This is part 2 in a series about how to reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint and cut down on waste. If you missed part 1 about stationery and paper goods, you should check it out. Today’s post is about sustainable wedding ideas for florals and décor.
Choose Florals Wisely
Did you know that most of the flowers you see in grocery stores and florist shops are grown in South America? They’re the floral equivalent of factory-farmed chickens. Vast flower farms use armies of low-paid workers to harvest their flowers, which are bred to be hardy enough to withstand travel. This means they have almost no fragrance and bear little genetic resemblance to their floral ancestors.
These are not the flowers you want for your wedding.
You want locally grown flowers, if possible. Here in Sacramento, that’s easy to do, because we live near one of the most fertile growing areas in the country. But even if you don’t live in an area known for flower production, if your florist sources flowers from within the U.S. instead of internationally, they’ll be higher quality.
Not to mention that using local or nearby flowers cuts down on their carbon footprint. Just like with produce, if the flowers have to travel from South America, they’ve produced more carbon emissions than if they traveled from California or New York.
Ask your floral designer where they source their flowers, or hire one who grows their own flowers.
In keeping with choosing locally sourced flowers, in-season flowers will also boost your sustainability. For example, if you want peonies in November, they’re not going to be in season anywhere in the U.S., which means they’ll have to come from the Southern Hemisphere.
Peony season is late April until mid-June in the continental U.S. Alaska peony season is July through September. And in Australia, they bloom October through December (spring in the Southern Hemisphere). Those peonies are going to have a huge carbon footprint because of the many miles they have to travel. And they won’t smell as fragrant as a peony grown in Pennsylvania and meant for use within a narrower geographic radius.
Make a Statement
Choosing a single statement bloom for your bouquet reduces the number of flowers you need. Sunflowers, calla lilies, dahlias, magnolias, ranunculuses, garden roses, and even artichokes in bloom (yes, artichokes!) look beautiful as a single stem. (Check out this Pinterest board if you’re skeptical!)
There are also a lot of “floral” options that aren’t flowers. You can use green plants as ceremony décor, table centerpieces, and accent pieces. Those can be planted in the ground after the wedding, rather than being thrown away.
Similarly, potted herbs in groups make for an interesting (and fragrant) table centerpiece option, especially for an outdoor wedding. If you still really want flowers, potted orchids are a good choice. They’re beautiful, and given the number of blooms on each plant, a little can go a long way with orchids.
Succulents are another great choice, and they even come in different shades of green and purple, so your look doesn’t have to be monochromatic. They have the added advantage of not wilting in the summer heat and humidity.
Food as Art
Piles of citrus in gold vases or compote dishes make for a vibrant, reusable, and earth-friendly centerpiece. Citrus can also be stacked in tall glass cylindrical vases so that it’s contained but still visible. Or use fall fruits such as pomegranates and figs for a darker, moodier color scheme.
Multi-task and Re-use
It’s easy to have your centerpieces do double-duty. You can use small potted herbs or succulents as escort cards. A card with the guest’s name and table number can be put in the pot, then the guests will take their plant to their table and all the plants together will form centerpieces. The plants can even serve a third purpose and be their take-home favor!
If you’re using larger plants, orchids or floral arrangements as centerpieces, have a plan for one guest at each table to take home a centerpiece. This is something that can be worked out with your planner and DJ. Either something can be placed under one plate at each table, and the person sitting at that spot gets the centerpiece. Or the DJ can make a game of it (if that’s something you’re okay with).
There are a number of organizations that will come to your wedding at the end of the night, pick up the floral arrangements, and deliver them to hospital rooms and homeless shelters to brighten an otherwise depressing space. This ensures that your wedding flowers will be enjoyed for at least several days after your wedding is over. Check out Repeat Roses, Random Acts of Flowers, or The Bloom Project. To find a group in your area, simply Google “donate wedding flowers” and your city name.
No matter what happens with your florals—you take them home, you give them to guests, you donate them—encourage composting when the flowers have wilted and died. Many communities offer yard waste pickup through the trash company, but even tossing the dead flowers out in your own yard under a tree or shrub will allow them to decompose and provide the soil with some nutrients.
Décor isn’t limited to just flowers. It’s also the vases that hold the flowers, the ceremony arch, lounge seating areas, garlands, and tchotchkes that help personalize your wedding. Rent as much of this as you can. If an item can be used and re-used by multiple people, then the energy required to make that item in the first place is amortized over many uses, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the item.
If you really want to buy, go thrifting! Many antique shops have an assortment of mismatched vases, flatware, bud vases, china, and other objects that you may want to incorporate into your wedding décor. If you buy pre-owned items, you are once again extending their useful life and reducing their overall impact on the environment.
TL;DR here’s the video link
If you have other ideas for how to reduce floral waste and cut your wedding’s carbon footprint, please share in the comments. And if you’re in need of help with your wedding and you live in or around Sacramento, I’d love to help you! Email me at email@example.com.