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Going green: Easy ideas to make your celebration sustainable 

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While we all want the memories of our big day to last forever, the fact of the matter is that behind the beauty of a wedding hides a dirty secret swept away after the last partygoers have left the dance floor. Throwing any event filled with food, drink, gifts, and merriment generally spells out the same result—a whole lot of trash, stripped of its one-time usage, and headed off to the dump just like all the other trash from all the other weddings, birthdays, and celebrations under the sun.

Yet the movement toward sustainability chugs on, and it has never been as easy or affordable as it is today to throw a low-impact party without coming off as some hippie-dippy or totally throwing your bottom line for a loop. You could certainly go all gung-ho at getting to a zero-waste wedding, but for many that sort of all-or-nothing approach isn't realistic. When it's your turn to throw the soiree, a few subtle changes along with conscientious consumerism can change the event from big waste to small impact.

In a world where basically everyone's calendar and communication is by their side 24/7, the idea of paper mail is arguably antiquated. Websites now offer custom electronic invitations, from sleek to boho chic and everything in between. When you factor in the cost of getting invites and return cards printed, envelopes and postage (heaven help you if you choose an off-sized envelope), we are talking some pretty pricey paper and a not so insignificant carbon footprint en route to your guests' mailboxes. Add on invites for the bachelorette party, bridal shower, and rehearsal dinner, we're looking at a chunk of change that could go to making your dream honeymoon a reality!

click to enlarge SUSTAINABLE AND CLASSY Reusable straws come in all sizes, colors, and are even customizable. Better yet, they don't get stuck in turtle nostrils. - PHOTOS BY ANNA STARKEY
  • Photos By Anna Starkey
  • SUSTAINABLE AND CLASSY Reusable straws come in all sizes, colors, and are even customizable. Better yet, they don't get stuck in turtle nostrils.

If you don't want to give up the tactile experience when guests feel the to-die-for embossing you chose, there is an alternative. Still order the invites, but change one element of it: A simple act such as asking people to RSVP online saves on your carbon footprint bottomline, and frankly, is a much more foolproof way to get your guest list together and digitized. If you're worried that your less tech-savvy guests just won't "get" the online process, why not print a small number of paper invitations for them and let the rest of your guests ride the wave of the future? A little compromise can go a long way at impacting your wedding's carbon cost.

We've all seen the videos—a precious sea turtle groaning and grunting as a plastic straw is pulled from its adorable little nostril. Heck, San Luis Obispo requires eateries and gin joints to only provide straws if their parched patrons beg for them. We aren't the only community restricting their use, and as such, plenty of alternatives have popped up. You can find paper straws like from the good ol' days, biodegradable cellulose, hay, or bamboo straws, glass straws, metal straws, and countless alternatives. Whatever your budget, need, and aesthetic, there's a straw for you!

While the biodegradable versions do make a great alternative, they still add waste to the landfill, and unless you've got someone to separate your trash into compostables and non, they generally end up in the same place as all the rest of the trash—tied up in plastic bags at Cold Canyon Landfill. Might I suggest taking your waste-saving efforts to the next level while also pulling off a solid wedding favor that guests will use for years to come? Metal and glass straws come in every color you could dream of, and plenty of vendors offer custom engraving so your guests will be reminded of your perfect day every time they take a sip.

As far as what to stick those straws into, opt out of single-use plastic water bottles to keep your guests hydrated and happy; instead, set up a hydration station for them to refill as needed. If beer and wine are in your plan, go for kegs or magnums over bottles and serve in rented or thrifted glasses. There's never a shortage of post-wedding tableware and decor for sale locally, so stop by your favorite thrift store or scan your Facebook marketplace and Craigslist for some killer deals.

The striving for total perfection in this sort of endeavor can quickly become overwhelming. There's no reasonable way to prevent trash from being a byproduct of any big event, but conscientiousness is key. Renting cloth napkins and tableware cuts out a ton of trash from the start. Look for ways to cut out plastic—pass around baskets of biodegradable confetti for guests to grab a handful of instead of individual baggies, forget the forgettable favors and send guests home with a potted plant or plantable wildflower seeds, locally sourced treats, or anything that will last long into the future.

click to enlarge GROWING SENTIMENT Succulents are low-cost, low-maintenance plants that double as decor and a wonderful favor to send guests home with. These are a few I have brought home from weddings. - PHOTOS BY ANNA STARKEY
  • Photos By Anna Starkey
  • GROWING SENTIMENT Succulents are low-cost, low-maintenance plants that double as decor and a wonderful favor to send guests home with. These are a few I have brought home from weddings.

Buy from local vendors and makers wherever you can. Remember, when you buy from them, you are paying for dance lessons and schoolbooks, not throwing your money at a faceless corporation. Sure, you'll probably need to order some things online for necessity or simply for ease. Counteract those purchases by supporting local business where it makes sense.

Having a tough time finding what you want? Ask your trusted florist or the photo-booth guru you hired for some sage advice—the ones in the industry know more about local resources than anyone!

Remember that small steps are still forward movement, and any choice you make to give Mother Earth a break on your day will be appreciated by all. Δ

Freelancer Anna Starkey still treasures the succulents she received at several weddings. Contact her through Editor Camillia Lanham at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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