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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Dress (by Amy)

Returning from our blogging slumber!  The wedding is over, our guests are gone, and we've had a few days to recover...

Something that added a little stress but also excitement to the wedding planning was keeping my dress a surprise from friends and family - even my mom!  I had wanted to buy a used dress because reusing is one of the greenest actions we can take, especially with an item like a wedding dress that is usually worn once and then stored for eternity until it eventually ends up in a consignment shop or landfill.  There are now many websites dedicated to helping brides find used items which not only reduce the eco-impact of your big day, but also save you some money!  A great combination.  A few of the sites are:

I mentioned this in one of our GWG update blogs, but despite my best efforts, I was unable to find a used wedding dress in time for our July 10th ceremony.  We were so busy with the contest that I had no time to look beforehand, and then when we found out we'd won, our wedding was only 3 months away!  There are many used dresses out there, but you have time and geographic constraints to deal with.  Add to that physical measurement constraints.  I'm 5'9" tall and all the dresses I found within my geographic area (I wanted to try the dress on before purchasing to be sure it fit) were hemmed for women that were at least 2-3 inches shorter than me. Or they were size 2... which I am not.  So as time slipped away I bit the bullet and decided that while I loved, loved, LOVED the concept of wearing a pre-owned dress, it just wasn't practical for my circumstances.  So I hit the stores and found a gorgeous gown that was new to the market and, unbeknownst to me before buying it, was apparently becoming quite popular on various wedding websites.

Photo by Deb Cram
Photo by Deb Cram
Photo by Deb Cram
It has a LOT of fabric, none of it natural or made in an environmentally responsible manner, I'm sure (please don't give me grief about this - I feel bad as it is!). However, now that the big day has come and gone, here's where I can add my shade of green.

First, I'm going to try selling it.  In fact, tonight I created my first post to sell the dress, so we'll see how I do. We could certainly use the extra money, so that's a plus, but also, as much as I loved this dress, I know I will NEVER WEAR IT AGAIN.  Never. NEVER.  That's right, ladies, I said it.  And I know that if I have a daughter she won't be caught dead wearing my dress because fashions change and also, what are the odds she has the same physical build as me? Consider that I'm 3 inches taller than my mom and my sister is 7 inches shorter than me.  Lastly, I don't really want to hold this bulky item in storage for the next ~30 years until that very hypothetical day of my hypothetical daughter wearing it.  Sure, maybe someone else I know will want to wear it before that time, but fashions change so quickly, the best way to make sure this dress gets used again is to unload it on another bride, now, while the design is still popular.  So here we go, my first official post on Recycled Bride.  Feel free to share or let me know if you're interested.  If I fail to sell it in a reasonable amount of time, I'll be donating it to Brides Against Breast Cancer (or do you know another noble charity suggestion?).

Second, as long as the buyer of my dress is not picky about price, I'm going to use a green dry-cleaning service that I just found in my area.  I haven't talked to them yet about the cost of their bridal gown cleaning/preserving, but I'm excited to learn that I might have a green option here in suburbia.  The dry-cleaning industry creates a ton of environmental pollution, and the chemicals are not good for your health, either.  I try to avoid dry-cleaning as much as possible, but there are some things (like wedding dresses) that just don't have an alternative.  Anyway, I hope these folks (Green Apple Cleaners) pan out and don't charge a ridiculous amount for their services.

P.S. - the beautiful sash and hair pin I wore with the dress were made by the super talented Gwendolyn Gleason of Eco-Chic Couture.  Her work IS eco-friendly, so I'm guilt free there  :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

GWG Grand Prize - thank you!!!

Happy couple!
We are incredibly grateful and honored to have been named the Grand Prize winners of the Green Wedding Giveaway 2011!  What an incredible journey this has been.  Before we move on to the actual wedding planning details, we first want to send a special thank you to everyone involved with the contest, first and foremost, Clay Hill Farm for hosting this amazing opportunity. Running through the list of prizes that we and our fellow finalists are receiving, we are amazed by how many members of the Southern Maine community have pitched in to make this contest as incredible and rewarding as it is.  Thank you ALL so much for your generosity, and for making our wedding so special.  We can't forget the judges!  You donated so much of your time and energy reviewing all the contest submittal material, and we thank you for believing in our green message.  Of course, thank you to everyone who went online to vote, and especially our friends and family who encouraged others to vote!  Thank you to Pace Law School for allowing us to host our event on your campus.  Last but certainly NOT least, thank you to our friends who helped us pull our give-back event together and act as creative resources throughout the process - you know who you are, we love you, and we can't thank you enough.

Jeff, Samantha, Luke, and Cassi: you did an AMAZING job in your campaigns, and we were so honored to be named among you as finalists.  After working so hard for four weeks toward a common goal, watching and reading your blogs, we feel quite a bit of camaraderie with you all.  Everyone took a unique approach, celebrating their specific shade of green, and the cumulative impact of all our efforts is certainly going to have a lasting impression - we should all be very proud of what we accomplished.  Now we're super excited to follow everyone's wedding journeys over the next few months, and hope we can exchange ideas, too!

It's impossible for us to describe in words what this whole experience means to us... perhaps when we calm down a bit we'll be more articulate.  The cliche "dream come true" doesn't do the feeling justice.  We've met some inspiring people along the way, learned a lot about ourselves, our green ambitions, and how to work together as a couple, all thanks to the Green Wedding Giveaway.  On top of all that, we've won our dream wedding!

We are heading back to NY in the morning, but cannot wait to return to Maine to continue this green wedding adventure.  July 10th is going to be a beautiful day, we are so excited to share it with our friends and family.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Green Wedding Planning (Part II)

Here’s the second round of our green wedding planning ideas.  The more research we do, the more creative ideas we find that we hope to incorporate.  There are so many great resources out there!

ProblemThe flower industry imports many exotic flowers for special events, such as weddings.  The chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) used to grow flower crops can be terrible for the environment, and our health.
SolutionFind a florist near your venue that can supply you with local, seasonal, and organically grown flowers for your celebration.  Using local flowers will further reduce the carbon footprint of the wedding, and again, support local businesses (we also read that the cost may be one third or one half that of flowers coming from overseas – wow!).  Only place organic flowers as decorations on your cake – you don’t want to be eating those toxic pesticides!  Another option: forego cut flowers in your centerpieces and instead provide live plants for local guests to take home and plant.

ProblemBridal gown fabrics are often made with bleach and non-organic materials, while tuxedos are cleaned with harsh, environmentally toxic chemicals by the dry-cleaning industry.
SolutionThere are many options for the stylish bride and groom who care about the planet.  For the bride, try going vintage and buy or borrow a recycled dress.  If you want a dress that’s all your own, choose an eco-friendly designer that makes dresses with natural fabrics and dyes (think cotton and hemp).  After the wedding, you can select an eco-friendly dry-cleaner to preserve your dress, or sell or donate your dress to a charity so that it gets more than one use.  For the groom, have him choose a suit or tuxedo made from natural materials, preferably one already in his closet, borrowed, or rented.  If renting, find a rental place that uses eco-friendly dry cleaning.  Another option is to ask your bridesmaids to pick out one of their favorite dresses from their existing wardrobes and see if you can pull together a fun and whimsical color palette.

ProblemYou’re probably aware of the human rights issues stemming from the diamond industry (if not, the movie Blood Diamond is an entertaining way to learn more), but the mining of our precious metals and stones contributes to a staggering amount of pollution as well.
SolutionFind a jeweler that makes wedding rings from recycled materials or give a facelift to a family heirloom.  Be sure to talk to your jeweler about conflict-free stones for your rings. (Try this or this to start)

That pesky carbon footprint
ProblemAs we wrote last time, our guest list is highly international, and therefore our carbon footprint is… not small.  Yes, we feel guilty about this, but the people we love are scattered across the globe!
SolutionSince teleportation has still not been invented, we’ll be offsetting the air travel of our guests with carbon credits.  Amy did a quick estimate of our emissions based on the number of people we *think* will join us on our special day and the cities they’ll be traveling from (used an emission calculator provided by Terrapass).  Our guests will travel thousands of miles to and from our wedding on airplanes, amounting to over 73 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).  There are other sources of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the wedding, but airplane travel is by far the largest contributor to our wedding carbon footprint, not to mention the easiest to quantify.

We still have more green wedding ideas!
What are yours?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Environmental Awareness School Presentation

If you’ve been following the GWG contest blog, you may have read that we had plans to give an environmental awareness presentation to a 3rd grade classroom last week.  Unfortunately, we were told a couple of days before that we could not publicize the event for the purposes of the contest (winning a wedding is perceived as monetary gain, and a conflict for the school).  HUGE bummer, for us and for the students.  We’re done whining about the disappointment and want to make our presentation available to whoever might find it useful out there.  We designed it with a 3rd grade, urban school audience in mind, but it could be tailored to fit a wider range of ages with a little tweaking.  If you know any teachers who are looking for things to do in their classroom as part of Earth Day, perhaps share this blog post with them.

We have never developed a lesson plan before and found this to be a lot of work (teachers – we have so much RESPECT for you all; thank you for everything you do).  It was fun to think about how to teach kids, to really get through to them about the importance of the environment.  Amy grew up in a fairly rural area of Maine, and Douglas grew up in a major city; our perspectives on the environment were quite different as children.  However, we realized when making this presentation that it was our connectedness with nature that eventually led us to the career paths we chose, doing our best to protect the planet.  We hope by sharing this, a few teachers will use this in their schools, and maybe, just maybe, we will awaken the environmental spirit within a few kids.  Let’s see!

Click here to access the power point presentation, and let us know if you plan to use it (we don't want credit, just nice to know if it gets used).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Community Give-Back Event at Pace Law School (March 31, 2011)

It’s been a VERY busy week, organizing our community give-back event, so we haven’t been able to update the blog recently.  Hopefully you forgive us  ;-)

This past Thursday (March 31) we held our community giveback event at Pace Law School.  It was nice to share our ideas on green living, and seemed to make an impact on the people who attended.  We’ve described the event on the GWG blog website, but we want to share some photos and video clips from the event so you have an idea of what we talked about.  At the end of this post we’re providing links to the info sheets that we provided to the audience, which contains more information on the topics we discussed.

The audience grabs snacks and chats before we gave our talk.
Faculty, staff, and students all came to the event!
In this clip, we’re describing our experience with the GWG contest and the reason we came to Pace Law School for our give-back event (thank you, Pace, for hosting us).

Next, we talk about the dangers of plastic bags, and why it’s important that we reduce our consumption by bringing reusable bags when we go shopping.

Then we moved on to eco-friendly shopping tips…

We’re big fans of DIY cleaning products after our seminar at Stone Barns with Alexandra Zissu.  Better for your health and the environment!

Our dependence on fossil fuels to produce energy is a growing concern with every passing day, contributing to climate change.  There are some easy ways to reduce your consumption.

Freshwater is limited and it takes energy to get to our homes, so we are doing what we can to use less water in our home.

Last but not least, we wanted to talk about electronic recycling.  It seems like every day a new, cool and exciting electronic gadget hits the market, rendering older devices outdated or obsolete.  But what happens to those old devices?

At the end of our event we raffled off a GREEN prize to one lucky audience member!

For more information about the topics we discussed during the event, we’re providing the info sheets we prepared for the audience.  Of course, the information here is not nearly exhaustive – we encourage everyone to do research on their own and learn what more they can do to help our planet.  We all need to do our part, but the cumulative impact of all our small actions can be huge!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Green Wedding Planning (Part I)

You all know that we’re finalists in Clay Hill Farm’s Green Wedding Giveaway contest, and as our campaign progresses we’ve been trying to share some advice on how we can all green our everyday lives. You may be wondering how we’ll be greening our wedding, too.  This is something we’ve been pondering for a while, before we knew the contest even existed.  Weddings are a wonderful tradition, and we are so excited to bring our family and friends together to share the most important day in our lives.  However, the multi-billion dollar wedding industry produces a lot of waste, and we do NOT want to share that with our loved ones.
What’s a green couple to do?

The good news is there’s a LOT you can do!  We’ve been scouring the web for information – here’s a portion of what we’ve learned so far (more to come later):

Venue Choice
Problem: Often, ceremonies take place at one location (church, scenic outdoor locale, etc.) while the reception takes place elsewhere, adding to the transportation (and thus energy) demand of the wedding.
Solution: Have your ceremony and reception at the same location, or if you must have separate locations, hire an eco-friendly method of transportation to get you and your guests from one place to the other, rather than having everyone drive separately.  To go further, find a venue that applies green practices as part of their daily business (like Clay Hill Farm!).

Problem: In this day and age, we can get food from anywhere in the world during any part of the year, but at what cost?  Sure, you want your guests to enjoy a delicious meal, but the carbon footprint of the exotic and out-of-season ingredients in your wedding menu will increase your wedding’s environmental impact.
Solution: Work with your caterer to source locally supplied, seasonal foods, preferably from organic and sustainable farmers within a 100 mile radius of your venue.  This will reduce your carbon footprint and support local, eco-friendly businesses in your community!  What about the leftover food?  Find a local food bank that will accept a donation.

Paper Use
Problem: You might be tired of hearing people tell you to use less paper (and recycle what you do use), but the wedding invitations produced within the US in one year could cover the entire island of Manhattan!  That’s not even counting the Save the Dates, Thank You cards, menus, and programs, yikes!  That's a lot of trees.
Solution: Relax – you can send invitations and still have a green wedding.  Select paper products made from 100% post-consumer recycled material (or tree-free!) and have your invitations printed with environmentally friendly inks and dyes that are widely available in the stationary business nowadays.  If you want to go even greener, send electronic Save the Dates and call your friends and family that are less tech-savvy to communicate the date of your nuptials (this will be our approach).  Odds are your guests will be well aware of the date of your wedding without receiving that trinket in the mail, so go ahead and save those resources AND your money.  If you go the electronic route for your invitations, the tracking of RSVPs is a big headache-saver!

Problem: This is a big problem for an international couple like us – we’ll be inviting guests from *literally* all ends of the earth, and there will be fossil fuel emissions associated with their travel to Maine for our wedding.  Gulp.
Solution: Other than just eloping to begin with and having zero guests, one option is to provide as much opportunity for carpooling to your guests as possible, perhaps even renting a “green” vehicle to shuttle guests around during your festivities.  To cover the fossil fuel emissions associated with our wedding travel, we will be calculating the carbon footprint of our guests’ flights (to be covered in a future post), then purchasing and retiring carbon offsets on their behalf.

More ideas to come later!

Monday, March 21, 2011

DIY Green Cleaning at Stone Barns with Alexandra Zissu

Saturday was an unexpectedly amazing and inspiring day!  We found out that Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture was having a seminar about making DIY green cleaning products.  After spending time pouring over the labels (and price tags) at our local grocery stores for eco- and budget-friendly products this past week, we were eager to learn about ways to make these on our own, so we signed up!  Apparently we did not read the event description very carefully because we were pleasantly surprised to be taught by the remarkable Alexandra Zissu, co-author of the book “Planet Home,” a green living expert, environmental health journalist, eco consultant, speaker, and mom.  She is extremely knowledgeable on the subject of greening your home, and she encourages and inspires you to make green changes in your daily routines.
Douglas, Alexandra, and Amy
Alexandra discussed with the group the dangers of components found in the mainstream cleaning products and taught us how to make five very useful and green products at home, including: tub scrub, disinfectant spray, glass cleaner, furniture polish, and starch spray (for use when ironing).  She also offered some helpful tips on how to green our homes in the most effective ways, such as ventilating your house, sanitizing only when there’s been an illness or when handling food carrying bacteria, avoiding antibacterial products (especially soaps containing triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal agent linked to numerous health and environmental concerns).  It was a very educational event, and it made us rethink how we’re going to keep our home clean and green going forward (our commitment: purchase eco-friendly laundry products and make all our own cleaning products, only resorting to mainstream products when our green efforts fail).  Some of the women were saying that when they clean their homes with vinegar (one of the top 5 green cleaning products), their husbands complained of the smell.  Sure, the smell can be strong, but it dissipates rather quickly and it’s something you can easily get used to, especially knowing that you’re preventing the release of toxic chemicals and fumes within your home and the environment.

At the end of the workshop, we told the class about the Green Wedding Giveaway contest and their response was heartwarming.  We explained to them our story, how we found out about the contest, and what we are hoping to do with our community give-back event.  They promised to go home and vote for us; one of the women was so cute, she went to the Stone Barns gift shop and bought Amy a little “blushing bride” pin!  They were very curious about what actions we were taking to make our wedding green (something we plan to blog about at a later date), and were particularly concerned about Amy’s bridal gown.  We assured them that she'll either wear a recycled dress (previously worn by another bride) or wear a dress made from eco-friendly materials.

Alexandra thought the whole concept of green weddings and the GWG contest was great and wanted to take a video with us to include on her website – how cool?! (video below)  We are so grateful to have stumbled across this workshop, to have met Alexandra, and to have had such an inspiring and educational day.  Thank you, Alexandra, for opening our eyes to the world of home-made green cleaning products!!  We encourage everyone to read her new book, “Planet Home” to learn about ways to maintain a natural and nontoxic home (among other things) – friends nearby, we might even lend you our signed copy  ;)