Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On a "Green" Wedding

For some reason, our wedding has been labeled 'green' by everyone. Everyone, that is, except us. We aren't trying to be 'green' or 'sustainable' or have an 'eco-friendly' anything. We are trying to apply our normal morals to our wedding, though, and that does include being environmentally conscious.

Plus, I have some serious issues with the words "green" or anything that's called "eco-this" or that is billed as sustainable. I could write frickin novel on my issues with these words and what they have come to mean. First, its super trendy and cool to be green. But a lot of times that doesn't mean actually trying to be environmentally conscious. A lot of times it means buying into new things. Ex: Nalgenes and Sigg water bottles are green in the sense that you don't use water bottles. But how many have you bought, lost, ruined by leaving tea in them over the weekend and not being able to get the nastastic smell out or tried to test the myth that nalgenes are indestructible and had to get a new one? In other words, if you buy enough reusable bottles the 'green' value of them is eventually lost.

Second, a lot of things labeled as green, or eco or sustainable are not. Its just another selling point with too little regulation on who can use those words and how they can be used.* And often too little thought into what sustainability means. Fun story: A boycott was created to boycott any and all products coming from the rainforest. The group was trying to save the rainforest. But by removing the opportunity for people to have income from the rainforest, their alternative was the slash/burn and then farm the land. Not thought through very well.

Third, we need a new way of thinking about the 'environment' and our relationship to it. We are part of the environment. We are not some evil force that needs to be separated and removed from the environment to save it. These key words all link to a separation of humans from the environment - which is false. Being 'eco-friendly' is being 'human-friendly'. The lesson of this is that us changing the environment does not have to mean bad things. The current model of environmentalism is all about reducing our impact. In this model, the goal is zero impact. But that is not going to happen. We have always changed and will always change the environment because we exist. and thats ok. We just have to change it in a different direction.**

That's my rant on environmentalism.***

As far as weddings and specifically our wedding being labeled green, I try to avoid it as much as possible. We are doing what we can and what we have thought of to be conscious of our decisions and their environmental impact. Have we succeeded? I don't know. We could definitely have done more. Actually, not having a wedding at all is way more sustainable than having a wedding. But thats not realistic and I DO NOT think being sustainable has to mean giving up everything.

Sustainability is hard. Its not cheap. And can take a lot of effort and thought. But that is because right now, the current unsustainable system is backed by heavy federal dollars, lots of lobbying, and lots of crazy American culture. Our personal choices make a difference, but large scale change needs to occur for us to truly change the direction that we are going.

In the meantime, we are each finding where our line is. What effort, what cost are we willing or able to give to be a better citizen of the environment? How much change are we willing or able go through to change the way we interact with the environment? Because we don't know where the line between sustainable and unsustainable is. We are all feeling it out our own lines on our own terms.

*Side rant: why should the responsible parties be forced to add the adjective. I think those causing the problems should be given the burden of adjectives. So then you'd see labels such as "Industrial Beef!" "Pure toxic cleaner!" and the 'organic' options can just become the norm. No adjective needed.
Want an awesome, perspective changing read? Check out this book.
***Who was an Environment and Natural Resource major? Me!

Image via mclcbooks and since this is a wedding blog I put a green flower that we will have at our wedding on my post about being green. so clever...


  1. Sorry to respond to a well-written intellectual post with a shallow comment... but green spider mums are the only thing that make me second-guess the no-flowers policy for our wedding.

  2. Brilliant, Jen.

    Never even thought about the origin of all those words.

    You bring up a really good point about this "movement." It's creating waste by "being green." The water bottles that are made with less plastic, are still plastic. I worked at a college and we gave all the students/faculty/staff reusable mugs. Everyone carried them around and used them everywhere. It's been a almost two years and I take mine EVERYWHERE.

    I presented on Permaculture at a conference and connected with this really rad higher ed professional from Cali. His campus was practicing Permaculture by teaching the students how to care for the campus- how to do payroll, fix plumbing, and how to fix roofs. Now that's some sustainable stuff right there.

    And, am I a jerk for thinking this way... but are building brand new LEAD buildings necessary? Isn't it taking away from the land just like any structure we build? I get the green roofs and all the other stuff, but it's still taking away land.

  3. Break Through looks like a great book, and at 67c used? Hells yes, bought.

    "Third, we need a new way of thinking about the 'environment' and our relationship to it. We are part of the environment. We are not some evil force that needs to be separated and removed from the environment to save it."


    I've honestly never put a whole lot of thought into living sustainably, and I know, if you agree with the Vegans in my life, that is awful. Starting to think more about it lately, and your perspective certainly makes it seem more attainable.

  4. AMEN to everything. As someone whose done a lot of research on the "eco" side of textiles, so much of what is advertised is bull sh!t. Wish people would wake up and realize they are being bamboozled.

    Weddings are such a difficult arena to try to be sustainable in, because for most of us this is our first time doing this, so we don't know all the ins and outs to cut down waste and what all choices we have. Really more people need to champion reusing what already exists, because I think that's the most environmentally friendly way to go.

  5. @hitchdied - lol, thats totally fine because spider mums are indeed brilliant! and they make us rethink our no boutinierre status because one of those would look bomb against his charcoal suit! ...mmm....nummy...

    @Angie - Its definitely takes some effort and thought to really pick out what is sustainable and what isn't. Some things we do to try to be sustainable can actually make things worse while some things do make it better...but we gotta try!

    @Lizzie - great! I really hope you like Break Through! That is one of the books that significantly changed the way I think. And I would not say that its "awful" of you. I hate the game. Not the playa! :)

    @Ms. Bunny - True that! The 'choice' thing for weddings is especially hard. Being sustainable is lots of work and lots of money sustainable options for weddings are significantly limited by those two factors. And I totally think "recycle" is a bitch. It stole the limelight from its much cooler siblings, "reduce" and "reuse". They deserve much more attention than they currently get!