By Kate Harris and Keith Tharp
First, without listing all of the many ways, let’s acknowledge that weddings have traditionally been a very wasteful industry in general. To help you implement the 5 ideas below, here are some tips to help you have success and reduce waste in general at your wedding.
Keep the guest list small, this is just a simple way to keep waste more manageable. And with a smaller guest list all of the waste reduction ideas you embark on become easier to implement. Find low waste minded vendors. Your best intentions can easily be thwarted by a vendor that prioritizes ease and efficiency over waste concerns. Some vendors may even have policies directly contradicting your waste reduction ideas and goals. As with every aspect of your wedding, have an active communication policy with everyone. Make sure you’re discussing your waste reduction goals with all of your vendors, guests, and your partner.
How does food waste rank in the overall scheme? Reducing food waste is one of the top five solutions to our climate crisis according to Project Drawdown. And it’s the leading solution in terms of our individual opportunities to reduce our impact, with adopting a plant-based diet being number two. Around 40% of food in America ends up uneaten, rendering all the energy to produce it as wasted and adding to landfills. Once in landfills, the organic matter won’t decompose as it’s meant to, taking up dwindling space and emitting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
Most recent statistics show that 21% of fresh water in the US is used to produce food that ends up uneaten. Discarded food comprises one fifth of municipal waste destined for landfills. What’s more, vegan food is delicious, and if given the choice I think we can all agree we would rather enjoy consuming it versus throwing it away!
Yet, the restaurant and event industries see enormous quantities of food wasted daily. Given that food is such a conscious decision of ours, we should commit just as wholeheartedly to not wasting it, as we do to the enjoyment of eating it. Fortunately, many vendors are ready to collaborate in making this happen, and resources have become more plentiful.
So, take some time to figure out your options and make a plan with your vendor team!
PACKAGE UP LEFTOVERS
Nothing is better than taking a few days off from the kitchen after your celebration. We provided food storage containers for our catering team to package up all leftovers. Then spent the next four days savoring all the flavors we were too busy to enjoy on wedding day. Plenty of family and friends stuck around to help, and it was like raiding mom’s fridge back in high school. Picnics every night!
Sadly, enjoying your own leftovers might not be an option. Whether you don’t have the fridge space, or are having a destination wedding, it doesn’t mean someone else can’t enjoy your celebratory noshings. Many food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters will take leftovers. Some won’t, so you have to do a bit of research. Use this link to locate a food bank.
Animal sanctuaries are great places to offload unused food. While our preference would be to find sanctuaries, many small farms keep animals as pets too, and can be a great option if you can source them. Pigs, goats, chickens, and more will thoroughly enjoy food scraps. Many also have compost piles you can contribute to with prior arrangement. Using Google or state vegan forums (Facebook, or other) can help you locate places.
This is one of the easier options (depending on your location), since you don’t have to worry as much about the packaging and food safety concerns. Food as compost gets turned into nutrient dense organic material which can be used to grow more food. While composting is gaining popularity, it’s nowhere near as prevalent as we wish.
In New England, we are lucky to have some great options like Mr. Fox, Garbage to Garden, and No Waste Compost in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont. LA has Compostable, NY has GrowNYC, and many cities have options at farmers markets. Plus many municipal compost programs are springing up.
The tricky part is that not all composters are equal. Some have restrictions on what material is accepted. Vegan food is always a go, but some facilities don’t have the means to break down plant based plastics and other containers requiring commercial composting facilities. Here, certain temperatures are needed to begin the breakdown process, which requires rotating piles of compost and a more elaborate cycle than what’s typically found in your backyard. The site https://findacomposter.com/ was somewhat helpful, but not comprehensive. Good Start Packaging also has a helpful locator.
This may be the hardest, and least desirable option, but there are some creative ways to make it a more appealing option for everyone involved. Rather than having your caterer make excess food to ensure everyone has a substantial heping, providing smaller portions with a small post meal buffett can let those who need more get it and those who have had their fill can get to the dance floor! While full service might seem great, it often contributes to increased waste as people aren’t able to select food based on what they will actually consume.
- Hiring a caterer who sources from local farms can give you an easy connection to farms that may take any extra food as compost or animal feed.
- Communicate early with your caterer to bring them on board and understand your commitment to reducing food waste.
- Clearly mark waste bins if your meal isn’t full service. Make sure guests understand that food waste should be separated from other trash (although the best event won’t have need for a garbage bin at all!) You can start the education process on your wedding website.
- Opt for reusable plates, utensils, and napkins, making leftover scraps the only disposable. Consider a compost bin for this, as no one will likely take home those leftovers!
- Learn more at https://savethefood.com/
Photos Kate and Keith Photography
Kate & Keith are wedding and event photographers creating a work/life balance around sustainability and the outdoors. Both vegan, they are committed towards zero-waste initiatives and founded a non-profit (Sustainable Seacoast) in their home area to aid restaurants and events in eliminating single use plastics. Their passports show Southern Maine as home but are often found at family bases in New Jersey, Oahu, and Mount Desert Island, Maine. Loving to travel, they drive their Lobster Van (Promaster conversion) across the country for weddings, stashing their tiny Lagotto Romagnolo (dog) between camera bags and a Nutribullet, and using Happy Cow to explore vegan eateries along the way. They can easily be bribed with coconut milk cappuccinos. Read Kate and Keith’s articles