By Keith Tharp
Sustainable is a big word, and admittedly this blog post is going to take a pretty narrow and simplistic angle of what planning and having a sustainable wedding means. If there’s one thing being vegan has reinforced for me, it’s that everything in life is a journey and an adventure. There are opportunities for lessons and gratitude at each step along the way, and there is no destination.
Kate and I have the pleasure of being at about twenty weddings a year, which gives us the opportunity to notice trends and anomalies. With our access behind the curtain as photographers and our views as environmentally aware citizens, we’ve become particularly pained by the waste within the wedding industry.
As we worked to find a groove with our nonprofit, we transitioned our efforts away from single-use plastic in restaurants to waste in general at community events. Recently we’ve realized that working with our couples and the wedding industry as a whole to create more sustainable, lower waste weddings seems like a natural next step.
What does being sustainable have to do with being vegan?
Chances are you already have an idea on the answer to this, in fact, I can come up with several viable answers to this myself. So unless your answer was “Nothing” then I’m guessing your answer was just as good as all of mine.
Look, let’s get stereotypical for a second, vegans are typically thoughtful, caring folks. Of course we don’t want to harm the environment, it’s just the type of people we are. And obviously, it would be hypocritical of us to care about the wellbeing of animals without also caring for the wellbeing of their habitat and ours.
So let’s just assume that we are all on the same page with the why and start getting around to the how!
You’re invited to Kate & Keith’s sustainable, locally-sourced, low-waste, alcohol-free, vegan wedding!
When you’re planning a wedding you’re going to be stuck between a lot of rocks and hard places. Many of those originate with the struggle between sticking to your values and catering to your guests. Some may involve sticking to your values or succumbing to the realities of your budget. Then there are those that have you wavering between your values and the reality or feasibility of translating those values into the wedding of your dreams.
Let’s start with some perspective, remember that as a couple planning a wedding, you are in a place of power. The vendors that make a living working in the wedding industry need couples getting married, that’s you, so don’t be afraid to ask for adjustments from them to address your values. Next, as with veganism, sustainability and concern for our environment are no longer fringe values, they are both large and growing markets. Take that knowledge and find the right vendors that will work with and for you rather than trying to convert someone that doesn’t really care about your values. Finally, remember what I said above, this is a journey, an adventure, be proud of the steps you take and don’t beat yourself up about compromises you decide to make. You’re reading a blog about making your wedding more sustainable! You’re already taking steps toward making intentional decisions about your wedding and that’s awesome!
Enough blabbing let’s get to some bullets!!
Well writing this blog has shown me that I need much more practice if I want to provide good info that’s easy to read. I’ll keep working on it and in the meantime I’ll give you some bullets and let Kate write the next blog.
The bad news:
- When it comes to plastic, recycling is not THE solution, it’s not event really A solution. Historically less than 9% of plastic gets recycled, most of that is actually downcycled into items of lesser value that are then destined for landfill. Recently recycling averages are below 4%. On top of that plastic manufacturing is growing at an alarming rate with most of that plastic material being designed and intended for single-use.
- The wedding industry is slow to get on board with the low-waste sustainability movement. Sadly some of the old tired arguments like it’s too expensive, or we don’t have the time are hanging on with some vendors.
- Because of the above, your options may be limited in some areas of the wedding industry.
The good news:
- There are more and more sustainably-minded vendors growing and evolving every year. As the market of demanding couples grows the choices will too. Look at yourself as a pioneer!
- Thinking ‘Sustainably’ also comes with the benefit of often being less expensive too. In the old days they would have called it being frugal, but these days we’re upcylcing and it’s creating some incredibly creative results!
- Hitching on to the last point, thinking ‘Sustainably’ often comes with great social rewards. Getting together with friends and family to plan, upcycle, and borrow to pull outfits and decorations together is incredibly rewarding.
Some final idea & tips:
- Consider skipping the registry. You’ve likely got all the cutting boards and toasters you need, remember what we said earlier, this is a time for celebrating your love, not for collecting stuff. Instead of a registry go with a honeymoon fund or request folks contribute to a charity you’ve chosen.
- Skip favors or go local. Rather than trinkets like coozies or plastic sunglasses, consider supporting a local artist or farm. Local jams or soaps are good take-aways, or if your wedding is the right size a local artist could do caricatures of the guests or small live paintings.
- Think of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle as an upside-down pyramid rather than the typical chasing arrows logo. Reduce is the best thing you can do for the environment if you must get things, get things you can and will reuse over and over, and finally when whatever it is has reached the end of its life, make sure it gets to the right place, whether that’s recycling, composting, or trash. Hopefully it’s not trash.
Note from the Editor: Kate and Keith have founded a non profit organization called Sustainable Seacoast, which mission is to eliminate single-use plastic at Seacoast restaurants and events. Sustainable Seacoast uses the collective voice of their members to encourage restaurants to work with the organization to eliminate single-use plastic and improve sustainability. They also provide educational opportunities and organize community events where restaurants and members can collaborate, create solutions, and take action to eliminate single-use plastic.
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.