Written by Jan Lloyd
This past year I learned a lot about how overwhelming planning a wedding can be, even as simple as mine was. Being the Zero Waste Events Coordinator at the district – I thought I should do this RIGHT, and aim for Zero Waste at my own wedding! Having just written the district’s Zero Waste Events Guide, and doing all the research it took to compile – I had some ideas of where to start…
Since our wedding was to take place in our backyard – we didn’t have the use of a facility with a kitchen or dishware we could use, so we had to improvise. We also planned ahead for waste reduction. On our e-invite details (saves on paper and postage), we informed guests that we were trying to reduce waste and asked them to help out. Specifics were listed: not to bring ANYTHING disposable– namely plastic cups, utensils, unnecessary packaging, etc. We even asked them to bring a refillable water bottle (we also had saved many glass bottles for water in months prior). When it’s your wedding, people are pretty respectful of your wishes, no matter how wild they may seem!
For sorting waste streams, we reserved a Waste-Sorting Station with CVSWMD’s Bin Loan Program that was complete with signage and colored bins (recycling, trash, food scraps, and bottles). At the same time we reserved the Event Kit for all the dinnerware (cups, cutlery, dishes, linens).
Pre-planning also entails determining WHERE the waste goes at the end of the event. We planned on composting our own food scraps on-site, bringing the trash and recycling to a local hauler, and the redeemable bottles and cans to the redemption center. We did it ourselves, but if you are planning on going on a honeymoon, or just want the next day OFF, I suggest asking a local friend or family member to take them for you. Locating a trash hauler nearest your wedding site, and providing directions for the volunteer who’s taking it, are pre-planning actions you might need to take.
As we had several folks coming from afar who were helping with set-up, I arranged for a team to disperse the district’s trash, recycling, and compost, and bottle bins (2 sets each). Each bin came with easy to understand signage of “what-goes-in.” These sorting stations were strategically placed near the food tent and dishwashing area. We had a small canopy tent outside (near the garden hose) dedicated to washing, with the dishwashing station bins (also borrowed from the district). Tip: We had someone make an announcement on the mic for everyone to “pitch-in” and wash their own dishes, or be kind and wash a few when needed. People were more than willing to jump in and assist. The dishwashing tent became a late-night hang-out for night owls who needed something to do, other than dancing. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! Volunteers also went around and collected dirty dishes, leftover food, and bottles and cans. There was so much food leftover, but many guests took home food in takeout containers (saved for months prior).
Since ours was a backyard wedding, but had enough attendees to consider the impact on our septic system, we decided to build our own temporary toilet. I researched where the best location on the property would be based on town regulations and state recommendations for toilet siting. Since this was a temporary moldering toilet (pit-style) that would be filled in after the event, I did not need to get a permit. [I suggest going through your town manager, to ask about any regulations or permit you might need in your town]. As you can see from the photo, the frame was built upon two layers of straw bales, over a shallow pit (not too deep ~2’ is plenty for a 1-2 day event) and cloth was stapled for privacy. I also repurposed and old wooden toilet seat. We hung solar lights so the toilet was well lit at night. So many guests commented how nice it was! When it’s time to take it down – we’ll disassemble the framing, and simply cover the hole with several layers of that straw the base is constructed with. Easy!
Planning in advance for less waste certainly helped, and also made the clean-up post-wedding go more smoothly. Our wedding of 165 guests made a low impact on waste in August 2018. We generated only a half-bag of trash(!), a full bag of recycling, and a couple full totes of bottles and cans for redemption. I even had enough in bottle returns to pay for the recycling and trash that we took on our regular trash run, to the local hauler. Food waste went directly in our compost, and there were two full 5-gallon buckets. There was the usual after-party clean-up to collect, but luckily, we had a few campers to wrangle into helping do the last of the clean-up. Overall, it was a success!
Want to aim for Zero Waste at your wedding? Check out these pages:
Zero Waste Events page
Bin Loan Program
Or call 229-9383 x 102 for more info.