by Alexandria Johnson, Courtesy of Medill Reports
When moving in together, Kristin Seubold and Patrick Joyce made sure to live within walking distance from work or public transportation. They rarely use their car. They eat locally sourced food, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken. They have fluorescent bulbs in all their light fixtures. So it comes as no surprise that their wedding in March also focused on eco-conscious practices.
“We kind of fell into the environmentally friendly part in the sense that that’s just how we live, so it would just naturally escalate,” said Joyce, an environmental lawyer.
Green weddings have been a growing trend throughout the United States since around 2007. These weddings focus on reducing waste all the way from the engagement dinner to the reception and honeymoon.
According to a 2013 study by David’s Bridal, nearly half of brides surveyed said they planned to be eco-conscious while planning their weddings – numbers that were around 10 percent in 2007 when Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget, was planning her wedding.
“[Green weddings are] here to stay. It’s totally gone mainstream, and we see more and more products,” said Harrison, who is a marketing director at mywedding.com.
Seubold and Joyce were able to reduce their impact on the environment during their wedding by using vendors from the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance, which encourages sustainable wedding practices and brings together a variety of socially responsible vendors who focus on different areas of wedding planning.
The couple’s first step toward a sustainable wedding was working with FIG Catering, which focuses on environmentally friendly food service. The company catered Joyce and Seubold’s engagement dinner and made an effort to use local farms to reduce emissions from transporting food. For instance, the wedding reception featured meat from Slagel Farms in Fairbury, Illinois.
“I think there is a big demand and businesses are growing and starting to reach out. I think it becomes easier for everyone,” said Molly Schemper, owner of FIG Catering.
The couple’s environmental efforts included the venue for the reception and the florist. The couple used a LEED-certified hotel for 144 wedding guests and encouraged them to use public transpiration to travel around the city. They used Black Dog Gelato, a local business, for their dessert instead of buying a cake. Their wedding favors included recycled grocery bags filled with goodies.
“We were presented with … really great options that were appealing to us and then found and tried to fit in other things,” said Seubold.
The average wedding in the United States produces 62 tons of carbon dioxide and 400 to 600 pounds of garbage, according to The Green Bride Guide. The interest in reducing that negative environmental impact has created a new niche for vendors and wedding planners. Along with writing her book, Harrison also created an online green wedding planning certification course.
When Carlene Smith came to Chicago, she needed a way to make her wedding planning business stand out in a big city with lots of planners. She is now the owner of Naturally Yours Events, a wedding planning company in Chicago that specializes in green weddings.
“I created the business over the model of being green and having an environmentally friendly focus. It’s been very good for me. A lot of couples really like the idea,” Smith said.
States such as New York and California have been at the forefront of the green wedding movement, Harrison said, but Chicago’s Green Wedding Alliance has been important for growing the trend in Midwest.
“In states that lead the way in environmental policies, green weddings have followed,” Harrison said. “I think the whole country has work to do. The demand is outpacing the offering. I encourage all vendors everywhere to consider going green.”
The average U.S. wedding already carries a total price tag of around $30,000, according to a 2013 survey by TheKnot.com. And some brides and grooms are concerned that a green wedding will add to the cost. But they needn’t be, green wedding vendors say.
“It is comparable. Some things cost more and some less. It ends up evening out,” Harrison said. “Organic food costs more. It is one of the hard things to avoid. But if you use locally grown flowers, they are very affordable and green.”
Other ways to make weddings “greener” and cut costs includes borrowing a wedding dress and encouraging reception venues to switch to fluorescent light bulbs.
“Green is no longer an aesthetic decision. It’s an approach,” Harrison said. “It’s really just about identifying simple substitutions.”
For Seubold and Joyce, they continued their green efforts in small ways after the wedding. They took public transit throughout their honeymoon in Europe. Looking back eight months later, the two agree making their wedding green was relatively easy.
“The biggest thing that helped getting all the different vendors together was they all seemed to know each other and they work together all the time,” Joyce said. His wife added, “You could see how much they trusted each other. They all worked together and know each other. There’s a really nice network.”