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los angeles | May Day Glow
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.

Invitations

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.

plants for wedding, eco friendly alternatives to flowers, wedding, succulents

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

Diningware

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!

Quit Fast Fashion, Part II: Dress Clean!

Quit Fast Fashion, Part II: Dress Clean!

dress clean v2

In part one of this post, I provided loads of information about how the majority of the clothes we wear are made; it’s not pretty and not surprisingly, cheap merchandise comes at great expense to people and the environment.

In exchange for reading through that heavy post, I promised I’d bring positive solutions to part II…so here they are!

Cleaning Up Your Closet

In the 1930s, the average American woman owned just nine outfits. Fast forward to today and the average woman purchases around 60 pieces of new clothing and shoes each year. Just between 1999 to 2009, the volume of clothing purchased by Americans grew by 40%.  While the amount we buy has increased, recycling rates have not. This excess leads to average of 54 lbs of recyclable clothing and shoes thrown out by each person, each year. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that out of all reusable materials, textiles have one of the lowest recycling rates and the U.S. trashes around 85% of all textiles produced.

Just like detoxing your beauty routine doesn’t mean you have to look like a greasy hippie (unless that’s what you’re going for – #savewater), creating a more sustainable closet doesn’t mean giving up your style. It does mean buying a lot less, but I guarantee that you’ll invest in pieces that you will love and cherish for years. The fabulous designer and eco-fashion pioneer, Vivienne Westwood, says it best:

vivienne westwood quote

New clothes are fun. I promise, I know from first hand experience that it’s going to be tough to walk by an Urban Outfitters and not walk in to see what’s on sale. But when we make more informed buying decisions, we shift our behavior as consumers, recognizing the external forces that make us feel like we don’t have enough. There is a way to have a stylish closet, support clothing retailers with good ethics, and have a new outfit for every special occasion in your life.  I now stick to what I truly need and do my research before purchasing. I find that I have a lot of basics with a twist that can be dressed up or down.  My style has evolved and improved since I’ve been more intentional about what I add to my closet. I pair a classic item with a quirkier, vintage one. Here are some tips that have helped me create a closet that reflects my values and save money:

Host a clothing exchange

If every woman in America swapped rather than shopped for just 30 days, it would save one billion pounds of landfill waste. My friends and I have seasonal clothing exchanges and we are all frequently surprised at the gems we’ve discovered that were hidden away in each other’s closets. There are also large scale clothing exchanges that happen; check out meetup.com for clothing swaps in your area.

Shop small

Supporting local shops and designers means a more transparent supply chain. If you want to know the origins of the textiles, you can just ask the designers. Look up eco-boutiques in your area or check out the awesome online retailers (see some of my favorites, below). There’s a great artist and design fair, Unique LA, that takes place twice a year and features local and some eco-friendly designers. Check them out here!

Get picky

Be honest with yourself and only buy items that fit well and that you truly love. Soon after I started to plan each clothing purchase, I realized how many times in the past I would buy something even though I didn’t really like it. I’d rationalize the purchase, saying “well, it’ll fit after I lose 8 lbs”, or “it’s on sale, so I’ll just get it”. And that’s how I ended up with a closet brimming with stuff, but never anything to wear.  Now, I pay attention to how I feel; if it isn’t 100% flattering, I will not feel confident in it, and I know I won’t wear it very much.

Let a professional re-imagine your closet; for free

Look at blogs and websites for ideas. I like to dream on Net A Porter for high-end looks that I can recreate with what I have in my closet. Have a crisp white button-down? Find one on your favorite fashion bloggers or brands to see how it’s styled and recreate it with similar items you probably have in your closet.

Make like Cher and digitize your wardrobe

How many times have you bought something only to get home and realize you already own something way too similar that you forgot about? Well there are apps to prevent that from happening ever again. Remember Cher’s automated outfit chooser in Clueless? Well, duh, there are apps for that IRL, guys. Check out these closet organizer apps that make it easier for you to mix and match pieces, creating new outfits with what you already have. Many of the apps let users view each other’s closets and dish styling advice.

One item in, one item out

If I take something home, whether new or used, I have to get rid of something I already own. This has probably been the most helpful commitment to not only recycling my clothing and preventing waste, but also, to decluttering my closet. If I’m not willing to part with anything I already own, then that probably means that I don’t really need whatever it is I’m about to buy.

5 Tips for Thrift and Vintage Shopping

1. NEVER go looking for something too specific

Limit to one requirement; skinny jeans? Okay, you’ll probably find a pair. Grey-washed skinny jeans? You’ll probably leave frustrated. I often browse if I just need a closet perk and stay open to finding unexpected gems.

2. Look for off-season wear

You’ll find the least picked-over sections at markdown prices. Be ready to buy a heavy coat in the middle of July.

3. Do a quick scan of the “featured” items

This includes items on mannequins, in windows, hanging up on the walls, and designer pieces kept behind the counter.  This is where you’ll find mid to high-end designer stuff. One of my prized possessions is an A.P.C. black bomber I picked up for $40. You may strike out but try again on another day. That’s the fun of shopping second hand!

4. Be a label snob

Try your best to pass on the “fast fashion” brands. Places like Crossroads and Buffalo will resell Forever21 and other cheap brands for almost as much as they are new (which still, isn’t much). This also sends the message to the resale buyers that you, with your discriminating taste and strong ethics, would rather buy well-made pieces that have longer wear than buy some 21 year-old’s doudy ex-clubbing wear.

5. Look for quality

If someone asked me to describe the qualities of a well-made garment a few years ago, they would’ve received a blank stare.  Now that I buy for quality, I examine pieces before purchasing, both new and used. Now that I check, I’m amazed at how many times I’ve seen seams already unraveling on new items, still on the rack.  Allow for some gentle wear and tear on good-quality used items. Most of the time it can be hemmed or cleaned, or taken in/out by a tailor. Test the zippers – they should glide without any catching. Look for high-quality linings in dressy items like jackets and pants. Here’s a great guide to help you find clothing that will last.

My favorite consignment and vintage shops in L.A.

I’ve made this list to feature relatively affordable consignment shops. If you’re seeking high-end shops (think vintage Chanel – maybe one day…le sigh), check out this great list!

Playclothes – Well-curated, truly vintage clothing, arranged by decade. Expect to pay $30-$80 per piece.

Crossroads in Silverlake – Great finds from low to high-end brands. Plenty of LA-based designer samples end up here.

Hutch – A tiny, hidden gem vintage clothing and furniture shop; unique items that are reasonably priced

American Way Burbank – Clothing and furniture. Everything here is true thrift store pricing, which means hit or miss, but if you’re willing to search, you could find true vintage items for under $10 bucks.

Melrose Trading Post – A boho lover’s bazaar every Sunday. You’ll find used/vintage clothing, along with upcycled/used furniture, art, music, and some weird stuff you never knew you needed.

American Vintage in Echo Park – My husband geeks out over their vintage menswear. He’s found Redwings and an official military-issued peacoat.

Jet Rag $1 Sundays – I’ve yet to brave this event, but I’ve heard good things about it from others. Be ready to dig through piles and piles of clothing for one or two gems, but at a price you can’t argue.

Need something new?

These are some of my favorite sustainable clothing brands! The following meet some or all of the these criteria: Made in U.S.A or if made internationally, transparent about how clothes are made and textile origins; partnerships with local artisans are fair and sustainable. Eco friendly textiles: uses renewable materials, eco-friendly dyes and treatments or reuse/recycling existing materials into their pieces.

Nisolo Shoes – men’s and women’s shoes

Zady – chic, timeless women’s basics

Gustin Denim – men’s selvedge and raw denim

Alchemy Goods – upcycled bags and totes

Raleigh Denim – men’s selvedge and raw denim

Nudie Jeans – men’s selvedge and recycled denim

Raven & Lily – women’s clothing and accessories with a global vibe

Reformation – on trend women’s apparel

Alternative Apparel – athleisure basics

Della – bags and accessories

Baggu – bags & accessories

Ethica – collection of clothing, shoes and accessories from sustainable brands

Le Souque – accessories and home decor from indie eco designers

Naja – gorgeous lingerie

Veja – ethical athletic shoes for women, men and kids

PACT Apparel– women’s, men’s and kid’s basic undies and intimates

Mayamiko – on-trend, fun apparel

I try my best to purchase new clothing from ethical brands like these, but sometimes it’s just not possible because of fit or cost. For instance, I buy a lot of my basics from Madewell which is owned by J.Crew which isn’t the worst as far as social responsibility, but it could do more. However, their denim and shoes are great quality and fit my body really well; they are timeless and I have pieces that still look great after five years of wear. Just like green beauty, no need to panic and throw out everything. Just try your best to make small changes; believe me, they do matter!

I hope these tips and lists have been helpful. Any other tips I’ve missed? Share! I’m always on the hunt for more shops and ethical brands to support.