I do ... pledge to shrink my wedding’s carbon footprint

Allecia Vermillion

More brides and grooms are considering the environment when planning their weddings, but the amount of carbon generated by these special events often overshadows smaller sustainable decisions like recycled-paper wedding invitations or selecting a pre-owned wedding dress.

The issue isn’t the event itself. While that 10-person dance band may require a lot of power for its equipment, the real fuel and energy consumption comes from gathering your guests from across the country — and across town. Add in multiple nights of hotel stays, and the footprint grows even more.

The phrase “green wedding” conjures up images of rustic outdoor celebrations. However, these simple ideas can make any wedding, from a downtown cocktail soiree to a lavish ballroom extravaganza, an environmentally friendly affair.

Offset guests’ travels

Air travel is unavoidable if you want your cousin in Florida and your college roommate who now lives in Oregon to be at your Chicago wedding. Sites like www.carbonfund.org or www.terrapass.com let you calculate the event’s approximate carbon footprint. You can then purchase carbon offsets to neutralize your wedding’s effect on the environment.

Plan location strategically

A ceremony in a remote field or rural estate sounds romantic, but asking your guests to drive great distances consumes extra fuel. Many towns offer beautiful venues in the city center, which allows locals to take public transit and out-of-town guests to walk from nearby hotels. This approach also reduces the risk of wedding guests driving home while intoxicated. If you envision your “I do” happening in a more remote setting, look for a spot close to hotel facilities, or consider shuttling your guests to conserve fuel.

Encourage good behavior

Hotels use thousands of gallons of water each day, plus considerable amounts of chemical-based laundry detergent to provide a fresh set of towels every day. Direct guests to a hotel that encourages sustainable practices like reusing towels (OK, this practice saves the hotel money as well). If you are providing gift bags or a welcome message in guests’ hotel rooms, you can ask everyone to hang up his or her towel after each use.

Localize your reception

Find a caterer who uses local products whenever possible. Produce and ingredients from your region don’t have to travel across the country on a truck and usually taste better than mass-produced alternatives. Similarly, local flowers (especially ones raised organically) are a beautiful and eco-friendly alternative to blooms flown in from warmer climates.