Hearing the news this week that the Amazon Rainforest was burning shook me to the core in so many ways. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “Tropical forests alone hold more than 228 to 247 gigatons of carbon, which is more than seven times the amount emitted each year by human activities. But when forests are cut, burned or otherwise removed they emit carbon instead of absorbing carbon.” The enormity of this can leave us to feel powerless, small and unprotected. I know natural disasters are common these days in our changing climate, but what’s happening here and in wildlife refuges across the world is created by human interference. So I figure as a human, I should interfere in different ways and use this opportunity to discuss these larger issues like deforestation and what we can do about it with our everyday actions and also while wedding planning.
As a designer who creates with paper for a living, I’m acutely aware of what a vital and precious resource trees are. Because of that, the way I aim to create is intentional and very conservative by wedding industry standards. News like this can make you want to abandon using paper altogether and if that’s your empowerment, by all means, go for it. But I know that’s not the answer for many people, especially. when planning a wedding garnered with a certain level of tradition. So what should people like you and me do? I know every small decision we make and every small shift in awareness of the materials we use is important. So I’ve thought of a few ideas that might help us navigate how to make our lives and wedding days kinder to the trees.
A good place to start is how you’re reading this.
Plant Trees with Your Searches
Wedding planning involves so much research! Even if you are working with a planner, the internet has become an invaluable tool. That’s how you found me, right! When I heard about Ecosia a few years ago it rivaled itself against Google but I felt it came up lacking. Since then, they’ve grown and improved their services tremendously and it’s become my go-to. They’ve planted 60 million trees and counting around the world. What I appreciate about their company, is the transparency with which they share the efforts made, encouragement change through action and making it so darn simple. It truly demonstrates the power of social good and I hope it serves as a model for the future. Don’t worry, they mostly work in the Atlantic Forest, not the Amazon, so their trees haven’t been affected so far. And for the record, this is not a sponsored post, I just really like using the service and will no doubt mention them again in future posts.
Use Paper Responsibly
Like I mentioned before, you can go completely digital with your wedding stationery. There is no shame from this stationery lover if that is the choice that’s best for you. If you can go completely digital in all areas of your life, then all power to you! And please comment with your insight!
But for the rest, it takes a bit of compromise and informing yourself about the choices you have, in order to make the best decisions for you and what you want for your day.
I can get really in-depth on this and will dedicate a post just about paper for all of you who want to nerd out with me. But the quick version of responsibility looks like this to me.
1. Source the best possible materials you can afford. FSC sourced and 100% recycled materials have become standards, but within that grouping, handmade and alternative material papers like seed paper, or tree-free options of bamboo, hemp, and even elephant waste are good options. Paper from cotton can be a tricky area because so much water (and chemicals) goes into growing it. Look for stationery without a lot of embellishments or coatings which can make the paper unrecyclable again.
2. Be thoughtful of how you use paper and how you can conserve. Stationers will hate me for saying this, but you might not need as much paper goods for your day as you think. But well thought out, intentionally used stationery is an incredible way to connect with your wedding guests. That’s for a longer post too. Look at the why and how you’re going to use paper for your event and make it serve you well.
3. Consider if the life cycle is important to you. Is it reusable in any way? Can you cut up your leftovers for another use like tags or cards? Where does it go when you’re done with it? Will it end up in a recycle bin or can it have another life? This is where seed paper is an amazing product. It composts into plants you can enjoy again.
Follow the Connections
I don’t exactly mean literally, although getting out in nature is one of the best things you can do to find compassion and connection for the living things around us. But as the saying goes you can’t see the forest for the trees, well I urge you to research the big picture and really see the forest. How did we get to this end result? In the case of forestry, industrialization gave way to logging, mining, oil drilling, large scale agriculture and ranching in areas that were not designed to sustain those activities. The rainforest, in particular, is well suited to grow fruits and vegetables but the global demand has brought on more stress than it can handle. More and more land has to be cleared to make it productive for worldwide demand for products like bananas, pineapples, tea, coffee, palm oil, and sugar cane. Cattle ranching alone accounts for more than three-quarters of the destruction in the Amazon alone.
I share this not to make you never want to buy anything, but to encourage knowledge in the complexity of these issues. The more we learn to start thinking in systems, how one thing relates to another, the more clear the problems and solutions will become.
So as you plan for your wedding day, think of how your decisions relate to each other. Assemble a team that is cohesively minded and compassionate towards your vision, especially if it comes to low waste. Encourage them to work together to solve the problems and concerns you have. And tackle the issues with knowledge and understanding.
To take this mindset into practical terms, one of the best things you can do is consume local goods. Base your menu around what’s in-season where you live. Especially here in New England, late spring, summer, and fall weddings are common because of the gorgeous weather but they also coincide with good growing seasons. Using what’s fresh and available means you won’t have to import goods from areas that had to be deforested to grow them. Fewer carbon emissions will be made in transporting them, and you are supporting your local economy instead of a global industry. Despite where your conscience lies on animal products, local plant-based eating uses up less natural resources, energy, and water to produce. Ask your caterer or venue about adding more plant-based options into the menu.
That also extends to sustainably derived cosmetics and fabrics. See if you can supplement parts of your beauty routine and wedding day style for products that are not made from harmfully sourced ingredients and practices. I’m looking at you palm oil and exploitative fast fashion.
I put this last on the list because I don’t want to give in to the notion that throwing money at a problem is the only way to make an impact. Done without proper research, it can be more harmful than good for your personal finances. I know it can be difficult to find reputable sources to donate to and social media often lures you into making small commitments to organizations that you’ve never heard about. But if you want to support the actions that others take, wisely voting with your dollars can sometimes be the best way to make a big change.
I always try to support local charities philanthropic organizations first. That way my money is staying in my direct economy and I have the benefit of seeing the impact first hand. In the areas of forestry, consider giving to local environmental and wildlife conservancies, nature centers, land protection coalitions and the like. If national or global is more what you’re after Charity Navigator offers some good advice as well as information to make sound giving decisions.
Instead of favors that get thrown away, consider making a contribution to an organization that fights deforestation or purchase saplings for guests to plant in their backyards. We’ve heard great things about Little Saps and other companies along those lines.
If this post made an impact on you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Much love + growth,