April 25, 2023

73. It's wedding season! How to go green

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Hiiiiiii Welcome back to Spend Donate Invest! This is a podcast that’s exploring the topic of whether there might be some ways we can line up what we’re doing with our money and our values when it comes to the kind of world we’d like to help shape. Because here’s the thing, if you’re listening to this, you probably vote, you might even protest, maybe you’ve called your senator about something you want them to do. What I’m trying to chat about on this podcast is if there might be a whole other category of things we can do- specifically our money.

Where do we bank, where do we shop, where do we donate?

These are the things I wonder about, and you might be wondering about it too. If you are, you can drop a line anytime and I’ll be happy to explore it on the show. The email address is spenddonateinvest at gmail dot com. Or you can use the voice recorder function on the show’s website which is at spenddonateinvest.world and I’ll transcribe your question and read it on the air.

We’ve covered so much in the past year. Questions have come in about trying to give up brands from companies who have values that are different than yours, trying to convince your partner to switch to a more socially responsible bank, and whether or not to give that person with a cardboard sign some cash.

And in case you aren’t already familiar, I’m your host! I go by GG, that’s short for Genet Gimja and I’m a curious person. I love reading your emails because it gives me a chance to do some research, call up folks that know about these things, and then share back what I find out. In the past, I’ve worked a lot of places, I’ve worked in the private sector, I’ve worked in the nonprofit public sector. I read a lot, 50 to 100 books a year sometimes. I believe that inequality and oppression are baked into capitalism, or at least the version of capitalism that we’re doing right now. I think the entire system needs to be overhauled, and I also believe in taking the incremental steps we can as individuals for now. Like with climate change, my sense is that ultimately corporations need to be regulated and the government needs to be empowered to do that, but I’m still going to recycle my trash at home.

This week I have a listener letter, if you ever want to send one just email spend donate invest at gmail dot com. So here’s the letter:

It’s wedding season and I’m already dreading it. All of it just seems excessive. The travel, the expenses, the loss of vacation days. And that’s on my end. I can’t even imagine what it is like for the people getting married. As I’ve become more climate aware, I’m starting to see a lot of things through this lens. I don’t want to be that guest, but when I see the tulle covered almonds and the welcome bags wrapped in cellophane and I think about everyone getting on a plane and burning up all that jet fuel. I don’t know, it just feels…wasteful. I really enjoyed being able to attend weddings over zoom during covid but it seems like that trend is over, at least for my friends and family. So I guess I don’t have a question per se, I just wanted to comment about the wastefulness of our traditions as a culture.

So that’s the end of the letter. Whew! Some hot takes from our listener today. If you’re getting married this year and you’ve already planned everything, maybe don’t listen to this episode lol. But if this is a topic you’re interested in, stick around and let’s discuss.

Sustainable weddings! I’ve heard about these for a long time, and it seems like every spring this topic resurfaces. Another wedding-related topic that sometimes comes up is plantation weddings, let me know if you’re also interested in an exploration of that topic.

I’m going to link an article about sustainable weddings in the NY Times, they have wedding planners and sustainability experts provide advice on how to create a more sustainable wedding. And what I really loved about the article is that they linked to a wedding footprint calculator, which was really interesting. I’ll link that too.

The biggest categories that come into play when you think about the sustainability of a wedding or similar event is the location, how you’re sourcing items such as the food, flowers, clothing, and gifts associated with the wedding. A lot of the experts talk about the size, the number of guests, as a person who comes from a culture where hundreds of people, and often thousands of people show up to weddings, often for couples they don’t even know, I could barely read the suggestions about paring down the number of guests. LoL. I can’t tell you the number of Eritrean weddings I’ve attended where I never did find out who exactly was getting married. I’ve even traveled for a wedding, as in out of town, I traveled out of town for a wedding and never met the people getting married. I still am not 100% sure who was getting married. So you know, like all suggestions, your mileage is going to vary, you’re going to have to think about your culture, your traditions, your values, and where it makes sense to modify your plans in order to be more sustainable.

In the NYT article they profile an Austrailian couple’s wedding. Some of the things they did to make their wedding more sustainable, and if I’m not mistaken, I want to say the article referred to their wedding as carbon neutral, so the first thing they mentioned doing was locally sourcing the food, drinks, and the flowers. I would be shocked if they didn’t do sustainable wedding clothing as well because at least one person in the couple is an ethical fashion blogger. But what they realized is that because so many guests were flying in to their wedding, the carbon emissions were still higher than they wanted for their wedding. So, they made a donation to a nonprofit that plants trees to offset carbon emissions. You could be super nit picky about it and question how effective that is, but that’s not the vibe here at this podcast, lol.

What the experts are recommending is a small wedding in the same area where you and your guests live and wearing rented or secondhand clothing and serving a vegetarian menu with seasonal ingredients so you aren’t flying in avocados or whatever.

So what I’m going to do is to go through the sustainable wedding calculator and see if maybe anything sparks an idea for you.

First question, right off the bat, where is the wedding? You have three choices, local, regional or overseas. Obviously the idea is that sustainability decreases the more flights that are taken to the wedding.

Second question, how many guests. And you’re asked to make estimates for how far they are traveling for the wedding.

When you go into the next section of the wedding calculator, you’re asked about clothing. Not just whether your clothes and your spouse’s clothes are secondhand, but you’re even asked about the primary material the clothing is made of- cotton, linen, silk, polyester. I wasn’t expecting that LOL And the same is asked about your wedding party if you’re doing that.

Then you are asked about your rings! Are they gold, silver, or platinum? Mined or recycled minerals? If you have a stone on your ring is it lab grown or mined?

And then the next section asks you about the catering for your wedding, if any. Are you feeding people at your event? Are you providing finger food? Are you doing a buffet? A 3 course meal? And is it vegetarian, pescatarian, meat? Is the dishware disposable or is it reusable?

Next section is about decor. So the tablecloths, the napkins, the furniture. Are you buying it or renting it?

The flowers. That’s something that comes up again and again. Where are they coming from? And what about the accoutrement for the flowers, are you using that green floral foam stuff? Are you going to compost the flowers after?

Stationary comes up next on the wedding calculator. Are you printing and mailing invitations out? Are you printing menus?

How green is your venue? Are they using renewable energy?

So you put in all this info and the calculator spits out a number. Your wedding’s carbon footprint, which they will also report as an amount of carbon per guest.

Let me know if you use the calculator to look up your wedding or your other special event. I’ve seen people do big milestone birthdays, vow renewals, you might find this calculator helpful as you think about the environmental impact of similar events.

And of course, I’m always interested in the cultural nuance that is sometimes lost in these general interest articles.