Your wedding day should be a special time that celebrates you and what you hold dear. For many couples, that includes a passion for natural living and protecting the world around us. Don't get confused by technicalities and terminology. Having a green wedding is within anyone's reach. Kate Harrison, the founder of Green Wedding Professionals, shared her insights about what it means to be a green bride...and how accessible it really is!
What is your professional background? How did that lead you to the Green Bride Guide?
My educational background is in environmental law and policy. I met my husband while in graduate school at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. I wrote the book The Green Bride Guide: How to Plan an Earth-friendly Wedding on Any Budget (Sourcebooks 2008) after we had our own green wedding in 2007. I wanted to prove that going green could be elegant and affordable, and there were not a lot of resources out there to help me navigate that. The book gives lots of ideas to other brides on easy ways to make eco-friendly substitutions, and I show how they can save up to 40 percent off the cost of their wedding without sacrificing style.
So how would you define a Green Bride?
I define a green wedding as any event where the couple is trying to decrease their impact on the planet - even if it's with just a few parts of the celebration. With 2.5 million weddings a year in the USA, even small choices can add up.
How do you help engaged couples plan a more sustainable wedding?
I offer them simple ways to green each and every element of a wedding. For example, the average American couple spends over $7,000 on their engagement and wedding rings, but the average ring produces one ton of mining waste, and gemstone mining leads to millions of human rights violations. Eco-conscious jewelers use recycled stones and metals, as well as ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones, to craft beautiful, affordable and eco-friendly wedding rings. Couples can also have a vintage or family heirloom recast in a modern recycled gold setting.
Is it possible to have a green destination wedding?
Absolutely! Couples can offset their carbon emissions using a site like Carbon Farmer. They can also select eco-friendly beach wedding decor - from soy candles to sea glass jewelry.
What are some simple things that any couple can do to be more green?
The best way to go green is to buy locally and seasonally. Over half of the florists in the U.S. use imported flowers that are sprayed with pesticides and fungicides. These chemicals can be harmful to your health and contaminate waterways and drinking supplies. Using local, seasonal and organic flowers decreases fuel consumption and is often less costly than ordering exotic species and out-of-season blooms, which must be shipped in from overseas. The same goes for food. Trying to plan a menu featuring products from a 100-mile radius guarantees that everything will be fresh and delicious and have a small carbon footprint.
What are the biggest mistakes that couples make when it comes to neglecting the environment?
It is very easy to feel pressured to get things last minute for your wedding, like a disposable aisle runner or other one-time-use items (dance floor toys for example). These things rarely add to the experience or joy, and all end up in the trash. I always encourage couples to really think about the future of the products they purchase before they buy.
What does your business do to stay green while helping others be more eco-friendly?
The websites I run are run on solar energy, the book was printed on FSC-certified paper, and I run a virtually paperless office illuminated with LED lights. I drive a Prius. I have a seltzer maker so I can carbonate tap water instead of buying bottles. I compost. These are small things, but each makes an impact.
How can brides incorporate green beauty products into their wedding?
Most beauty products in the United States contain dangerous chemicals that are not regulated by the FDA. A wedding is a great opportunity to green your cosmetics and educate your bridal party about the hazards these products can pose to your health. Use the Skin Deep Database to see how dangerous your current products are and to find eco-friendly and non-toxic alternatives to bring with you to the salon on your big day.
Do you have any must-have natural beauty products that help brides shine on their special day?
There are so many great companies offering non-toxic makeup these days, but I am very fond of the Dr. Hauschka line. It is more expensive than many of the other optiosn, but they are very well made and last a long time.
When you first started out, how did you go about growing your business?
I was part of an incubator at Yale and won some money from the State of Connecticut to launch the company. I networked as much as possible with like-minded industry professionals, attended trade shows, wrote a lot of content on the topic, and did my best to help others even if there was no direct monetary benefit for the company. Over time, I learned about blogging, social media, branding and advertising. Today, I offer my consulting services to other companies in the green space through my website.
What plans do you have for growth now, and how will you meet those goals?
In 2014, I sold greenbrideguide.com to mywedding.com and stayed on to help grow the site. We decided to fold the content from Green Bride Guide in to the larger wedding site, so it will no longer be a separate entity. My focus now is on educating wedding planners through my online certification course and helping other companies achieve their goals.