We love weddings. The party, the gathering, the food. And we really love the idea of environmentally thoughtful ways to make your wedding more sustainable and reduce waste. We sat down with MaryBeth Kressin at Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center, and were surprised to hear the average wedding contributes 63 tons of CO2 (13 cars for a year) and generates 400 pounds of garbage (about the weight of a grand piano)!
The good news is there are many things that can be done to reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding. Some are simple to implement, others take a bit more effort, but in the end every little bit helps to not only make your wedding amazing, but reduce your event’s impact on the environment.
1. Consider Your Ceremony & Venue Location
Having a local venue & ceremony location close to where most of your guests are geographically located is something you may be doing already without realizing that it can reduce your wedding’s overall carbon footprint. Plus Milwaukee has some of the THE BEST wedding venue options to choose from.
Also, having both your ceremony & reception in the same location is not only convenient for your guests, but prevents them from needing to drive between events. A win-win!
2. Choose Non-Disposable or Eco-Friendly Decor
So much of wedding decor goes in the trash after your big day is over. To reduce the amount of waste, reusable decor items such as glasses & candles are a much better option than things made of plastic. Utilizing rentals from your floral designer is a great eco-friendly option as are edible centerpieces such as pretty cakes and desserts.
3. Request Seasonal & Locally Grown Flowers
We love wedding flowers. Wedding floral is that something special that differentiates a wedding from a regular event by giving it an extra layer of style, freshness and elegance. A few things you can do to make a more eco-friendly choice in your floral is:
- Select In Season Floral — Ask your Milwaukee florist what’s in season for your wedding date. This makes it more likely it can be sourced locally or regionally.
- Go for Local Blooms & Greenery — The more local your floral, the less transportation cost & environmental impact of your wedding flowers.
- Choose USA Grown Floral — Internationally shipped floral often times has additional chemicals applied which also negatively affects the health of growers, harvesters and processors of the floral.
Many florists in the MIM Family work hard to source as local as possible, with some even growing their own flowers. Be sure to ask how your florist chooses to be more eco-conscious.
4. Donate Your Floral
A big piece of decor that goes in the trash once your day is over is the flowers. Any chance to repurpose items, even for a short time is a win in being eco-friendly.
There are a limited number of local companies that repurpose wedding floral into arrangements for hospice patients or nonprofits including Petals for Patients & Hope Blooms Anew. Also consider and inquire about composting (see #13 on this list).
5. Rent Items Versus Buying New
Renting items such as linens, decor & furniture is not only an eco-friendly decision but super convenient and on trend. Event rental companies in Milwaukee give you a wide range of creative pieces to really make your wedding’s aesthetic pop. And since the items are rented, they aren’t going in the trash once your event is over.
6. Transportation Options
Any type of wedding transportation such as busses, shuttles and limos that make one trip to transport larger groups of people are (generally) more eco-friendly than everyone driving individually in cars. And shuttling your guests from their hotel to your wedding is usually a very welcomed bonus, especially for your family and older guests.
Want to take eco-friendly to the next level? Incorporate biking such as Milwaukee’s bike share Bubler Bikes or have your wedding along the Milwaukee Hop line, which happens to be super close to 20+ wedding venues in downtown Milwaukee.
7. Limit Food + Drink Waste
This can be a tough one to manage as not all caterers allow left over food to be taken home at the end of the night due to health & safety protocols, but it can’t hurt to ask! Work with your caterer to bring passed appetizers & fill food stations on an as needed basis and reconfirm your most accurate guest count close to your wedding date to limit extra food.
8. Consider Your Invitations
Technically going with digital invites is the most eco-friendly, but I’m a paper person and love receiving USPS mail so I’m not ready to ditch traditional invitations yet. Luckily options exist that use 100% recycled or compostable paper and choose designs that limit the use of plastic or non-recycle accents on your invitations.
9. Only Reusable Plates, Glasses & Serving Ware
Request glass or non-disposable serving ware of your catering and bartending vendors. Not only is using glass & silverware classier and makes food & drinks taste better, it reduces waste. To note, at times there may be a slight upcharge over disposable due to the handling required, but it’s so worth it in our opinion.
10. Source Food & Drinks Locally
Locally sourced food stays on trend for its freshness and being overall delicious, but it’s also the more sustainable catering choice. We love when weddings incorporate local into their wedding cuisine & beverage choices.
Ask your caterers to use locally grown & prepared food and even use locally sourced alcohol & beer such as Central Standard Distillery or Good City Brewing beer — your options are not only tasty, but showcase even more of your love for Milwaukee and Wisconsin.
11. Hire Vendors That Care About The Environment
Look at wedding businesses websites and social media to see if they have eco-friendly practices they promote. Weddings take multiple vendors to pull off so working with eco-friendly vendors makes your event more sustainable because they’ve already thought of how to do it.
For example, MIM Family Members Tall Guy and a Grill was the 1st caterer in Wisconsin to be certified as a Green Caterer in the state of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Flower Co. sources floral sustainably and locally and composts all of their flower waste. Additionally, Bay View Printing Co. & Reminisce Photography both have committed to environmentally friendly practices.
12. Consider Water Consumption
In our opinion, water is something to make easily available at any event, especially if you are incorporating alcohol or cannabis into your wedding. To avoid wasting water, consider having water stations or pitchers of water throughout your event where even your most thirsty guests can help themselves as they please. This option conserves more water than individual glasses of water for each person which often goes to waste when the tables are cleared.
13. Inquire About Composting
Local company Compost Crusaders has been helping the Milwaukee area compost for years, with MIM Family Member companies including Tall Guy & a Grill, Milwaukee Flower Co., the Urban Ecology Center and Schlitz Audubon all using their services to compost their waste.
Ask your wedding vendors like venues, caterers & florists about composting or reach out directly to Compost Crusaders special event compositing that is perfect for weddings.
14. Venue Choice
We have to shout out the Urban Ecology Center along with Schlitz Audubon, both of which are arguably the most eco-friendly wedding venues in Milwaukee.
The Urban Ecology Center composts, limits disposable items, is powered by solar power, and they even conserve water by using rainwater to flush their toilets!
Schlitz Audubon’s building also incorporates solar power, geothermal heating and composting so having your eco-friendly wedding here checks a lot of the boxes we listed above.
Special thanks to MaryBeth Kressin at the Urban Ecology Center for her expertise for this article.