Happy Blog Action Day! Thousands of bloggers all across the world are talking about Climate Change.
Before I talk about something as big as climate change, I want to talk about something as small as a story book.
On International Peace Day, I read my students a book about peace, entitled, Peace Begins with You. The title says it all: Something as big as international peace begins with something as small as the individual person. How we treat each other day in and day out determines what kind of world we live in.
The same is true for climate change. The kinds of habits we have on the individual level affect the kinds of habits that get manifested on a larger scale, and those larger-scale habits determine what happens on a massive scale--in this case, with global warming and our climate.
The kinds of people we choose to be and the kind of lives we choose to live have huge ramifications for the kind of world we create and inhabit. Don't get me wrong; I still believe that corporations rule the world and entire industries have a much greater impact than a tiny individual, but corporations and industries and governments are, at the end of the day, comprised of individuals--individuals with certain values that manifest themselves on a larger scale.
So what the heck does this post about climate change have to do with weddings?
Weddings are an amazing opportunity for us to clarify our values, to decide what kind life we want to live with our partners, and to share those values and that life with our larger circle.
But we hardly ever talk about weddings in this way. Instead, we get swept away by pressure from the Wedding Industrial Complex to focus almost exclusively on the details of the day. If we're not careful, our weddings will quickly begin to reflect the values of our dominant culture, which include materialism, consumerism, and the prioritization of external beauty over internal substance.
Matt and I worked hard to resist pressure from the Wedding Industrial Complex in order to create a wedding that reflected our values and the kind of life we wanted to forge together. But boy was that difficult!
We faced doubts and judgments from certain family members and friends. We spent hours upon hours trying to find a wedding venue that wasn't really a wedding venue. We calculated and recalculated costs in a persistent attempt to stay within our budget. We dealt with the emotional turmoil that comes from swimming upstream against the current of "the way things are done."
We also faced the dilemma of conflicting values. Yes, a $15 wedding dress from Target reflects our desire to conserve money but it conflicts with the value we place on healthy working conditions and supporting local businesses and independent artisans.
We also faced sheer uncertainty. As we piled 64 rock-hard avocados into our shopping cart at Sam’s Club four days before the wedding, I wondered, “Can we really make guacamole for 80 people on our wedding day? Will these avocados even ripen in time? What were we thinking?”
But the truth is, when you align your actions with your values, you usually can't go wrong.
Matt and I were able to have the best possible wedding for us because we took the time to delineate our values and then figure out specific ways to manifest those values.
In terms of aligning our wedding with our environmental values, here's what we did:
- Sent postcards for our invitations
- Used an electronic RSVP
- Provided cloth napkins
- Reused clothing rather than buying new (such as my shoes, necklace, shawl, etc.)
- Had our rings made from the recycled gold of friends and family
- Set up composting and recycling at our reception
- Avoided unnecessary decoration and additional "stuff"
- Served beer from a keg and boxed wine to cut down on packaging
- Gave seeds to our guest as a wedding favor
- Served organic, anti-biotic free meat
- Planted a tree during our wedding ceremony
- Intentionally live in a small house
- Use canvass bags at the grocery store (and net bags for our fruits and vegetables that absolutely need bags)
- Avoid bottled water and instead reuse our own bottles over and over
- Drive eco-friendly cars
- Ride our bikes as much as possible
- Work as close to home as possible (well, I do but Matt has quite a commute)
- Compost in the backyard
- Collect rain (we have the equipment for this, but it's not set up yet)
- Use old rags to clean up messes at our house rather than paper towels
- Use cloth napkins
- Let our hands drip-dry after we wash them in public restrooms
- Purchase bio-degradable dog poop bags
- Use eco-friendly hygiene and house cleaning products
- Turn off the water while we brush our teeth
- Try to buy things "used" as much as possible
- Try to limit our monthly purchases of stuff
- Eat vegetarian (I know I said I was going to start eating organic, local meat a few months ago, but I haven't started)
- Use real dishes for parties and avoid disposable items as much as possible
- Recycle, recycle, recycle
- Get our power from Green Mountain Energy
- Read magazines at the library, bookstore, or online to avoid creating more trash
- Set up our rain barrel collection system
- Build a raised bed for a spring garden
- Add extra insulation to our attic
- Install ceiling fans
- Stop brushing my teeth in the shower
- Pee more in the shower (it saves water, ya know?)
- Remember to bring our tupperware containers to restaurants for our leftovers
- Raise chickens
- Try to ride our bikes even more
- Investigate solar options for our home