It’s still “Sustainability Month” over here at Risa James Events. This is Part 3 in my sustainability series on how to reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding. Part 1 covered Sustainable Wedding Stationery, while Part 2 discussed Sustainable Wedding Florals. Today I’m talking about finding a sustainable wedding venue and choosing eco-friendly catering and beverages.
Finding a Sustainable Wedding Venue
When it comes to your wedding venue search, availability on your ideal date and capacity for your anticipated number of guests are two important factors. But if you’re also concerned with having a sustainable wedding, here are three key factors to focus on.
Will a lot of your guests have to travel long distances, either by car or by plane, to get to your wedding? Travel = carbon emissions = larger carbon footprint. The easiest way to reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint is to cut down on the amount of travel people have to do.
If you and your spouse-to-be live in one place, but both of your families live somewhere else, consider having the wedding where the most people are.
The prettier your venue is, the less you will have to bring in as far as florals and decor. If you want an outdoor location, consider a botanical garden or venue with a sweeping vista. You won’t need to bring in nearly as many florals, which will save you money as well as reducing waste.
If you’re searching for an indoor venue, think “old.” Buildings that were built before World War II are more likely to be ornate. Post-war hotel ballrooms are generally quite Spartan. They’re often designed with conferences and conventions in mind, not weddings. But if you can find a hotel from the late 1800s or early 1900s, it’s likely to have an ornate tray ceiling, gilded walls, and a parquet floor. All of these make the room feel luxurious without having to bring in loads of decor.
Buildings that are LEED Certified have met a stringent set of environmental requirements, mostly having to do with energy use, including HVAC, water, and recycling. (LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.”)
LEED Certification comes in four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with Platinum being the highest level. The requirements become more numerous and stringent as the levels increase. If sustainability is your key requirement in a wedding venue, look for one that LEED Platinum.
LEED Certification is time-consuming and expensive, so buildings are proud to tout their certification. If you’re looking at a venue and you can’t tell whether or not it’s LEED Certified, it’s probably not. If it were, they would be shouting it from the rooftops.
Sustainable Wedding Catering
Regardless of whether your wedding catering is being handled by your venue or an outside caterer, there are a few things you can do to increase your wedding’s overall sustainability score:
Choose a caterer who uses locally grown foods from suppliers using sustainable growing practices. If you’re not sure, ask!
Choose in-season foods for your wedding. Caprese salad skewers are a popular appetizer choice (cherry tomato, mozzarella, basil), but tomatoes are only in season in the summer (in the Northern Hemisphere). Don’t serve caprese in November!
Find out what happens with leftover food. Will it be boxed for the family to take home, or can it be donated to a food bank? (State laws and regulations also affect the answers to this question, so you’ll need to inquire with your caterer.)
Rent real china plates, real stainless steel flatware, and real glasses. The energy usage to clean those items is lower than the energy used to make disposables. If you absolutely must use disposable, be sure to use compostable items.
Whether you or the bar service is procuring the alcohol for your wedding, buy large format bottles. For wine, that means magnums (1.5 liter bottles) and for liquor, that means 1.75 liter bottles (a “handle”). This cuts down on the number of empty bottles that need to be recycled at the end of the night.
When it comes to beer, kegs are your most sustainable option. Kegs are cleaned and re-used, resulting in very little waste. Unlike bottles or cans, which all have to be disposed of (and hopefully recycled).
When choosing your wines, look for wineries that use organic, sustainable, or biodynamic farming or wine-making practices. A little research on their websites should be sufficient. Much like with LEED Certification, wineries that use these practices are proud of them and generally tout them on their websites and even on their bottles.
And lastly, straws—everyone’s bugaboo. Be sure the bartenders aren’t using plastic straws or stirrers for cocktails. Only paper straws or bamboo stirrers and skewers should be used. (And try to ensure that the paper straws are biodegradeable and that they are actually being composted or recycled at the end of the night. Otherwise, you’re not accomplishing much.)
When it comes to straws and stirrers, your best bet is to choose cocktails that don’t require them in the first place.
Have more suggestions for how to improve the sustainability of your wedding venue or catering, let me know in the comments!