Yes, You Can Have a Waste-Free Wedding

Yes, You Can Have a Waste-Free Wedding

zero waste, wedding, green wedding, eco friendly wedding

Confession: I ADORED every moment of my wedding but hated every minute of planning. Imagine Daria trying to feign excitement about pastel shoes. That was me. For the last 8 months, since my wedding I’ve unsubscribed from all the bridal email lists, given away old decor, and generally tried to rid my life of reminders of how stressed out I was for pretty much three months leading up to the wedding.

Until last week, when I was browsing a magazine stand and caught a glimpse of a gorgeous wedding gown on the cover of a magazine and for a split second, I really wanted to buy it. Then a sudden rush of sadness came over me when I realized; damn, it’s all over. And since then, I’ve found a new appreciation for the whole process. One of the things I am most proud of is the fact that we were able to make our wedding zero waste. And people get really excited when I tell them about it. So in honor of my first “I miss my wedding” feels, I want to share my experiences and tips for reducing wedding waste and encourage brides to think about the environment along with the all the other important stuff. Why, exactly?

Well,  the average wedding creates 600 pounds of waste and emits 62 tons of CO2. Gross. “You shall now live happily ever after, with a quarter ton of trash and the ghosts of 1,000 wilted flowers haunting you” *sad Earth emoji*.

It’s common knowledge that a wedding can cost the same as a downpayment on a house, yet the romance of it all keeps the wedding industrial complex chugging along, year after year. While the financial costs are weighed, what’s usually not discussed at the start of planning the biggest party of one’s life is how awful weddings are to the environment. The purchase of hundreds of flimsy, made in China favors and decor (c’mon, be honest, do you even know where your favors of weddings past are?), a massive carbon footprint from extended families’ cross-country flights, thousands of pesticide-ridden flowers, often flown in, creating more emissions for a few hours of use, and bags on bags on bags of trash.

I’m not saying halt ALL the weddings. They offer a place for two families to meet and come together during a very special time. But I think, and even the non-hippy dippy lot of you might agree, that the level of consumerism that results from planning a conventional wedding has become out of control, distracting from the original reason you wanted to throw a celebration; to bask in the celebration of two people making a beautiful, sacred commitment.

Immediately after we got engaged, I told my husband that if we have a “traditional” wedding, it needs to be done with minimal environmental impact. We also had a shoestring budget which forced us to prioritize where we could splurge. Creating a green wedding means stepping outside of the traditional norms and aesthetics which have been peddled by companies making billions off of stressed out brides feeling the need to keep up with the Jones’ (and the Jones’ wedding board on Pinterest).

Understand that you can do a lot to reduce your impact, but may not be able to do everything, and that’s okay! For instance, our wedding was in L.A. which meant most of our guests had to fly out. So we opted to focus on reducing our waste, instead.

If more couples demand sustainable wedding options, vendors will start to offer eco-friendly options and services, changing an entire industry! As a former stressed-out bride, I know how many things you are expected to juggle and to make it easier, I’ve offered some tips to help you reduce waste which can also reduce costs and give you and yours that guilt-free post-nuptual glow.

Communicate your eco-friendly goals to each of your vendors

This is huge. If you are trying to go zero-waste or just trying to reduce your impact in small ways, tell prospective vendors this as early as possible, even before you book them. It makes it so much easier when everyone is on the same page. Sometimes the vendors will have been hired for a green event in the past and they can give you ideas.  I was really lucky to have a venue that was already eco-friendly and vendors that were really supportive of our zero-waste goal.

Create a green plan of action for the day-of

The day-of will be hectic and the last thing you want to happen is have your eco-plans ruined because you weren’t prepared.  If your main focus is reducing waste, the biggest challenge will be sorting it properly. Set out three waste bins; label them for trash, recycling, and compost (make sure to buy compostable trash bags). For some guests, it may be the first time they have to separate their waste so you may even want to have a monitor to help guide the guests, if you don’t have wait staff.

Let all wedding/catering staff know about your zero-waste goal. That way, if they are removing guest’s plates and trash, they can sort compostables and recyclables. We also asked our MC to work in an announcement about the green wedding, which helped guest separate their trash and to also spark conversation about waste, etc.

Reduce: pare down that guest list

Reducing the size of your guest list is the first and most impactful way to green your wedding and saves a ton of money. You don’t need to green something if it doesn’t need to be made in the first place: less food, less travel, less invitations, and reduced resources to make the goodies and favors. I recommend it from a waste-reduction, financial, and a pratical standpoint. We had about 50 people at our wedding and it was perfect. We were able to spend time with the most important people in our lives and our families had time to bond with one another because each event was intimate. This is the best way to minimize waste, preventing the per-person trash being needed in the first place.


You know the message: reducing paper means reducing the amount of trees cut down. Even producing recycled paper requires water and energy. This was a point of contention and a learning experience for us. At first, I was insistent upon having e-Invitations. But I discovered that marrying a Southern man means entertaining some customs like sending paper invites. We compromised by designing our own simple paper invitations and requested that guests RSVP electronically using a feature offered on our Appy Couple wedding website.

Another idea is to send seeded paper invitations. How fun is that? If you do go the paper invite route, eliminate outdated and unnecessary extras like inner envelopes and tissue paper.

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Consider eco-friendly alternative to flowers

Instead of flowers on each table, we used potted succulents and our local guests were able to take home a plant that grows. The only fresh cut flowers were in my bouquet, minimizing organic waste.

If you decide to use plants, try to plant something region-appropriate for example, air plants and drought-tolerant species in arid climates.

Borrow or reuse decor

Sites like Tradesy and OnceWed are great places to look for used decor and even dresses.

Does it seems like everyone around you is getting married, or you’ve attended what feels like your 376th wedding of the year? Ask recently married couples if they have any items they’d be willing to let you borrow. Most of the time they are happy to get rid of box of wedding stuff and send it to a good home!

Another thing to consider when looking at venues is to factor in how much you’ll have to spend on decor. Our venue was the pricier of locations we looked at but it was already so beautifully decorated so we didn’t need to add much, minimizing costs and potential waste.

Be kind to the Earth and your ‘maids

Do you really need new matching dresses, clutches, earrings, shoes, etc? Trust in the fabulous taste of your best girls by giving them a color palette and style guide and let them choose their own dresses. This also lets them use items they already own, reducing the need to buy new stuff. If they do have to purchase a new dress, encourage them to buy something they’ll actually wear again. They will thank you for this. I had two bridesmaids and loved seeing their personalities expressed through their gorgeous dresses; it made for more interesting photos, too!

Susty party, compostable, plates, forks knives, cute, wedding, pretty


Planning a wedding on a shoestring budget in L.A. is tough; like make you want to curl up in a ball an cry woe-is-me tears, tough. One of the most challenging things was trying to feed everyone within our budget. We decided to book a food truck because it was more cost-effective. But then, I thought, there’s no way we could have reusable dining ware, so we decided to supply the food truck with compostable plates and cutlery. We ordered our items from the fun and stylish Susty Party  and they looked really nice! Guests were even reusing their plates when returning to get seconds; they were that durable.

 compost, wedding, eco, zero-waste,

Compost at your wedding: you can do it!!!

One of the huge generators of wedding waste is leftover food. Of course, please donate meals before you compost! There are most likely local food banks and shelters that would love to accept your tasty food.

Before you buy compostable items you’ll need to find a place that will take your compost. Your venue’s waste hauler may pick up compost, and if so, problem solved. But like most cities as of now, collecting compost is not the norm so you may have to do some hunting for a set up that is equipped to handle the type of compost your wedding will generate.

A few things to consider:

  • Will your menu contain meat and dairy? If yes, then you will most likely have to find a commercial compost facility to accept your waste (like a major waste hauler company). Most small compost setups, like those in schools and in backyards, do not accept meat, cheese, and shellfish items because they turn rancid and attract pests and animals.
  • All compostable products are not created equal. Some compost products will indicate that they are made for commercial compost facilities meaning that they will not breakdown fast enough in a small backyard set up. If you are buying compostable items for your wedding, make sure you whether they’ll need to go to a commercial facility.
  • Check out non-profit composters in your community. If you’re serving a vegetarian meal, they would probably be happy to take your compost. If not, still ask the staff; they will most likely be able to offer you some guidance and point you in the right direction. I talked to a couple neighborhood compost organizations, and even though they couldn’t take my waste, they were jazzed about our plan and were really eager to help!

For all you Angelenos, here’s a list of my awesome vendors that help us with our green wedding!

Venue: Elysian
Day-of planning: Chapter One
Catering: Komodo
Compostable dinnerware: SustyParty

If you are looking for a green wedding consultant, or just want to discuss ideas, I would love to help! Click the ‘contact me’ section of this site and I’ll get back to you!

Have questions or more suggestions for brides? Leave a comment!

Acne: Your Skin is Trying to Tell You Something, Pt. I

Acne: Your Skin is Trying to Tell You Something, Pt. I

A few readers have asked about products and D.I.Y.s that will help with acne situations. I struggle to answer these questions simply because acne is a symptom of a larger internal imbalance. Based on my research and reading more holistic approaches to managing acne and blemishes, this is a two part problem: there’s the stuff you put on the outside that can either soothe or aggravate acne, but the more important part is dealing with the underlying causes which are diet and stress levels because they affect hormones, on which this post will focus. In part II, I’ll provide topical oils and products that can help clear up the skin. It’s a long one, so grab a beverage and settle in.

I have been rather lucky; I’ve never dealt with serious acne, even as a teenager. I did deal with a moderate case of cystic acne about two years ago in my late twenties. My attempt in this post is to pool my research and to share what worked for me, which I learned from holistic approaches.

Most skin care products formulated to eliminate acne can worsen the condition, due to the drying ingredients. The skin is slightly acidic and most mass-produced products mess with the pH balance or completely strip skin of its natural oils, sending the skin into panic mode. While what we put on our skin is very important to combat environmental damage and to retain moisture, topical products are only a fraction of the cause of most acne cases.

Most dermatologists and Western doctors do not treat the skin as an integrated system and will prescribe detrimental drugs like peeling agents, Accutane or, for women, birth control pills to “fix” hormonal issues, while completely ignoring the underlying cause(s). With this method of treatment, blemishes on the facial skin are managed temporarily, but the food allergy or the high-stress lifestyle only continues to fester in the body in other ways. More pollution has been added to the body from these serious, disruptive medications or chemicals that may bring another set of side effects into the picture. Now, we have a toxin masking one symptom, only to push the sickness to cause harm in another part of the body.


Yes, you are what you eat, and it will show up on your skin.  Many naturopaths and Ayurvedic practitioners will say that acne begins in the gut. The overproduction of sebum and bacteria is just the effect of acne.  Because our skin is a sensory organ, it is constantly processing what comes in and out and is the best way to tell if someone is healthy at first glance. You’ve seen it: the person that has naturally glowing, dewy skin…that’s a reflection of a healthy internal ecosystem. When we ingest toxins or foods which are difficult for our bodies to digest, this shows up on our skin because what happens in our gastrointestinal system directly affects our hormones. The profound relationship between the food we eat and hormone balance is just now being understood. The resulting inflammation, toxicity, etc. is the root of the problem.

I was surprised to discover that acne is very much a U.S. problem because of the prevalence of processed foods in the average American diet. The rest of the world doesn’t consume it in the large amounts that the typical American does. There are hundreds of studies that show relief of participants’ acne conditions when placed on a low-glycemic diet (no grains, sugars, processed foods, etc.). This is because our bodies are more efficient at digesting complex carbs.  Many scholars are starting to believe that it has more to do with one’s environment than their genetics. Although, some will tolerate dairy and grains, or even if they have trouble processing, it may show up as another ailment like weight gain or IBS, rather than blemishes.


The other main acne trigger is our emotional well-being.

During the last six months of grad school, I dealt with cystic acne, those pimples that form underneath the skin and stay there for a solid week or so. There’s nothing you can do except wait it out 🙁 It was the pits. This horrible bout of adult acne happened because I was constantly stressed, neglected my body, and ate poorly. After graduation, I got back into a routine of eating and exercise/yoga and I haven’t had a cystic pimple since.  However, I did have some serious scars from those suckers. I researched natural ways to fade scars and hyper-pigmentation and found out about rosehip seed oil, which I’ll talk about in part II.

The condition of the skin reflects what’s going on inside our bodies. Any imbalance, or lack of self-care will show up on your face in a few days.  I still experience normal hormonal breakouts that coincide with my cycle, but I only get one or two spots around the jawline, and they are manageable and go away within a couple days.

What to Do?

1. Check your hormones:

Identifying any hormone imbalances can clue you and your doctor in on not only why you’re experiencing adult acne, but other issues.  If you have insurance, ask your doctor to check for imbalances during routine blood work to identify or rule out any serious issues, like a thyroid problem.

If your tests come back “normal” and you still feel “off”, then definitely listen to your gut and look into seeing an alternative medicine practitioner, like an acupuncturist. Most major cities offer sliding scale practices, so those of us without this coverage can still seek the benefits without going broke. If you’re in L.A., try this wonderful place!

Whatever you decide, I also would recommend the book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Claudia Welch. She describes the symbiotic functions of hormones and writes about how stress, food and synthetic medication and hormones wreak havoc on the hormones of modern women. She also offers solutions rooted in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Western medicine. My mind was blown after reading this and is must-read for every woman.

2. Exercise your lymphatic system

The lymphatic system does not have a pump, like the cardiovascular, so the system can be sluggish and not working to purge toxins and junk out as efficiently as possible. If you are sedentary, so is your lymphatic system.

– Exercise – take a vigorous Vinyasa flow class

– Drink water – this will help flush out nasties

Dry brush – the nodes sit just underneath the skin, and the long, exfoliating strokes encourage blood flow to the area.

3. Clue in to your skin

From the lovely athletic line and my former employer (yay!) Lorna Jane blog, the location of the breakout can clue you in on whats going on internally. For example, cystic acne is more hormonal and stress related. While topical solutions may help temporarily, there’s probably an imbalance of some sort happening.

Chin and jaw line: Hormonal, especially when the spots go down the neck.

Forehead: Bowel congestion and constipation.

Between the eyes: Liver

Temples: Gallbladder

Cheeks: Various causes, including genetic

Back: General toxicity and candida

Whiteheads on the face: Can be digestive

Large cysts on the face (without heads): Indicates a hormonal imbalance

4. Eliminate known acne-causing foods

While some people say that detoxing is a great idea to get rid of acne, I’m not a fan because this is not a sustainable solution. Yes, your acne may subside, but you then have no idea which foods were triggering the blemishes.

Instead, there’s so much literature that supports eating a low-glycemic or dairy-free diet. Grains and dairy can cause inflammation and therefore trigger bacteria, which shows up on your skin.

– Try cutting out grains for a week. If that doesn’t help, try cutting out all dairy.


I’ll post part two next week, filled with blemish and scar-reducing products and DIYs that have worked for me.


10 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

10 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

The chemicals that we are exposed to over a lifetime can accumulate in the blood and breast tissue, affecting everything from hormone levels to reproductive wellness, and is especially harmful to children.

Clean cosmetic advocates are concerned about what the cumulative, gradual exposure to toxins from multiple products, multiple times a day, for decades, will do to the body.   The companies manufacturing these products were not required to conduct long term heath and safety studies; that would delay the product launch meaning a loss of billions. But the evidence has been building for decades – that the toxic ingredients we’ve been introduced to through these personal care products stay in our systems and wreak havoc.

And why do companies put these ingredients in their products? Because they are CHEAP AS FUCK to manufacture. Many of them are even chemical byproducts from industrial processes that they have found a way to profit from by adding them as fillers.

Here’s a list of ingredients to avoid in your personal care products along with natural alternatives to choose.

Warning: initial “what the hell have I been putting on my skin?” shock my set in; this can be a good thing. Take this knowledge and arm yourself with it. Keep ingredient notes in your phone and pull them up when you are shopping for household and personal care items. Share the information with family and friends, suggesting natural alternatives.

Just Say No: The Toxic List

1. Petroleum/Petrolatum 

Ingredients to avoid: petrolatum, mineral oil, propylene glycol, mineral jelly, petroleum jelly (vaseline), paraffin, propylene glycol, toulene, benzene

This is an extremely cheap and common petroleum derivative which is found in the majority of drugstore skincare products. You guys…petroleum is refined crude oil. Yes. The fact that these petroleum derivatives are still present in most mass market beauty brands and even in baby products BLOWS MY MIND. Putting a fossil fuel on your body was never, and will never be, good for you or the environment. Petroleum molecules sit on top of the skin, acting as a barrier, preventing the skin from breathing. Even if there are a couple good-for-you ingredients in the mineral-oil based lotion you use, the skin can’t let in any of the benefits because the mineral oil is acting as a barrier. There is zero skin nourishment taking place.

This stuff is comedogenic (literally suffocates your skin) and can cause pimples and blackheads. While there is conflicting information about the risk of using mineral oil and cancer risk, I choose to side with common sense and not put an oil derivative, no matter how refined it is, on my skin.

Natural Alternatives: Look for ultra-moisturizing products with natural butters and oils. A couple of my favorite are coconut oil and shea butter.

2. Sulfates

Ingredients to avoid: ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate

These are harsh, sulfur-based synthetic detergents, many sourced from petrolatum, which strip hair and skin of moisture and oils produced by your scalp. The most common of these is sodium laurel sulfate. We have been conditioned (pun intended) to think that squeaky clean equals better performing products and this is reason why the same chemical companies making your dish detergent and toilet cleaner love to add the same harsh lathering agents to their shampoos and body washes. They are cheap to make and provide the consumer with the lathering action they think they need. Yes, you will have the squeaky clean feeling, but all that signals is that natural oils, like sebum, (the oil produced by the scalp) has been washed away, leaving skin dry and hair dull and prone to frizz due to the ionic imbalance.

Natural Alternatives: Look for plant-based cleansers (often coconut-derived). I use shampoo from brands like Rahua, Acure and Shea Moisture.

3. 1,4-Dioxane

Ingredients to avoid: sulfates, parabens, crude oil-based ingredents, any ingredients with the clauses, ‘PEG’, ‘xynol’, and ‘oleth

The FDA does not require this to be listed as an ingredient so refer to the list, above, to avoid. This chemical is a manufacturing by-product of crude oil-derived ingredients, including sulfates and phthalates. It can be removed, but many manufacturers skip this step, writing if off as low-level of exposure.

But these are the effects of long-term, repeated exposure reported by the CDC: “The substance may have effects on the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. This substance is possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Why risk it?

4. Parabens

Ingredients to avoid: anything ending in “-paraben”. The most common forms are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben.

These are chemical additives used to prolong the shelf life of a product and prevent microbial growth and can be absorbed by the skin, digestive system and blood. Parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption by mimicking estrogen, strengthening the suggestion of the link to reproductive toxicity and breast cancer. According to Environmental Working Group, a study found that traces of multiple types of parabens were found in breast tissue samples of 19 of 20 women with breast cancer, demonstrating that paraben molecules are in fact absorbed by the body and accumulate in breast tissue.  Another study found that higher concentrations of parabens are found in the axilla quadrant of the breast (closest to the armpit). Did I mention that parabens are major compounds in antiperspirants?

Natural Alternatives: Many natural products use tocopherol (vitamin E) as a natural preservative, which I use in many of my DIY recipes. Grapefruit seed extract and rosemary oil also have antimicrobial properties. Most natural products have a shorter shelf life than dirty products and this is a good thing. Think of it like the benefits of eating fresh food versus packaged.

5. Synthetic Dyes 

Ingredients to avoid:  “FD&C” or “D&C” colors.

These petroleum-derived dyes are everywhere, from our food, toothpaste to eyeshadow. Some dyes identified as carcinogenic have been banned by the FDA, but there are many still in use, like Yellow #5, which is banned in some European countries due to its link to cancer, ADHD, and migranes.

Natural alternatives: look for natural or mineral colors or dyes such as Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Iron Oxide, Tin Oxide, and Ultramarines.

6. Phthalates

Ingredients to avoid: Sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, chemicals that include xynol, ceteareth and oleth, BPA, Diethyl phthalate (DEP), Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), fragrance

These chemicals of different classes are used in detergents, cosmetics, perfumes and air freshener to hold hold to synthetic fragrances and also are also added to plastics to make them softer and durable. Phthalates have been banned in in the EU  along with nine other countries like Mexico and Japan. There has been a growing amount of concern surrounding children’s vulnerability to phthalates, interrupting hormones affecting their reproductive ability in adulthood. These chemicals are also known to mimic hormones, raising concern about increased breast cancer risk.

Natural alternatives: Reduce risk of exposure to phthalates in packaging by choosing products in glass packaging, where possible. Use unscented products or products using naturally-derived fragrance from essential oils.

7. Synthetic Fragrance

Ingredients to avoid:  ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’

If the word ‘fragrance’ is in the list of ingredients, it is a HUGE RED FLAG and should actually say “a shit ton of chemicals that we don’t have to list”. Because fragrance is not regulated by the FDA, a company is not required to disclose the ingredients in their formula so phthalates and synthetic chemicals are hidden under the ‘fragrance’ umbrella. There is an average of

Natural Alternatives: Essential oils blends scent most natural products. Any truly natural company will indicate whether the scent is sourced from essential oils. If only ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ is listed, it is most likely synthetically-derived.

8 & 9. Oxybenzone and Benzophenone

Commonly used in most conventional sunscreens, these chemicals penetrate the skin, enter the bloodstream and mimic estrogen. These can also trigger allergic reactions.

Natural alternatives: Mineral sunblocks made with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and can be used, but clarify that they are non-nanoparticle. Nanoparticles can be absorbed by the skin and possibly enter bloodstream.

10. Triclosan

Update: The FDA finally banned triclosan from antibacterial soaps, but is still used in loads of other products, so read those labels!

This chemical is a harsh antibacterial added to soaps, household cleaners, even toothpaste and thousands of other products found around the house. Exposure is so common that it found in the blood, urine and breast tissue of people around the globe. Studies show that there is no added benefit to triclosan over plain soap and water. In fact, a study by the FDA found that the widespread use of triclosan has also contributed to the evolution of “superbugs”, bacteria that is resistant to antibacterials, now a major public health concern. Even the AMA recommends not using triclosan at home. And with this antibacterial being washed down the drain and into waterways, it is killing aquatic life, toxic to many plant species.

Natural Alternatives: Stick with warm water and bar soap, like Dr. Bronners with Tea tree, a natural antibacterial. If you must use a hand sanitizer, make sure that the active ingredient is alcohol.


The Think Dirty App is one of my most used apps! Scan products with your phone to see the safety of a product. Each ingrdient is listed with a toxicity rating, explaining why. The app also automatically suggests safer products.

And when in doubt about an ingredient in a product, check Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website and check out their research and studies.

Ready to clean out your bathroom shelf? Learn how to dispose of products in an envrionmentally responsible way.