Today is Earth Day, so we're celebrating in the greenest way we know how: with some eco-friendly big day inspiration. After all, marriage is a beautiful thing! But that doesn't mean it's a pretty business all the time — it's estimated that each of the 2.5 million weddings that take place each year produces between 400 to 600 pounds of garbage and 62 tons of carbon dioxide. The good news is that it's easy to find a way to have the wedding of your dreams while keeping Mother Earth's best interests in mind; just take at these eco-friendly alternatives to the most popular wedding trends and traditions of the moment.
1. Instead of balloons, try umbrellas
Balloons are a lot of fun and make great wedding décor, but unfortunately, they are far from green. Not only do they contribute to the landfill once the "I dos" are done, they're extremely harmful to birds, sea life, and other animals that may swallow them. Instead of balloons, try hanging vintage umbrellas at your venue! They're stylish and colorful, just like balloons, and if you rent or borrow them, they won't end up at the dump after your wedding.
2. Instead of plastic confetti, opt for lavender or rose petals
We know how great glittering confetti looks when it's tossed over the newlyweds as they make their grand exit, but consider where all that plastic goes after the big moment. If you're marrying outside, much of it will remain on the ground, where animals might find and swallow it. If your wedding is indoors, it will be swept up and tossed in the trash — just another thing added to the landfill. Skip the plastic confetti and try a lavender or flower petal toss instead. Both smell great, have the same visual impact, and will biodegrade, leaving behind no waste.
3. Instead of exotic and out-of-season flowers, pick local blooms
If you're dreaming of peonies for your December "I dos," you just might want to reconsider. Nearly every flower has a specific growing season (except for these flowers, which are always in season), and buying flowers — such as peonies, which only bloom in the spring — out of season is not only expensive, it's hard on Mother Earth. Choosing non-local flowers means your blossoms have to be shipped from faraway places, which involves transportation (burning fossil fuels) and chemical fertilizers that can leach into the soil. Skip the out-of-season blooms and go for a picked-from-the-garden look using local wildflowers, or talk to a nursery to learn about plants that are native to your region. You might be surprised by what you find!
4. Instead of diamonds, wear a lab-created stone
The environmental and social impacts of diamond mining can be devastating — lakes and other waterways are often destroyed, greenhouse gas production goes through the roof, and animal habitats on land can be totally wiped out. While giving a diamond as part of a marriage proposal is a ubiquitous tradition in the U.S., it's high time we consider some other options. Lab-created diamonds are widely available and absolutely gorgeous, and sustainably mined conflict-free diamonds are becoming more and more popular. All it takes is a commitment to finding a sustainable stone and a little research to land the perfect ring.
5. Instead of paper programs and wedding décor, celebrate with sustainable decorations
Paper products are a huge part of any wedding. If you don't want to send evites, look for wedding stationery made from recycled paper, and skip the extra envelopes by using postcards for your save the dates and RSVPs. Instead of individual programs, hang a large chalkboard or other sign outlining the day's events. Choose string lights that you can rent or reuse, and skip the bunting and paper poms. Instead of providing disposable paper fans at an outdoor ceremony, rent large umbrellas and cover the space or provide reusable parasols.
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