Different Carbon Footprint, Same Love

By Pianpian Wang

I got married about a month ago. With close friends and family as my witnesses, my husband and I exchanged vows and rings, and made a life commitment to each other in front of the County Clerk at the courthouse. It was a small wedding ceremony, but it was truly amazing!

Out of curiosity, I wanted to know the carbon footprint of my wedding and the carbon footprint of an average American wedding. Therefore, I ran some calculations by following the US EPA guidelines. Here is a comparison and breakdown of my own wedding and a typical American wedding.

Guest Travel

Guest travel usually contributes a large source of carbon emissions. Particularly, if you have guests who need to fly in to attend your wedding, the carbon footprint would be much higher than those guests who are from the local areas. As the wedding organizer, you can help your guests reduce their travel’s carbon impact through carbon offsets.

In my case, the fact that my parents are in China and a 16-hour flight is no fun for senior people, my husband and I decided to record videos of the wedding to share with them. All of our other guests traveled to the courthouse and the restaurant by car. After calculating each guest’s travel mileage, the overall emissions of guest travel of my wedding, including the photographer and the make-up artist, was only 380.975 kg CO2e.

Wedding Venue

As mentioned above, we got married at the courthouse, so we did not have a typical wedding venue of an average American wedding. Our wedding emissions were zero as we did not use extra electricity besides the regular consumption of the governmental building.

If your wedding is located at a hotel or resort, the electricity consumption at the venue should be included in the emission inventory. Generally, the bigger the venue and the longer the party, the bigger the carbon footprint of your wedding. Hence, it is necessary to know:

  • * If the venue has generated renewable energy for electricity
  • * If the venue building is LEED-certified, which generally with high energy efficiency
  • * If the venue supports low carbon projects as one of their sustainability initiatives

Currently, it is trendy to use a family member or friend’s backyard as their wedding venue, which is also a good choice to reduce environmental impact.

In my case, the restaurant that we picked to host a luncheon after the wedding ceremony is a local restaurant that is near our house. The restaurant uses seasonal ingredients for their food. Instead of catering, our guests were encouraged to order whatever they liked on the menu. This way we reduced food waste – I will talk more about this below. In the end, the luncheon’s carbon footprint is about 39.18 kg CO2e.

Wedding Bouquet

Believe it or not, many flowers that we usually use in wedding bouquets are fragile and almost always flown to the U.S. from warmer climates such as South America and Africa. Such delivery results in a higher carbon emission than flowers from local farms. Flowers grown in those countries also have a greater environmental impact. A 2007 study by Cranfield University in England found that raising 12,000 Kenyan roses resulted in 13,200 pounds (6,000 kilograms) of CO2, which equals 675 gallons of gasoline consumed.

I did not choose a regular wedding florist to make the bouquet. I asked a local flower shop (in the East Village of NYC), to make me my bouquet. My husband always got me flowers from when we were dating and I thought the bouquet was a lovely symbol of the conclusion of dating and the beginning of a new stage of our relationship. As far as I know, the flower shop only provides seasonal flowers from local areas. With the florist’s delicate skill and arrangement, my bouquet looks extraordinary. Therefore, our carbon footprint is much smaller than a typical wedding bouquet.

Wedding Clothes

To measure a wedding dress(suit)’s carbon footprint, we need to know the fabric of the dress, the weight of the dress, what kind of transportation was used to deliver the dress from the manufacturer to you. Some tips to reduce the wedding dress(suit)’s carbon impact is to reuse a family member’s dress or to buy a vintage dress.

My strategy was to buy a new white dress that could be used on multiple occasions. Therefore, the dress would not merely hang in at the corner of my closet.

Wedding Waste

Another big category that increases a wedding’s carbon emissions is waste. Waste includes but is not limited to paper products (such as invitation cards, venue decorations, and gift wrapping paper) and food waste. An average wedding is usually a six-hour event, which roughly produces about 400-600 lbs of waste.

There are many ways to reduce waste. In my case, we simply used text messages and emails to invite our guests instead of sending out paper invitation cards. We did not ask for wedding gifts, so no gift wrapping paper was consumed. The only paper products we bought were to decorate our house, which is about 5.36 kg CO2e.

People want to be special and unique at such a once in a life-time occasion through a beautiful and wonderful wedding, and I am no exception. According to “The Green Bride Guide,” by Kate Harrison, an average American wedding produces 63 metric tons of carbon dioxide. By comparison, our wedding only generated approximately 0.6 tons CO2, which is a huge saving in carbon emissions. In the end, my husband and I decided to purchase 2 carbon credits, which equals 2 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, to make our wedding completely carbon neutral. The purchase will go support a carbon credit project that meets with 14 sustainable development goals out of 17. All of our guests thought this was very meaningful.

If you would like to make your wedding carbon-neutral, talk to us today!