt to hand out favors that are edible and won’t go to waste. Bonus points if they’re from a local source! We also love the idea of homemade soap or candles, or even giving out plants as wedding favors so your guests can take a piece of your wedding home with them and watch it grow!
11. Keep It Small
The smaller the event, the smaller the carbon footprint. Keeping your guest list to a minimum not only will save you some cash, it’s better for the environment, too. We’re crazy about intimate weddings, and if you are considering one, knowing it’s healthier for the environment may help you finalize that decision.
The reality? We know it’s unlikely for you to do every thing on this list. And that’s totally fine. Incorporating even one or two of these eco-friendly wedding ideas into your wedding planning process can make a major impact. Mother Earth will thank you!
Psst! Did you like this post? Check out more of our eco-friendly wedding tips!