With the average carbon footprint of a wedding in the UK being more than the average yearly footprint of a household, we need to look at ways to make the industry more sustainable, helping couples to make more environmentally friendly choices.
Each year, there are approx. 278,599 weddings in UK, however this year, due to the postponements, it’s estimated to nearly double, to be 550,000+.
We know that the average wedding emits 14,500 kgCO2eq (or 14.5 tons CO2e), at least half of which could be reduced by making sensible, considered choices. Imagine, if we could reduce all wedding emissions by half… that’s a potential saving of 3,985,500 tons CO2e which is the equivalent to taking 866,847 cars off the road for a year! Remaining emissions could then be offset by the couple, which, based on the average wedding, and the type of offset chosen, would be in the region of £500-£700.
As part of our #DrivingSustainableChange series we interviewed Gwenda Jeffs about the changes she has seen in the industry since taking over the GREEN UNION, through the pandemic and her predictions for the future.
Why does the wedding industry need to be more sustainable?
One word – WASTE – wedding days are all too easily full of it! The statistics are always horrifying (most recently, I’ve read that the average pre-pandemic UK wedding produced one third of a metric tonne of solid waste and 14.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Simply put, this is an unsustainable model in the long term!
Wedding professionals are all too aware that we operate in in the realms of luxury and excess, and collate a multitude of industries which are amongst the most polluting and wasteful in the world into just one day. As wedding industry professionals, we all bear the burden of responsibility in doing something towards righting the wrongs.
How long have you been involved in sustainability and what changes have you seen?
I became a floral designer in 2012 – and I’ll admit to not always having been the most eco-conscious one (no room to grow myself and limited local resources made for a heavy reliance on imports, however seasonally I chose). Two years ago, I was offered the opportunity to take over the GREEN UNION wedding directory and blog; at that time, it was still apparent that conscious weddings were still considered ‘alternative’ and frankly a bit kooky – but that is definitely changing! More businesses and clients are making consciously sustainable choices, and doing so in stylish and accessible ways, regardless of budget or guest numbers.
Do you think there is a misconception of what sustainability means?
Meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs seems like a pretty simple concept, but without knowing the origins of, and what goes into the products and services we use, it can be difficult to make the right choices, even with the best of intent. That’s where transparency becomes so important, both that of your suppliers and your own.
Are there enough wedding suppliers working sustainability?
Honestly, until every supplier is making more conscious choices in regards to their products and services, there will always be room for more! But it’s important to celebrate all the little moves in the right direction; Anne-Marie Bonneau’s famous quote about how “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” rings just as true to me if you replace ‘zero waste’ with ‘sustainable weddings’. In that eternal balance between budgets and ethics we must all find our place, vendors and clients alike.
We’ve seen an increase in demand for ethical, environmentally conscious wedding suppliers over the last 2 years, and since the pandemic we know that has increased further.
Do you think this new awareness that couples have developed is here to stay?
I’d certainly like to think so! For years, the environmental data has seemed irrefutable, but its also a relatively abstract concept for most; then the tangible benefits to air and water quality during just a few months of lockdown, evidenced in images of mountain ranges in India made visible at a distance for the first time in years due to a drop in pollution levels, and the canals in Venice running clear and the return of its wildlife, just makes human impact on the natural world that much clearer. Our consciences are increasingly pricked in our everyday lives via the media, so it only makes sense that this would translate over into wedding days.
More than ever before, ideas for living more sustainably are just a click away, and there is a growing number of companies and professionals willing and able to provide products and services in a more sustainable way. Accessibility and affordability is key, and increases in both go hand in hand.
I have to concede that a happy accident of COVID-19 is that intimate weddings are by their very nature more sustainable; the fewer the guests, the lower the carbon footprint of travel, the less waste to landfill…the list goes on. Job losses and uncertainties further curb excess and have a knock on effect to sustainability. Now that couples are that extra bit conscious too, sustainability, beit by both accident and design, will be a dominant feature of weddings in 2021/22 and, I imagine, well beyond.
If you’d like to find out more about how you can help to #DrivingSustainableChange in the wedding industry please get in touch.