Everyone has their own version of fairy tale weddings. Some like me, flinch at the sight of trash being produced AND not managed when we can make small, simple efforts for it. When our families agreed upon a Vedic wedding, my husband and I were keen on managing the trash. But before I tell you about our eco-friendly wedding, here’s the golden rule – refuse disposables. No matter what calculations you do, the paper napkins and the disposable plastics/styrofoam look so ugly at any celebrations, not just weddings – that it makes every sense to ditch them. For those of you who do think that the ecological footprint of paper cups, styrofoams and plastic cups are lesser than reusables – here’s some food for thought.
There will be four barriers to organise such an occasion – but with some organisation, you will be able to manage the trash without any hassles!
- Caterer: In India, the caterer arranges everything related to food, and so is a crucial first step to making an event eco-friendly. Some halls have a tie up with caterers for renting out their cutlery, while some of the caterers bring their own. Ask this to him/her when you are in talks about the food menu. Some of the things that I specified are:
- Choose cloth napkins over paper tissues. When my friend Kannika got married last year, her mom – Dr. Meenakshi Bharath – got over 1200 napkins made and block-printed by students of Nav Prabhuti Trust who imprinted a symbol from Chittara painting. They looked gorgeous on our dining table. These were collected at the end of every round of servings. At the end of it, they were washed and pressed for next use!
- No teeny-tiny mineral water bottles to be served for water. Instead, reusable tumblers and huge water dispensers served the purpose. We had a water station right next to the filter coffee station plus a couple of waiters who went around with water for everyone.
- In our Tambram-wedding, we served lunch in banana leaves as is tradition. Not only did we enjoy the taste, but these went straight to the bio-gas plant afterwards (more about that later).
- Tamboolam Bags are another tradition in Tam weddings. They are in essence gifts/edible goodies such as murukku/laddoo given to guests. Our initial idea was to give season’s best fruits in cloth bags, but we ditched that when we gave in to our greed of murukkus and laddoos. This was by far the most ridiculous thing I had to think and rethink to make it eco-friendly. I couldn’t keep the plastic away! So I opted for ziplock bags that have the scope of being reused. Now I must say honestly that most of such packing is outsourced by the caterer. So he landed up giving us with murukkus in styrofoam and candle-sealed plastic. He put his men to work on the spot to give people more. Sadly, the stryofoam went to the landfill and the transparent plastic went to recyclers.
So the end product was – a cloth bag which had murukku/laddoo in zip lock bags; turmeric and vermillion kept outside along with betel leaves and supari. Minimal waste, maximum management!
- No zaris in our garlands – Our garlands were exclusively of fresh flowers and boy were we both glad that nothing was itching us in our happiest moments.
2. Hall Management and Florist: Trends these days have names of the couples cut out in thermocol. Those of you who don’t know, styrofoam or thermocol is the worst kind of material. The waste management rules in India classifies it as hazardous waste – and no one picks it up – not even the Municipal Corporation! So it’s easiest to avoid it. We chose to not have our names put up at all, but if you do – make sure your names are filled with fresh flowers. Our backdrop was a golden cloth which had simple garland-chains hanging down. Our oonjal (swing) also had simple garlands instead of any foam with flowers.
I had the fortune of finding a florist with a good head on his shoulders. In no time did he understand what he had to do and put his best foot forward.
3. Opt for E-invites: We printed a bare minimum of 100 cards, for all the elders who are not well versed with the internet. The rest of our invites were e-mail/whatsapp only. We stuck to printing on two sides of the same page – and had a message to please not bring in bouqets so that we aren’t stuck with
4. Recyclers/Waste Pickers Inc.: I didn’t find a goshala to take up all the vegetable peels and banana leaves. But I did have some friends at ‘Sampurn(e)arth Solutions’ – who work with Stree Mukti Sangathan (Waste Pickers’ organisation) on managing waste at occasions like weddings, corporate functions, etc. Now the advantage with tying up with a recycler is that they take in other wastes- plastic covers, paper and make sure that’s recycled too! Sampurna(e)arth charged me INR 1800 for the pick up, a price I was only too happy to pay! Not only did Jayanth from SS stay back till all the waste was loaded, he also made sure any leftover food was taken to waste pickers’ canteen for them. This was icing on the cake.
If you cannot find recyclers in your town/city – find grassroot waste picker organisations who charge you a minimal price for pick up of the waste. It’s only doable when you believe in it. And trust us, you’ll have super fun in bringing in different elements!
The bonanza of organising your own eco-friendly wedding is that it gives you green ideas through and through. As a special gift to all those came, we gave them an assorted seed packet containing amaranth, chilly, tomato, papaya and other vegetables. After all, when else were we going to get a chance to inspire over 300 people at one time to grow oxygen and food for all of us.
This is not to say that our wedding was completely zero waste. It was waste-managed event. We had troubles managing some of the things – to be able to arrange for eco-friendly packaging for murukkus and laddoos. Agreeing on zip lock bags was not easy, but there was some solace in knowing that the bags could be reused again. Table cloth for our dining area was our first choice, paper lining second – but we got plastic lining from our caterer. Again the solace was that it was going to a recycler and not the landfill. In our tradition, Paruppu-tenga is a must for the vidhi. This came wrapped in shiny one time use plastic wrapping. We have kept it aside for now, but it’s one thing that I wish I could have changed at the wedding.
To each one of you who think now that you can organise an eco-friendly wedding, I hope you the greenest of the green wishes to be able to do this. It is completely possible, with enough and more thoughts – you will be able to save plenty a kilos going to the landfill. After all, our wedding saved 135 kilos of organic waste, 2 kg of dry waste and leftover food – 15 kg. It has left us immensely satisfied knowing that we value the food and the people who helped us manage it. It would also be unfair to boast of being able to do all of this without the group of enthusiastic waste warriors – my uber cool friends from ‘We care for Malleswaram’, who planted the seed of eco-friendly occasions.