If you’ve been hanging out on online lately, chances are you’ve come across a post, article or friend talking about what plastic is doing to our environment and our health. Maybe you’ve already started looking at the single use plastic usage in your personal life, workplace or at local businesses. And If you have no idea what I’m talking about, start with my post about Plastic Free July here, after you read this.
The awareness of our #plasticproblem has sky rocketed and I love seeing my friends, family and this online community rallying in efforts to reduce single use plastic. To say the least, it’s made July a really mindful month! It’s been a big reminder that reducing plastic might start in your home (like it did mine) but it doesn’t have to end there. It can be reduced or eliminated in nearly every part of your life and that includes your wedding day too.
The first time I saw the term #plasticfreeweddings was in coming across a promotion on IG that Daniela Ortiz Photography was doing to help her community of Cabos, Mexico, fight the plastic use that was littering beaches and destroying marine life. It got me thinking about how much plastic is being used at weddings in obvious and some often sneaky ways.
So to end Plastic Free July with a bang I thought I’d look at some uncommonly thought of ways that plastic is present in weddings and how to reduce or eliminate it!
There’s been lots of talk about straws lately, but sadly these cousins often get forgotten about in the #stopsucking movement. These tiny thin straws that swirl around in your Old Fashioned, like regular straws don’t often get recycled. For starters because they’ve been in your mouth, and even if some brave soul got them to the recycle bin, they’d quickly fall out of the machines due to their size and shape. I was intrigued to find out that 20 minutes is the average use for a straw. So unless there’s a necessity to use one, most guests can skip it. Below are my favorite ways to #skipthestraw.WHAT TO DO?
When you’re looking to hire a bar service (through a venue, caterer or private company) politely ask if they can accommodate limiting or even eliminating straws for the night. Explain the straw free movement and why it’s important to you. Offer to buy a handful of bent stainless steel straws to keep behind the bar for guests who really need them. I’ve seen a pack of 5 for $10 and in the grand scheme of things that’s a small price to pay to keep hundreds of straws from being used. You can take them home with you or give them to guests who really loved using them. For guests who ask for a straw, the best substitution I’ve seen so far is dried pasta. Zitoni (a elongated form of ziti) is what seems to be best. It’s inexpensive, works surprisingly well for sipping and stirring, and is uniquely memorable for your guests. It might even start the conversation and encourage them towards the #strawless movement.
WEDDING DRESS AND VEIL
In the girlhood fantasies of the perfect wedding attire, I’m pretty sure no plastic wasn’t in the description. Unless you’ve been involved in the #zerowaste or #ethicalfashion communities, chances are you may not have even been aware to look at it. But the majority of wedding dresses are made with some sort of synthetic plastic based fabric. Rayon and polyester are the most commonly recognized but satin, chiffon, organza, taffeta, tulle, and velvet can be (and often are) all made from man-made materials. Ironically even silkworms have gone extinct in the wild, and they are mainly farm grown because of such high demand.
The awful truth is in all likelihood the dress and veil will only be worn once. It then is cleaned and preserved for storage by a chemical dry cleaning process. Sentimentality aside it is unfortunately like a single use plastic.
WHAT TO DO?
Many designers are making gowns from naturally grown materials like organic cotton, hemp, linen, bamboo, eucalyptus tencel, and responsibly harvested silks. If designers are using such fabrics they will often be transparent about it, but it never hurts to ask where and how your dress is made.
BALLOONS + BUBBLES
Current decorating trends towards minimalism and greenery have helped to encourage less plastic and wasteful decor but balloons and bubbles seem to be the two things that are plastic mainstays of weddings. Mylar (the foil type balloon) is the brand name for a special type of stretched polyester film, called BoPET (biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate if you wanna get fancy). There are only three recycling plants in the U.S. that will accept Mylar. So the chances of your balloon getting there is slim to none. And while natural latex (a form of rubber) may be biodegradable, after adding chemicals, plasticizers and dyes it is no longer natural in my opinion. Balloons rarely pop in one piece but rather separate scattered pieces that degrade over time (making infinitely smaller pieces) but never biodegrade in a natural process. These pieces often end up in the ocean for marine life to swallow and in landfill.
Commercially made bubbles solutions are made of a surfactant (soap), a polymer and water. Mostly packaged in plastic containers with plastic wands and sized smaller than your average bubble bottle for kids, they would probably not be recycled if they even could be.
WHAT TO DO?
There are so many ways to decorate with natural materials. Hand painted wooden signs, fabric draping or bunting, greenery swags, candles in hanging bottles, confetti made of leaves, natural feathers, bird seed, and dried or fresh flower petals just to name a few. Save money as well by choosing natural decor that be reused after the wedding.
I know what your thinking, paper is recyclable! Well, when it comes to wedding invitations and most printed material that’s only partially true. While the virgin paper is biodegradable and recyclable, lots of invitations are made of paper that’s been coated with thin synthetics like varnishes, UV coatings and film laminates. These coatings add varying degrees of gloss, shine, and texture while foils provide metallic finishes. So often we think we’re making a good choice in using recycled paper but are uniformed of the process that is involved. Papers coated with plastic or aluminium foil, and papers that are waxed, pasted, or gummed are usually not recycled because the process is too expensive. Paper can only be recycled approximately eight times, because the recycling process weakens the cellulose or organic plant fibers.
WHAT TO DO?
Some couples decide to go paperless. With a wedding website and/or emailed invitations they eliminate paper all together. If that’s isn’t right for your event then you have a few great paper based options. Look for invitations on uncoated paper (FSC certified preferred) or alternative papers like hemp or bamboo (they take less water to produce), with minimal processing (no fancy inks, coatings, or foils).
Plantable paper is the option I fell in love with when looking for eco-friendly alternatives. What we use is handmade paper made from paper stock rescued from offices and schools. I say rescued because shredded paper is not recyclable (therefore it would be sent straight to landfill). It’s made into new biodegradable paper pulp with seeds in it so that it has the opportunity to degrade naturally and grow wildflowers or herbs (depending on the chosen stock). You can read all about it here. It’s a way to keep the circle going by reusing what’s available and then giving it back to the earth.
I’m always amazed by how taking one step towards reducing plastic can open up so many other ways that you might not have considered. I hope this post encourages your journey towards a more eco-friendly wedding.
If Plastic Free July has inspired you to dive in, my dear friend Corey Lynn Tucker Photography is offering a free engagement session for couples who choose to have a plastic free wedding day! Her beautiful photography and thoughtful approach express a deep appreciation for nature.
I am so proud to be a part of a growing community of wedding vendors and couples that are supportive of this #zerowastewedding movement. If you love this post head to our free Facebook Group to connect, learn and grow with like minded people. From engaged couples planning weddings, married ones with experience to share, and wedding professionals from all over the world, they’re ready to answer your questions.
Speaking of questions, I’d love to know your thoughts. What change do you want to see to make weddings more eco-friendly? Leave an answer in the comments below.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me.