Wedding Profile: Eco-Examples

Rachel and Jason’s wedding at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum reminded me that there are many little things, easy to overlook, that we at Pollen do to minimize the ecological impact of our clients’ weddings.  Some are more obvious, liking working with locally grown flowers whenever possible.  Others are less obvious.  Here are a couple of the easy-to-miss things we do to be more eco-friendly, illustrated through yesterday’s wedding.

Avoiding Floral Foam:
This is a biggie.  We have nearly entirely eliminated our use of floral foam, and yesterday’s wedding was another step toward foam-freedom.  Why avoid floral foam?  It’s a petroleum product, and we don’t need more reasons to be digging around for oil, do we?  Floral foam doesn’t biodegrade.  And it contains formaldehyde.  When cut while dry, it creates a dust that the person cutting it can’t help but inhale.  My fellow florists can attest to the evidence of this inhalation, seen when one blows his or her nose after cutting dry floral foam.  Gross, yes, but illustrative, no?

There are just a few applications left that I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to avoid using floral foam.  One of those was to decorate structures, such as chuppahs.  What to do?  I went old school: chicken wire.  I bundled up some chicken wire, secured it to the chuppah, and added the foliage and flowers on site.


Another application requiring some trial and error in order to avoid floral foam was in designing tall centerpieces.  Usually those are designed in floral foam that is taped to a tray, then the tray then is set on top of the tall vase.  Instead of going this route, I’ve been using a tall vase and designing directly in the vase, with the stems in water.  Getting a perfect sphere of flowers is tricky with this technique, but most of my clients are looking for a looser outline, which works out perfectly!

And yet another challenge is when designing in low bowls.   In this case, I went old school again and used floral frogs in the containers.  Floral frogs come in a few different forms, including glass ones with holes in them and metal ones that look like a bunch of pins sticking up.  I used the latter in these low glass bowls, then put in some small rocks to camouflage the frog.

Below you can see a low centerpiece, as well as the tall centerpieces in the background.

On the table, we provided soy wax candles to provide soft light once the sun set.  We also lined the window ledges with votive candles.  Speaking of our candles…

Thoughtful Candles
The clients chose Pollen to provide the candles because we offer soy wax votive candles, which we have refilled by Bright Endeavors.  Most candles are made from paraffin wax.  You guessed it: another petroleum product.   Soy wax votives burn cleaner and are plant-derived.

Many times after weddings and events, the votive candles simply get thrown out.  It’s cheaper to buy new ones than the cost of having someone remove the stubborn paraffin wax from spent candles.  Soy wax, on the other hand, is quite easy to remove.   Pollen partners with Bright Endeavors, a social enterprise that provides job skills training to women at risk for poverty while producing eco-friendly bath and candle products.  Bright Endeavors offers a votive refill program that allows us to bring back our spent votives again and again to be refilled with soy wax.

Even for our clients that don’t prioritize sustainability in their wedding planning, we’re working in ways that minimize waste in our business, and therefore at their weddings.  For those who place value on sustainability, Pollen is the perfect florist to work with to host a greener wedding.

 

 

Eco-Chic Weddings: An Event Planners’ Workshop

Pollen is excited to be a part of the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance‘s workshop on green weddings, being held later this month. Entitled “Eco-Chic Weddings: An Event Planners’ Workshop,” the half-day workshop will highlight achievable ways that wedding planners can incorporate green elements into their weddings. Planners will leave the workshop with real, tangible ways to help their clients plan more eco-friendly weddings.

I’ll speak about why there needs to be concern about such a seemingly harmless aspect of weddings, and offer up ideas for the more sustainable options out there, such as working with locally grown flowers or flower alternatives.  Also, I’ll recommend many simple ways to green up weddings, without compromising their elegance!

The workshop is intended for wedding planners, so please share this info with any planners who may be interested.  Registration information is available here.

Other businesses involved include City Provisions, FIG Catering, Logan Square Kitchen, Pivotal Production, Spilled Ink Press, Tweedle Press, and West Loop Studio.

FAQ’s: Can You Recommend a Green [insert wedding vendor type here]?

Sure!  I’m happy to recommend caterers, invitation designers, photographers, etc. that I’ve enjoyed working with, and share Pollen’s interest in greener weddings!  Putting together a little directory of other green wedding vendors that I know seemed like a simple idea.  After talking with the folks at Spilled Ink Press, we realized that this simple idea has a lot more potential.

And the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance was born!  The CGWA is a group of like-minded vendors who are working to encourage more mindful weddings and commitment ceremonies.  We’re putting together a directory and a website, planning a workshop on greener weddings, and planning a green wedding show/tour.

The CGWA has a core group of very involved founding members.  Our first task has been to figure out how to vet candidates for membership.  Until we finalize that procedure, let me direct you to the people who have been actively involved with founding the group.

InvitationsSpilled Ink Press, Tweedle Press

VenuesLogan Square Kitchen, West Loop Studio

CaterersCity Provisions, FIG Catering, Lula Cafe

JewelryGreen Diva Jewelry

FavorsKatherine Anne Confections

PhotographyChristina Noel Photography, Light on Life Images, Vrai

PlannersLisa Gordon Events

Gifts/RegistryUrban Worm Girl

If you’re a vendor interested in getting involved with the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance (or if you are involved and I forgot to list you here!), please contact me!  You can reach me by email at lynn (at) pollenfloraldesign.com

Spilled Ink Press is a husband and wife team of former architects that now design custom wedding invitations, party invitations, stationery of all kinds, and greeting cards.

An Eco-Friendly Option: VeriFlora Certified Flowers

I’m often asked what makes Pollen an eco-friendly florist.  One way we are a green florist is in where we get our flowers from, and, more specifically, how the flowers have been grown.  Locally and organically grown flowers provide the most eco-friendly option, as explained in a previous post.  But being in the Midwest, locally grown flowers are most widely available only about half of the year.  What to do from November through April?

Another eco-friendly option is to buy cut flowers and potted plants that have been certified by a third party as being grown in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.  One such certification program is VeriFlora, administered by Scientific Certification Systems.  To qualify as VeriFlora certified product, the flowers must be sustainably grown, not only with regard to the environment, but also with regard to fair labor practices and a sensitivity to the community in which the product is grown.

What does VeriFlora certified product look like?  No different from conventionally grown product.  In fact, VeriFlora also has a quality component in its certification.  I recently used VeriFlora certified Black Beauty roses for a winter wedding.

Here’s a look at the Veriflora label, on a package of Black Beauty roses: VeriFlora Label on Roses

And the VeriFlora product, a Black Beauty rose:A VeriFlora Certified Black Beauty Rose

When you can’t go with locally grown product, VeriFlora certified flowers offer another option for ensuring your wedding or event is working toward the goal of sustainability.

Chicago Honey Co-op’s Beeswax Candles

The quest to offer greener options to my clients continues.  Piece by piece, I’m trying to find eco-friendly wedding items as alternatives to  the less eco-friendly ones!

Nothing beats the flicker of candles at a table for creating a warm and soothing environment.  For this reason, votive candles are often used as a part of wedding table centerpieces.

The most commonly available candles are made of paraffin, a (non-renewable) petroleum product that creates indoor pollution.  An eco-friendly alternative is to use beeswax candles.  Beeswax is a renewable product, and beeswax candles burn much longer than paraffin candles.

Recently, I came across the Chicago Honey Co-op‘s beeswax candles.  The Chicago Honey Co-op not only raises bees sustainably, but also provides job training for people getting back on their feet.  I am now offering these locally produced and chemical free candles to couples looking to green up their weddings!

More resources:

Chicago Honey Co-op buzzes on Chicago’s West Side

Where to Buy Chicago Honey Co-op Products

Are Candles Bad for the Environment?

Green Wedding Tip: Source Eco-Friendly Jewelry

recycled gold ring from Dawes DesignI just finished watching Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living (a Sundance Channel show, available to stream from Netflix), and–wow–there is so much I didn’t know about gold mining.  In this episode, the host follows the path of production of a gold ring.  A little about what I learned…

Most gold mines in the US are located in Nevada.  The air and water pollution caused by the mining operations have become a serious problem.  Material from the open pit mines is blasted away and hauled into piles for extraction.  It’s hard to believe, but the production of one gold ring creates 20 tons of mine waste.  To extract the gold, the mined material is drenched with cyanide, which makes its way into the local waterways.  The byproducts of gold mining create acid mine drainage, which raises the acidity of water and is detrimental to the plants and animals that rely on clean waterways.  Mercury released into the air in the process is captured in rain and snow, and deposited in waterways as well.  And most often, the pits are left open when the mining company is finished with them, continuing to leach acid mine drainage.  The show didn’t cover mining operations in other countries, but I imagine they face even greater environmental and social problems due to mining.

But there’s good news.  There is a growing movement of ecological and social responsibility in the jewelry industry.  With a little research, you can find jewelers working with recycled gold, such as greenkarat.com, dawes-design.com, and wiserjewelry.com.  Using recycled gold means there is no additional mining necessary for the production of your jewelry.

An even less resource intensive option is to reuse a ring.  Many brides prefer a vintage piece of jewelry to a new one.  Antique jewelry dealers are a great resource for interesting vintage pieces.  If a family member has jewelry to share, an heirloom ring makes a meaningful engagement or wedding ring.  Or, check retailers like bravobride.com for used rings.

Just as most consumers aren’t aware of the social and environmental impacts of the cut flower industry, I wasn’t aware of the impact of gold mining.  It was an eye-opening program–check it out!  Hopefully they’ll do one on flowers soon!

Further Resources:

Green Wedding Tip: Choose an Eco-Friendly Wedding Date

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Creating a sustainable event can begin with one of the very first steps of planning a wedding: choosing the wedding date.  The process of selecting a date is a complicated one.  Season, holidays, availability of key people… these all factor into the wedding date selection.  Add one more factor–locally grown product availability–and you’re on your way to a greener wedding.

For a green wedding, choose an eco-friendly wedding date by planning the wedding for the season when the best selection of locally grown food and flowers are available.  For Chicago and the Midwest, this means between between June and September for the best selection of locally grown cut flowers.  According to Molly Schemper of FIG Catering, “July through September are great months for local produce.”  Work with a caterer, such as FIG Catering, that offers locally grown organic menu options and create a menu to take advantage of the season’s best locally grown food.

To get the best of both worlds, schedule your event to feature locally grown food and flowers between July to September!  And, of course, go for organic!

Green Wedding Tip: Skip the Aisle Runner

For a greener wedding, skip the aisle runner!

The use of an aisle runner, rolled down the aisle of the church before the bridal party processional, is a tradition that has outlived its necessity.   Historically, aisle runners were used before the days of asphalt and concrete to protect the bride’s gown from dirt tracked in by guests.  These days, few guests are coming in by gravel or dirt road, so the aisle runner isn’t really necessary.  But the aisle runner has remained a tradition nonetheless.

Modern aisle runners are disposable, single-use purchases.  Once they’ve been torn up by the wedding guests’ heels, they’re headed for the landfill.  Beyond that, modern aisle runners are typically made of plastic, which is not biodegradable and requires oil in its production.  According to the Green Bride Guide, if every wedding in the US this year used a disposable aisle runner and they were laid end to end, they would circle the globe twice.  For a green wedding, skip the aisle runner.  Proof that a green wedding can be cheaper… by eliminating the unnecessary!

If you really want to define the aisle, an alternative is to line either side of the aisle with flower petals.  Just be sure to steer clear of dark-colored petals as they may stain your dress.  And of course, use flowers that have been grown in an eco-friendly way!