Saturday, January 17, 2009

Newspaper Wrapping?

Hello Kate!

I want to ask my shower and wedding guests not to purchase wrapping paper or greeting cards for the gifts they give us. I would rather they use scrap paper, newspaper or use old unused cards they have lying around the house. What is the best way to approach this?? I have a lot of older relatives who may be resistant to this nontraditional request even though it will save them money.

Thank you!

Amanda V.


Dear Amanda,

Although it may seem insubstantial at first look, this is actually a significant way to reduce the environmental footprint of your wedding. The average wedding produces almost 600 pounds of garbage, and lot of that is made of boxes and non-recyclable wrapping paper from gifts.

Start by asking whoever is organizing your shower to get the word out to the invitees about your request. He or she can even make it a contest to see who can come up with the most creative eco-wrapping - which will be fun for your shower and will get guests to think outside the box (literally). There are many creative ways to wrap with recycled or reusable materials - and for a few great examples I suggest checking out/pointing them to Simply Green Giving: Create Beautiful and Organic Wrappings, Tags, and Gifts from Everyday Materials by Danny Sao (image from book above).

For your wedding, I suggest putting a small paragraph up on your registry page, explaining what you are asking guests to do, and why. Once people understand that is is important to you they will be more likely to break with convention. That said, there will always be a few guests (a.k.a. grandma) who will not feel comfortable "going green" no matter what you do. For these guests I suggest smiling, thanking them, and then reusing their boxes and wrapping paper at your next gifting opportunity.

Good luck and congratulations!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

BYO Vegan Makeup?

Hi Kate,

I am a vegan who tries lives as organically and ego-friendly as possible, and will be the Maid of Honor in my sister's wedding next May. Alas, my sister is not vegan, nor anyone else involved! I know that she is booking makeup and hair treatments for all the bridesmaids the day of the wedding... would it be appropriate to ask my stylist to only use vegan makeup on me, or, alternatively, to bring in my own vegan products for the stylists to work with? If yes, could you recommend a good makeup company? I use Gabriel cosmetics for every-day use, but have a feeling that is not glam enough for wedding-photo quality.

Thank you!


HI Rebecca,

First, I think it is great that you are thinking about this. In addition to being tested on animals, many cosmetics contain animal-derived ingredients and are not suitable for vegans. I think it is perfectly appropriate to call ahead and ask the salon if they offer vegan or cruelty-free makeup options. If not, you should feel free to bring in whatever products you would like them to use. This practice is actually more common than you might imagine, as many people are allergic to certain ingredients or want to use their favorite lip color, nail color etc. Any stylist worth their salt will be able to make you look glamorous as long as you provide the basics. If you want to be safe, ask what types of makeup they usually emply (liquid foundation, bronzer, liners, etc.) and bring one of each. If you are willing to share, I would also let your fellow bridesmaids know about your plan - maybe they will even go in on a few of the items with you!

As for brands, there are a lot of great options out there and it really depends on your budget which ones make sense for you. I suggest taking a look at Beautorium - as they have a great selection of vegan choices. You can also peruse the list of companies that have taken a pledge against animal testing here.

Thanks again for writing, and I hope you will come back after the wedding and share pictures!



Friday, October 10, 2008

How much will my wedding cost?

The average wedding in the United States costs about $27,000 - but how much is a green wedding?

There are so many different ways to have a green wedding that you cannot say off the bat that an eco-friendly wedding will cost more or less than a conventional wedding. It really depends on the choices you make along the way (which is why I offer options marked $, $$ and $$$ in each category in The Green Bride Guide book.) To be on the safe side, I would use a traditional budget calculator, and as you make your arrangements adjust up or down.

Here is a new easy tool to help you get started.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Natural Perfumes?

Image: Chessalee

Hi Kate,

I'm beginning a search for some natural beauty products (specifically perfume and an exfoliating body scrub) for my wedding. I've found a bunch of great websites and looked at products through your site, but I don't want to buy a perfume without being able to smell it in person. Could you recommend any common stores that carry all-natural beauty products? Do any national chains such as Sephora or Origins have anything decent?

Thanks so much!

Hi Regan,

Thank you so much for writing. Many perfumes contain nasty ingredients so I think it is great you are trying to find a natural alternative.

I agree with you that perfumes have to be tried in person! Almost everything I try turns sickeningly sweet on me after five minutes so I am very picky.

To answer your question, there are no chain stores that I know of that have a robust selection. I know origins (as a company) has a good environmental reputation and now carries an organic line of skin care products, but I am not sure what is in their perfumes. It is certainly worth a trip to their store to find out if there is one near you. The same goes for Sephora.

Personally, I am fond of Pacifica Perfumes -they have rich spicy scents and you can use their store locator to find a store near you.

However, my favorite natural perfumery is Aftelier. They are NOT cheap, but they have amazing floral solid perfumes which are sold in a refillable compact. Aftelier allows you to order samples online -which, if used sparingly, can last a long time and are much more affordable.

I am sorry I can't offer more advice. I am posting your question here with the hope some of the other readers will chime in with suggestions.

When you do find something you love I hope you will come back and share!

All the best,


P.s. On the exfoliant question my favorite (after lots of testing) is the JASON Apricot Scrubble - it does not leave an oily residue on your skin and has a great grit!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seed Paper Problems

Image: Grow-a-Note (Made in USA)

Hi Kate,

I think you have a site worth sharing. One huge problem though is all of your plantable paper. From an environmental point of view, it's a terrible idea. Most of it is made overseas, and while it is made from recycled content, it is largely sweat shopped. But worse yet is the invasive species angle. Seeds from where ever the paper is coming from don't belong where the invites are going. (Ever look in a seed catalog and notice that they won't ship some seeds to some places? This is why). While it is a cute idea, seeds from China don't belong in Chicago.

I've been making handmade paper for 11 years and talked to many botanists along the way and you won't find one who thinks seeded paper is a good idea.

All the best...

Hi Chuck,

I have reprinted your e-mail to me because you raise a very important point that I talk about in The Green Bride Guide, but have not mentioned on this site yet. Whenever you give guests trees, seed packets or seed imbued paper you should include a note about which region of the country they can be planted in. If your guest lives outside the plant's natural range the seeds should only be germinated indoors.

To find out which trees are native to your region type your zip code into the "buy a tree" page at the National Arbor Day Foundation.

For seeds, check out the map at American Meadows.

For seed paper, unless the company specifies the species, always advise your guests to plant your cards, programs, etc. in indoor pots. (This can be accomplished with a small "please plant inside" note on the back of the card).

While I am talking about seeds I want to mention that the same rule applies for birdseed as well. Many couples now toss birdseed instead of rice. If you do this, be sure to buy a seed mix that is native to your area. Seeds that go uneaten can germinate and wreak havoc on native species.

To tackle the sweatshop issue, whenever possible I suggest purchasing locally produced seed paper or fair trade seed paper. (You can find both in the eco-products section of this website). If you are not sure, contact the company directly before buying. You can also make your own seed paper using a simple paper making kit.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bottled Water?

Hi Kate,

I know that bottled water is not eco-friendly, but it is so convenient. Is there a green option that makes sense?




Hi Pam,

Thank you for writing. I talk about bottled water in the Guest Comfort section of The Green Bride Guide, because your question highlights a common dilemma.

The following an excerpt from an entry I wrote for Get Married. It starts with a quick review of the environmental impacts of bottle water and offers a few green solutions. Hope it helps!

Quick Bottled Water Facts

Energy use - According to The Container Recycling Institute the amount of energy it take to make the 8.25 billion gallons of bottled water Americans drink each year could provide enough electricity for 250,000 homes or could fuel 100,000 cars.

Landfill space - Despite our best efforts, 4 out of 5 bottles end up in the landfill.

Image from

Safety - Bottled water is actually less safe than tap water in most parts of the country. Tap water is regulated by the FDA but most bottled water isn't. One study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that almost one-third bottled water contains contaminants (including synthetic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic).

What You Can Do

Offer pitchers of water to your guests - it is more elegant, more eco-friendly and less expensive. Have your caterer add fresh slices of organic lemon, lime, or cucumber for a fresh summer taste.

Image from The Kitchn

If you want to give your guests bottle water, pick brands that use corn-based plastic like Belu and Biota or companies that are giving back, like Ethos (which donates five cents per bottle to charity). Whatever bottles you use - make sure someone is in charge of collecting and recycling them after the event.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sustainable Choices


Dear Kate,

Right now, we are in the stage of planning where we are looking for a florist, and subsequently ideas for centerpieces and bouquets, and we're also beginning to look for invitations. Do you have any advice on how to ensure green centerpieces, bouquets and invitations? Thanks so much!


Hi Gail,

First, if you have not already, I recommend taking a look in the interactive look book. There you can find hundreds of links to vendors that offer environmentally friendly invitations, flowers and centerpieces. If you are crafty and want to make invitations I also recommend looking in the DIY section.

If you want to use local flowers, you can check local harvest to find growers, or call around and see if any of the florists in your area are able to use local, seasonal and organic blooms. For centerpieces consider potted plants, or baskets of sustainable treats.

Finally, to answer your general question - the best way to avoid "greenwashing" and to find reliable eco-friendly products is to rely on certifying agencies (e.g. USDA organic food, FSC certified wood products, or Fair Trade Certified favors). When dealing with local companies or vendors I think the easiest way to tell if they are green is to just ask questions. Ask potential florists where they source their flowers from, whether they can avoid using disposable florist tape and foam, and if they can donate the flowers for you after the celebration. Ask caterers where they get their meat, what they do with empty can and bottles, and whether they can compost or donate leftovers. In my experience, companies and people who are committed to being green will be eager to talk about these details - while companies that are hoping to sneak through with an eco-sounding name will try to change the topic quickly. Go with the gut.

That said, if you have a particular theme or item in mind and want specific suggestions please let me know - I am more than happy to help!

Wishing you all the best,


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Donating Flowers

Thank you so much for your green guide--I am really learning a lot.
I would like to know about how to find a service that will pick up flowers and take them to nursing homes or hospitals. I live in LA and am getting married in Malibu.

Any help is most appreciated!
Thank you!
Lisa Riccomini

Hi Lisa,

As far as I know there are no groups or service providers out there who do this (if anyone reading this knows of one please comment below!). However, you still have a few options.

First, it is not uncommon for florists to take on this role, and if you have not signed a florist contract yet, or even if you have, see if your florist is willing to pick up and deliver the flowers to a worthy cause after the big day. Many florists already have relationships with charities and deliver leftover flowers as a matter of course.

Alternatively you can ask a friend or relative to take on the task. Make a few phone calls (or ask your friend or family member to make the calls) to hospitals, nursing homes, and other charities in the area and see if they are willing to accept flower donations so you/they can make the proper arrangements (no pun intended).

I hope you will come back and let us know what you were able to work out (and share pictures of your flowers!).

Lots of luck and congratulations,