Of all the vendors in the wedding business, venue owners, like me, have a unique perspective on our client's efforts to have an eco-friendly event - specifically - the volume of trash... ahh, yes, garbage... my glamorous job!
This pic is of me sitting in front of the dumpster having a beer while watching the sunset - glamorous, huh?
Venue owners see each event to the very end - right down to the last cigarette butt in the grass (ugh! So gross!). The volume of waste varies from one group to the next and I have learned a few things about the most successful ways to cut back on the amount of waste, (two previous Agua Linda Farm wedding clients, Gabrielle Giffords and good friends Travis and Torey Smith, are featured in this article, Make Your Big Day Green).
Couples who provide their guests with their "glass for the night" can greatly reduce trash. This could be a mason jar that doubles as a wedding favor, perhaps with a label and seat assignment (mason jars have a lip that works well to keep twine from slipping), or some other glass with a label.
I made this tag for stemware using two hole punchers - one decorative round and one small round and cut a slit in the top to slide onto the stem of the glass (my clients, ask if you want to borrow my hole punchers!:)
Put a cute sign at the bar encouraging folks to reuse their glass, but avoid providing mountains of real glassware for the night - if each guest is supplied a a wine glass (or two), a water goblet and a low-ball cocktail glass, the delivery of this quantity of glassware to a venue and the washing of so many glasses may effectively be more wasteful than going with biodegradable disposables. One glass for the night and back-up for those that loose their glass or change drinks should be a biodegradable disposable.
This is the sign we display at every wedding, regardless of the glassware our clients choose.
In keeping with the "glass for the night" idea, opting for a keg rather than canned or bottled beer is a better option to reduce waste. Guests can re-use their glass rather than opening another bottle and even if you resort to the biodegradables at some point, those will at least break down in a landfill. Yes, glass bottles can be recycled, but, A. the quantity of glassware can be unbelievable! and, B. guests often have trouble (especially after a few of those beers...) keeping the bottles from mixing with food waste trash - no recycling now... You can also support local businesses and avoid shipping by providing keg options from a local brewery and wine from a local winery - we have a few in Tucson and in Benson. (In fact, I had a client who did a Southern Arizona wine tour with friends a few months before their date to pick out wine for their wedding!).
If you can, avoid bottled water. Here at Agua Linda Farm we have well water that tastes delicious. We provide a large dispenser filled with ice water that guests can refill their glass with. Lemonade and ice-tea are also made with our well water (with some fresh mint from the garden, of course!).
I love fresh flowers - hate artificial as a general rule - plus, fake flowers, which are not biodegradable and are often made by a cheap labor force in a faraway country are not an eco-friendly option. In my opinion, this is your big day - if you want fresh flowers, you should have them, but greenly speaking.... these days you can get any flower any time of the year because they can be shipped from all over the world. If available, buying local, and organic is a great choice, but, let's not be naive... I have had many brides tell me that they are going to pick wildflowers for their wedding. This is Arizona. Good luck. You can talk to your florist, however, about flowers in-season in our region at the time of your event - better to ship from California than China. One of our brides (and a good friend) grew zinnias in her garden for her wedding - too ambitious, perhaps for most. Another option - go with potted plants that will live at your home post-wedding or double as wedding favors.
Annie and Jamie used potted plants for their centerpieces for their May wedding at Agua Linda Farm.
Photo be Sarah Neyhart photography.
I have had a few brides enlist friends and family to make paper flowers - there are so many links to how-to online and if you get them done well in advance, the work will seem less daunting and way easier (and cheaper) than day-of flower arranging! My favorite artificials were from a wedding this past spring. The bride found an online company, Eco Flower, that sells handmade artificial flowers made from recycled materials - see the picture - so beautiful! And, they will last as a keepsake forever!
For my step daughter's wedding, I found an overgrown eucalyptus tree growing in a neighbors front yard. I recruited my sister to politely knock on their front door (she's so out-going!) and ask if I could "prune" their tree! I used swags of eucalyptus and ivy that grows on the side of my house for each table. I had planted sunflowers, too, but they came off too soon and couldn't be used, so, in a pinch, I filled in with a few store bought flowers. All of this was, of course, biodegradable.
Jasmine's bouquet with some (not-so-eco-friendly) store bought flowers and greenery robbed from someone's front yard! Photo by photographer Gerry Loew (our brother) of Willow Tale Pictures
Last thoughts: this is your wedding and, (hopefully), the only one you will ever have. Big parties result in lots of trash - no matter what, so unless you love the idea of eloping, don't be too hard on yourself! Make an effort to be responsible and reduce waste as much as possible, then, enjoy your day.