Green on Shades of Green Weddings
By Aliza Green,
Chef, Baba Olga’s Kitchen/Catering
In your dwelling, you may have undyed paper towels, maintain three bins for recycling in the kitchen, a water filter on your tap and no bottled water in your fridge. You buy your food through a local CSA (community supported agriculture), food coop, or weekly farmer’s market. Now it’s time for your wedding and you want to make it a greener celebration recognizing the importance of the health of the planet in a stylish wedding that reflects your unique personality. Green weddings minimize waste in every part of a wedding and help promote local growers, florists, wedding designers, and, most of all, organic or close to it, seasonal and locally-grown produce, MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified fish and seafood, and antibiotic-free meats and poultry served in smaller portions to reduce waste and carbon-intensive meats.
By choosing to spend your wedding budget on a green-friendly, locally-oriented wedding, you are taking the opportunity to support companies that do their best to incorporate social and environmental responsibility into the way they do business. With wedding costs averaging $30,000 to $40,000, your choices can make a real difference and help support the eco-friendly community.
Choose an Eco-Friendly Location like Material Culture
We’ve been specializing in recycling, reusing, and repurposing for more than 20 years—our business was built on reviving traditional methods for creating vegetable-dyed, hand-spun wool rugs made in small villages of Turkey and further east so we know what it means to nurture artisan handcrafts. While there is always a way to do more, we compost all our food waste so instead of going into the disposer, it goes to help grow more local vegetables, fruits, greens, and herbs. Our showroom is full of an ever-changing array of handcrafted artifacts from around the world, a testament to the skills and artisanship found in our world. So, instead of starting with a “vanilla box”, you begin with a colorful, visually-stimulating room full of fascinating furnishings, textiles, rugs, and so much more!
Use Local Vendors
Our vendors are all small and medium-size independents whether it’s Common Market http://commonmarketphila.org/, a trusted source for local food products, Green Meadow Farm in Gap, Pennsylvania, Free Bird chickens from Lancaster County, wildflower honey from Fruitwood Orchards in South Jersey, flours from Castle Valley Mills in Chester County and so much more. Our oils are either extra-virgin olive or canola—no transfats here.
Choose Locally-Grown Flowers, Plants, or Other Creative Centerpieces
For your flowers, choose a local florist to arrange your centerpieces and bouquets preferably one that grows their own. For a summer wedding, use farmers’ market finds to create bouquet and table arrangements, or use potted plants which can be given away to your attendants at the end of your big day. One bride gathered fallen branches and painted them gold. Placed on burlap runners with green leaves and ivory candles in copper bowls in between, her DIY centerpieces made an eco-friendly, seasonal table decoration. Earth-friendly materials like recycled wood, river stones, fallen or trimmed branches, colorful leaves, dried blossoms and berries, pine cones, shells, bark, and other organic material will give your wedding that rustic and bohemian detail to your special day.
We Offer a Seasonal Buffet Menu Emphasizing Vegetables, Legumes, and Fruits
By serving a buffet style dinner, you can give guests plenty of choices with meats and fish served according to appetite. Instead of each guest getting a full-size portion of a high-priced center-cut meat (like fillet of beef or lamb chops), we mostly serve tasty shoulder cuts and cuts like skirt steak that are more plentiful and flavorful than expensive middle meats that are always in high demand. We use all edible parts of our food ingredients, including peelings and trimmings that go to make vegetable stock.
We like to serve our Fruit Macedonia with Spearmint at all our events to give guests an alternative to rich cakes. But, we pay a lot of attention to the seasonality, locale, and ripeness of our fruit so that we only serve strawberries when they’re local, juicy, and deep red or we’ll freeze the berries in season and serve them in winter as a coulis for a welcome reminder of late spring.
Consider Homemade Favors or Something that Is Lasting and Useful
You might wish to make your own homemade favors or give something that is lasting and useful. One couple made homemade blood orange marmalade in small glass jars with a custom label. Another gave out small succulent plants that had decorated the tables—mine is still growing! As is the custom in Western Pennsylvania especially in the Italian community, a group of friends made a large assortment of wedding cookies and we packed them into small bags as a take-home goodie. Lucky guests at an upcoming wedding will be getting packets of our homemade dark chocolate bark with fruits and nuts along with our milk chocolate bark with candied walnuts and sea salt.
Instead of serving wasteful bottled water from plastic bottles, we maintain a water filtration system http://www.verowater.com/. The still and sparkling water we serve at the bar and on the table goes through five different filters and comes out clean, mineral-ly, and delicious. It’s a revelation to taste just how good plain water can be! Our coffee comes from a local roaster, Small World, in Princeton, New Jersey and is custom-roasted once a week.
Use Eco-Friendly Recyclables When Appropriate
For our cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres, we serve on palm plates from India that are produced from fallen Areca palm leaves from Packnwood (http://www.packnwood.com/) Our paper napkins are made of thick, soft, natural-colored paper rather than bleached and/or dyed materials. Disposable forks and other cutlery are made from bamboo and wood. While these products cost significantly more than conventional products, we know that by encouraging these companies to produce eco-friendly disposables, there will be a market for them in future and that as competition increases, prices will eventually drop.
Consider Serving Wine and Beer Only at Your Bar
Because we are a BYOB venue (which saves you about 50% in alcoholic beverage costs), it’s up to you to choose what you’d like to serve. In California now, wine and beer only are served at about 80% of weddings. Because our food and beverage trends travel from west to east, we expect to see many more bridal couples go this route, which allows for a lot more local, artisan-crafted beverages. Many guests will drink beer from the bottle so that also cuts down on the number of glasses needed—an average of 4 to 5 per guest for a wedding. With your beer purchases, focus on supporting smaller, craft breweries that abound and avoid the giant conglomerates. Same goes for wine, though guests will definitely be drinking out of glasses! Although we rent glassware, when we do need to wash glasses or other tableware, the machine we use is a high-temperature system rather than a low-temperature machine where chemicals are used for sterilization. We also often serve our lightly sweetened, ruby-magenta Hibiscus Blossom & Spearmint Iced Tea.