Wear White, but Go Green –– 6 Ways to Keep Your Pittsburgh Wedding Eco-Friendly
Spring has sprung, so we’re thinking green for the Earth-conscious bride and groom.
photo courtesy of greenSinner
As the three rivers thaw and blades of grass emerge from dingy snow piles across the city, we are inching toward weather that allows us to enjoy the outdoors in Pittsburgh. For couples looking to keep Pittsburgh’s environment green and beautiful, there are many ways to keep a wedding day eco-friendly.
Sarah Joy McKenzie of Carnegie, owner of Hand in Hand Weddings and Events LLC, says couples have become more aware of their impact on the environment and are incorporating that concern as they plan their ceremonies.
“People are really becoming very eco-conscious and noticing we only have so many resources,” McKenzie says.
She notes that some providers may raise prices on organic or eco-friendly items because couples are committed to going green and willing to pay the price. Still, she says there are many ways a bride or groom can reduce waste while also reducing cost. We spoke with experts to bring you six tips that won’t break the budget.
1. Get creative to avoid wasting paper.
As a planner, McKenzie communicates with Earth-conscious couples electronically as much as possible. She skips printing out information and instead opts to use email to send a form about her services. She also encourages clients to use a custom smartphone app to coordinate with her.
“I’m still a big fan of mailing invitations as opposed to e-vites, but a bride can use recyclable or plantable invitations,” McKenzie says.
Invitations printed on plantable seed paper grow into flowers when potted instead of becoming wastepaper — the fate of countless traditional invitations.
“You get a more permanent reminder of the wedding,” McKenzie says.
2. Communicate with your caterer.
To ensure that her caterer is as environmentally friendly as she is, a bride needs to ask questions and educate herself about green catering practices.
Michelle Trumble co-owns Eclipse Lounge in Lawrenceville with her husband, Kevin, where they serve and cater with organic and fair-trade products.
She says it’s important to do research before hiring a caterer and communicate with the caterer throughout the planning process.
“The caterer is a very important part of the wedding, and [the bride] needs to stay on them,” Trumble says.
Bek Hlavach, owner of Sweet Peaches Catering in Mount Oliver, says a caterer can take simple steps to reduce waste generated during a reception.
For instance, Hlavach recommends asking caterers if composting will be available and if recycling is planned during the reception. When a couple offers a full bar, the caterer can recycle bottles and cans. Trumble says couples also should ask for a recycling receptacle that is made available to guests.
3. Serve guests with eco-friendly plates and silverware.
Another opportunity to preserve the environment accompanies the choice of dinnerware for the main course and desserts.
“China will always be the most green-friendly option, but it isn’t always economical,” Hlavach says.
A couple may consider paperware that is biodegradable or compostable, and it’s important to know the difference in order to make an informed choice, Hlavach says. Biodegradable items disintegrate to nothing within six months to a year. Compostable paperware is free of metals and toxins so that it can give back to the earth as it breaks down over one to four months.
Hlavach recommends using fallen palm leaf plates as an alternative. Fallen leaves are dried and molded into compostable plates and silverware that feel like thin wood.
photo courtesy of eclipse lounge
4. Pay attention to the sources of the food.
Couples also should ask their caterers about the sources of the food they plan to serve.Hlavach advises brides to emphasize serving local food rather than organic food in order to reduce shipping waste and ensure freshness.
“It’s really difficult to have an entirely organic menu because some things just aren’t grown here … The most important thing is understanding the process of where the food is sourced from and where it ends up,” Hlavach says.
photo by rachel rowland photography
5. Do away with favors.
Another way that a couple can limit the wedding’s environmental impact is by choosing to make a donation to a charity on behalf of each guest instead of offering favors that eventually may find their way into a landfill.
“I’m a big fan of the donations instead of a trinket,” McKenzie says.
Megan Thomas and Pranay Vaddi, whose fusion nuptials were featured on Beyond the Cookie Table here, opted for a donation to the Animal Rescue League of Washington, D.C. in lieu of physical favors.
photo by kelsey kradel photography
6. Stay local with flowers — and reuse them.
When it comes to blooms, Jimmy Lohr, CEO of greenSinner in Lawrenceville, says a couple should consider sourcing and choose flowers that are seasonal in or near Pittsburgh at the time of the event.
“Thinking about seasonality really helps ... It will not only help your bottom line, but it also helps with sustainability,” Lohr says.
He notes that most of the flowers used in the United States come from countries in South America, including Colombia, and many are produced under poor conditions for workers.
“There’s the environmental footprint from production … but then there’s also this environmental footprint of flying [the flowers] here from Colombia,” he says.
He says that choosing locally grown flowers is more socially responsible and usually more economical, in addition to supporting local businesses. While seasonal availability may present some limitations on choices, couples can find unusual flowers in Pittsburgh.
“Here in western Pennsylvania, we are very blessed with a variety of local flowers,” Lohr says.
When the wedding is over, Lohr says a bride can take some flowers home to dry or press in order to create a keepsake. A florist also can dispose of the blooms responsibly.
“For the events that we do, anything that isn’t taken home by the family, we bring back to the store to compost,” Lohr says.
greenSinner also takes arrangements that remain intact after an event and donates them to senior citizen homes.
Alternatively, Lohr says that greenSinner also offers live bouquets that a bride can plant or pot after the wedding day.
“That way, you have a living memory of your event,” he says.
The Pittsburgh Wedding Flea Market is an event for past and future brides to buy and sell used wedding items. The next event will be held at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26.
Glitter & Grit will host New Zealand bridal designer Kelsey Genna for a five-day trunk show April 8-12. [5300 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/781-2375]
Jewelry designer Caesar Azzam, who has owned Caesar’s Designs in Shadyside for 12 years, has opened a new design studio in Mt. Lebanon specializing in refreshing or restoring existing pieces.
[By appointment only; 733 Washington Blvd., Suite 101; 412/621-0345]